I watched a rather remarkable video yesterday. What was remarkable about it was that it saw arch-global warming alarmist Michael Mann sharing a platform with arch-global warming sceptics Judith Curry and Patrick Moore. I was amazed that they were all sitting together on the same stage, and listening politely to each other. One result was that my opinion of Michael Mann rose a couple of notches.
However, they weren’t having any sort of debate. They barely exchanged a single word with each other. Instead each participant gave a 15-minute presentation. And at the end they were each asked what seemed to be a set of prepared questions. And then they each made a brief final statement..
Michael Mann led off with the first presentation. And he was the person I was most interested to hear, because I hadn’t seen him speak before. I’ve seen Judith Curry speaking a few times, and Patrick Moore lots of times.
And Michael Mann was interesting because he started off by simply asserting that there was climate change, and human activity was driving it. He said that the only matter about which there was any sort of worthy debate was: “What do we do about this human-caused climate change?” And he then pulled up headlines from the New York Times and other publications about record recent warm years. He said it was “the consensus of the world’s scientists” that the climate was changing and human-generated CO2 was what was driving it. And he produced his famous “Hockey Stick” graph that shows rapid global warming at the end of the 20th century. He said that there was now a Hockey League which had made dozens of similar reconstructions. “The warming spike of the past century is unprecedented in tens of thousands of years.” He said it had led the IPCC and “thousands of scientists from around the world” to determine that the recent warming is unprecedented. He said he was “a scientist who had studied applied mathematics and physics”. He said that if we carried on with business as usual we could see temperatures rise by 4º or 5º C by the end of the century. He said that things were happening even faster than expected. Sea ice. Extreme weather events. Heat waves. Droughts. Wildfires. Floods. “Once you start the melting of the ice sheets, you can’t stop it. It gains a momentum…” They used to think sea levels would rise 3 feet, but now they think they’ll rise 6 to 8 feet. He said climate change was impacting national security, and international terrorism. There was now a “perpetual fire season” in California. And it was all unprecedented, unprecedented, unprecedented. And we needed to transition to our global energy economy away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.
Judith Curry then spoke, saying that while there was a lot of agreement over global warming, there was substantial disagreement as well. Was global warming “dangerous”? And was C02 really the climate “control knob”? There were a lot of other factors at work. The climate was naturally variable. It was a highly complex dynamical system. She said that “we don’t have a unified theory that integrates everything in a predictive sense.” She said she used to support the IPCC, but had come to believe its policy cart was way out ahead of the scientific horse. Political pressures had created a manufactured consensus. CO2 driven climate change had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. She talked about sea level rise, saying it had started before major CO2 emissions had got under way. And she said the melting of the Greenland ice sheet seemed to be driven by the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation rather than by CO2. She spoke about the “Madhouse Effect” created by climate scientists. She said that she had recently resigned from her tenured academic position in response to political pressures due to “Madhouse Effect”, and now worked in the private sector, and had her own blog.
Then Admiral Titley, who’d been a US Navy weather forecaster, spoke up for the alarmists. And Patrick Moore followed with a lot of graphs, in what I thought was the best presentation of the four.
I suppose that my interpretation of Mann was that he was simply saying that “The Debate Is Over.” The science had been settled for a long time, and all (or nearly all) the experts and authorities and scientists were agreed about it. But Judith Curry and Patrick Moore didn’t think the debate was over. So it seemed to me to be just like the Pope saying one thing, and a few heretics like Luther and Calvin disagreeing. It was established authority (Mann) versus a few rebels (Curry and Moore). And if you tend to believe the established authorities in most matters, you’ll back theologians like Mann and the IPCC. And by relinquishing her university post, Curry was in effect renouncing her bishopric. We were witnessing something very like the Reformation repeating itself, but this time in science rather than religion. The only thing that surprised me was that a Bishop of the Church of Global Warming had showed up on the same stage as a couple of climate heretics.
But the explanation for that may have been found in another video I watched yesterday, of a speech made by Steve McIntyre, in which he described how Michael Mann and others had conspired to Hide The Decline (in late 20th century temperatures) in Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick spaghetti graphs.
For the climate “heretics” gained many followers in the wake of the 2009 Climategate scandal during which various nefarious activities by climate scientists came to light. The public has lost a great deal of confidence in climate scientists and climate science.
And that’s probably why Michael Mann had decided that he needed to step down from his lofty university ivory tower, and engage the opposition on the streets. So it may be that, after decades of saying that The Debate Is Over, the climate scientists are beginning to concede that it’s actually very far from over.