Climate crisis? What climate crisis? – Part Four: The back-story since 1992

By Neil Lock

April 11th, 2023

This is the fourth of a set of five essays about the issue generally known as “climate change” or “global warming.” In the third essay, I told the back-story to the green agenda, up to and including the Rio “Earth Summit” of 1992. Today, I shall continue that back-story to the present. I shall leave out of this essay one major aspect of the matter, namely cost-benefit analysis; that subject I shall defer until the fifth and final essay of the set.

International action since 1992

Here are some of the things that have happened internationally since 1992 in connection with the green agenda.

Post-normal science

I’ll begin with something that, when it began in the early 1990s, went right underneath almost everyone’s radar, including my own. Two academic philosophers, Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz, came up with an idea they called “post-normal science.” The phrase seems to have first appeared in one of their papers, published in 1993, entitled “Science for the post-normal age.” A fuller description of the idea, from ten years later, is here: [[1]].

Post-normal science claimed to be a new way to use the outputs of science, in situations where standard methods of risk and cost-benefit analysis were insufficient. These situations were described as: “facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.” But what post-normal science actually is, is a hard question to answer. It describes itself as a “problem solving strategy.” It seeks to replace the hard-edged objectivity of properly done science with something much woollier, that it calls “quality.” It seeks the involvement in the decision process of “all those who wish to participate in the resolution of the issue.” And through its concept of “extended facts,” it allows ideas which are not facts to be treated in the debate on an equal basis with facts.

Reviewing all this again with hindsight, it seems clear what must have happened. Activist politicians saw, in Funtowicz and Ravetz’ work, a chance to sideline hard, objective science when doing risk and cost-benefit analysis in environmental matters. Instead, they saw “post-normal science” as providing a way for glib, persuasive activists to direct policy debates towards outcomes which suit their agendas, even when the facts do not support those outcomes. So, they jumped on the “post-normal science” bandwagon. And they killed off any suggestion of doing objective risk analysis on environmental policies. That is one of the ways they have been controlling the “debate” ever since.

The IPCC Second Assessment Report

To return to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). This is a United Nations organization. It “prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place.”

The IPCC’s Second Assessment Report appeared in 1995/6. The scientists initially concluded that: “we have no yardstick against which to measure the manmade effect.” But this wasn’t good enough for the politicians. They detailed Sir John Houghton, then chairman of the Scientific Assessment Working Group of the IPCC and also a member of the UK government’s “Panel on Sustainable Development,” to get it changed.

Houghton ordered Ben Santer, one of the chapter lead authors, to change the conclusion of his chapter. It became: “The body of statistical evidence in Chapter 8, when examined in the context of our physical understanding of the climate system, now points towards a discernable human influence on global climate.” And the Summary for Policymakers concluded: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.” [[2]]. Was this, perhaps, a case of fabricating “evidence” to suit the policy?

The Kyoto Protocol

In 1997, the CoP meeting took place in Kyoto. There, many countries, but not China, India or Brazil, adopted the Kyoto Protocol. For a description of the Protocol from the horse’s mouth, see [[3]].

As part of this, European Union members, of which the UK at the time was one, agreed to a binding reduction of CO2 emissions to an average of 92 per cent of 1990 levels during the period 2008 to 2012.

Perversion of the precautionary principle

Next, “big business” got in on the act. Samuel Curtis Johnson Jr., long-time chairman of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. of Racine, Wisconsin, was a very strong supporter of green causes. He was described by Fortune magazine in 1993 as “corporate America’s leading environmentalist.” In 1995, he was a founder of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The WBCSD is an organization of more than 200 multi-national companies which, according to Wikipedia, “works to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the transformation of six economic systems.” It looks as if this organization may well be behind a lot of the bad things that are being done to us human beings today in the name of the environment. Such as the European Commission’s “Circular Economy Action Plan” of 2020, to implement the EU’s “Green New Deal,” which is causing so much trouble for our Dutch farmer friends.

But the most significant single thing that Johnson did to help along the bad policies that are being imposed on us today, was to host the so-called Wingspread Conference on the Precautionary Principle in 1998. This conference was convened by an organization, only formed in 1994, called the Science and Environmental Health Network. Whose mission statement reads [[4]]: “In service to communities, the Earth and future generations, the Science and Environmental Health Network forges law, ethics, and science into tools for action.”

An account of the Wingspread Statement, which eventually resulted from this conference, is here: [[5]]. It described the participants as “treaty negotiators, activists, scholars and scientists from the United States, Canada and Europe.” The Statement extended Principle 15 from the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. It says: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.”

Now, the precautionary principle, as I learned it long ago, says: “Look before you leap.” In other words, don’t rush into any action until you are pretty certain the action will have more positive consequences than negative ones. It can even be seen as akin to the Hippocratic oath for doctors: “First, do no harm.” And this applies doubly when it is other people who will face the negative consequences.

Yet the Wingspread conference came up with a radical re-write of the principle. It is radical in at least four ways. First, the idea that the action to be taken must be cost-effective, which had been included in the Rio Declaration, was thrown out of the window. Second, the re-written principle requires precautionary action to be taken, even if there is no proof that there is any danger at all. Third, the principle as re-written inverted the burden of proof, and undermined the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. And fourth, when they talked of “the public,” they didn’t mean us ordinary people. What they meant is that government shouldn’t have to bear the burden of proving its accusations. So, all of us are guilty, unless and until proven innocent. I have given the Wingspread version of the principle the three-letter acronym PPP, standing for Perverted Precautionary Principle.

