Saturday, December 05, 2009

Flat Earthers And Assholes

OK, it's warmer... but why?

Two, ahem, thoughtful contributions to the climate debate yesterday:

"With only days to go before Copenhagen, we mustn't be distracted by the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics. We know the science. We know what we must do. We must now act." (Mr G Brown, a public employee with a direct career interest in extending the role of the state)

"What an asshole." (Professor Andrew Watson, a public employee with a direct career interest in extending the role of climate scientists)

Now, many of us would agree with Professor Watson's description applied to Mr B. Except of course, he wasn't describing Mr B: he'd hardly bite the hand that feeds.

No, the Prof - who is something senior at the University of East Anglia's utterly discredited Climategate Research Unit - was describing a fellow Newsnight discussant who had the temerity to challenge his views. Poor Martha hardly knew where to look (you can watch again here - at least for the next 48 hours)*.

As others have pointed out, once they start playing the man not the ball, you know they've lost. Climategate has crystallised the entire issue.

Because it turns out that these blinkered arrogant.... er... assholes have cobbled together hundreds of years of supposed temperature data from Irish pixie rings, crunched the data through a battery of computer models so convoluted they themselves can't remember precisely how they worked, and then presented the results as incontrovertible science. "Science" that has been embraced by big government types worldwide to justify a further massive increase in taxation, regulation, and jobs for the boys.

And as the scales drop from the public's eyes, all these assorted tax-dependents can come up with is that if we won't take their word for it, we must be behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earthers. Like, we should trust them because they have always been as pure as the driven snow... not that we'll have snow much longer.

So what's the truth, and can we handle it?

The story most of us have finally pieced together goes something like this:

The earth's climate has warmed a bit over the last few decades, although the warming seems to have stopped in 1998. There is no robust scientific explanation of why this has happened, which is hardly surprising given the complexity of the global climate system. Moreover, data on long-term climate change is extremely sketchy, although we do know that there has been considerable variation in the UK's climate over the last couple of millennia (from vineyards to ice fairs on the Thames, and back again).

So what should we be doing?

Given the uncertainty over the basic climate data, we're not at all clear we should be doing anything.

But even if we accept that the climate is warming, nobody has yet convinced us it's mainly down to our activities. The official line is that the link has been proved, but the people who say that have never presented the evidence in an open and transparent form that we can examine for ourselves. They simply assert it, present a load of hyped up exaggerated garbage like Gore's lamentable film, and rant hysterically at anyone who dares to question their authority.

But that's simply not good enough. It's not good enough for Brown and Miliband to close down debate by telling me and 60% of the UK population that we're flat-earthers. It's not good enough for them to tell us we have to go on with the green taxes and all the rest just because the world is warming. If the world is warming for natural rather than manmade reasons, making ourselves poorer by stifling our economy is not going to help - on the contrary, it will render us much less able to afford the costs of adaptation.

I want to be convinced. I want to see the actual evidence and be taken through how the models actually work. I want to understand the doubts and uncertainties, and I want to hear from both sides of the debate. And no, I'm not a climate scientist or even a scientist. But I do consider myself to be of at least average intelligence, and I do know a reasonable amount about number crunching and statistical models. And I do want to know.

So why can't the BBC do that for me? And not yet more spin from their in-house propagandists, but a sensible old-style BBC series with half of the progs presented by a sceptical specialist (Mrs T and I nominate Prof Stott).

*PS Yes, we realise Newsnight chose their climate sceptic to face Prof Watson with extreme care, in order to present all sceptics as excitable non-scientists. We are all aware by now that the BBC's editorial position on climate change is that of green propagandists. BOM correspondent NN suffered a seizure while watching a BBC news report on Wednesday about salt traders in Timbuktu. According to the report - a NEWS report note - said traders have apparently had to swap their transport camels for great big climate destroying trucks, because global warming has made the camels too tired and thirsty to do the work (well there is also the small matter of the always biddable truck being able to haul in one week what it takes the moody camels seven to achieve, but the real villain is definitely global warming). After a strong dose of smelling salts, NN emailed - "They sent a sodding reporter and camera crew and translator to sodding Timbuktu for this garbage. By camel? I would be willing to wager that they flew in a nice shiny aeroplane and then carted all their gear on one of the very same evil trucks that cause climate change. At least I hope so. The thought of BBC reporters earning 45 days of per diems while lugging their crap around on 1st century technology is truly alarming. What could have been a really good example of creative destruction and new technologies replacing old for the good of all involved becomes a truly loopy example of green non-thought. And spare a thought for the Tuareg salt-trader. Who wouldn't rather spend 45 days in blistering heat and thirst with a load of wheezing camels than seven days in an air-conditioned truck listening to Timbuktu FM. Of course it was climate change what done it. Aaaaargh. I think I need to leave the country to escape the madness, - by horse." We may join him.

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