However, the Statement also said: “The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.”

All this may look, to some, like a small argument over a “philosophical” detail. But in truth, it goes right to the heart of the whole matter. With a few strokes of the pen, the Wingspread activists gave the political and corporate élites what they wanted: carte blanche to violate our human rights as they please in matters affecting the environment. They put something they called “the environment” above the human environment: the rights and freedoms, justice and honesty that we human beings need in order to survive, flourish and prosper.

They inverted the burden of proof. They rejected the presumption of innocence. They required the accused (that’s us) to prove a negative. They mandated “precautionary” action, however much pain it would cause. And they threw out all consideration of objective cost-benefit or risk-benefit analysis.

It makes you wonder why they needed “treaty negotiators” and “activists” – including one from Greenpeace – at this conference. It looks as if the desired outcome must have been planned. If so, I call foul on all those associated with it.

The Third Assessment Report

The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, in 2001, was the one in which Michael Mann’s now-infamous “Hockey Stick” graph appeared. This was based on tree ring measurements. It had a flat “blade” showing global temperatures as being stable until about 1900, then rising precipitately. It got viral publicity. It was eventually discredited (though that process took far longer than it ought to have done), and it had disappeared entirely by the 2013 report.

By this time, the IPCC were stating their “projections” in the form of an ECS (equilibrium climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2). They gave a central estimate of 3 degrees Celsius for the ECS. This figure represents how much the global atmosphere will have warmed as a result of a doubling of the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, when the temperature reaches equilibrium. It includes both “forcing,” the warming directly caused by more CO2 in the atmosphere, and “feedbacks,” extra warming as a consequence of the initial warming, due to processes such as the greenhouse effect of clouds and water vapour.

The Fourth Assessment Report

The fourth assessment report (AR4), issued in 2007, had its problems too. The ECS remained at 3 degrees Celsius, although the range of uncertainties went up. But when citizen scientists looked in detail at the many references in the report, they found it cited several reports from the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace! So much for the IPCC assessing “the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge.” This was just activist pals citing activist pals. Yet the IPCC won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize for this report!

The Copenhagen CoP meeting

At the 2009 CoP meeting in Copenhagen, an agreement was made that “actions should be taken to keep any temperature increases to below 2 degrees C,” though it was not legally binding. The 2 degrees Celsius figure seems entirely arbitrary. The European Union committed to reducing CO2 emissions to 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020, or 70 per cent if other countries were willing to do the same.

The Doha CoP meeting

At the Doha CoP in 2012, the “rich nations” agreed in principle to discuss a “loss and damage” mechanism. Raising the spectre of politicians using such a mechanism as an excuse to saddle the people they are supposed to be serving with whatever exorbitant costs they fancy. Without them ever having to prove that any of the claimed “damage” was actually caused by the people they are saddling with those impositions.

The Fifth Assessment Report

The IPCC’s fifth assessment report (AR5) appeared in 2013. It gave no central estimate for ECS! Apparently because of “a lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies.” It gave a “likely” range of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius per doubling of CO2.

It said: “Models do not generally reproduce the observed reduction in surface warming trend over the last 10 –15 years.” And: “It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951−2010.” Skeptical expert Richard Lindzen said of it: “It is quite amazing to see the contortions the IPCC has to go through in order to keep the international climate agenda going.”

The Paris CoP meeting

In 2015 there was another COP meeting, this time in Paris. At which, the politicians sought to reach a binding agreement to keep global temperatures below some completely arbitrary limit. Not that anyone has ever proved beyond reasonable doubt that restrictions on CO2 emissions, large or small, would actually achieve this target or any other. If we don’t know what caused the earlier warm and cold periods, how can we know that another warm – or cold – period might not kick in again, without human intervention?

The “limit” touted prior to Paris was 2 degrees Celsius above “pre-industrial levels.” (Whatever that means.) But in 2015, it looked, before the El Niño which started in that year, as though global warming had stopped, and was not going to reach 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, or anywhere near it. So, they lowered the limit from 2 degrees to 1.5! That was moving the goalposts, no?

It is worth noting that 1.5 degrees is close to the total warming expected in what is known as “RCP2.6.” Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) are a set of scenarios, which incorporate different combinations of emissions and of adaptation and mitigation policies. An overview is here: [[6]]. There are four of these pathways, of which RCP2.6 is the most stringent. As shown in the graph on page 2 of the overview, warming in that pathway is projected by one climate model to stabilize by 2060 at between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (here defined as the average temperature between 1850 and 1900).

The text of the Paris agreement is here: [[7]]. Frankly, it is a revolutionary document; and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The main commitment is in Article 2.1(a), “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels…”

But there are several more discomforting things in there, too. Taking account of “imperatives” including “a just transition of the workforce” – what the hell does that mean? If I read Article 4 right, they committed to making progressive greenhouse gas reductions that will go on and on for ever! And the further through the document you read, the more it sounds like an Enabling Act for a world government in all things environmental, in which the “Conference of the Parties” and the United Nations together play the part of Big Brother.

The Katowice CoP meeting and after

There were a couple of years of relative quiet, before the 2018 CoP meeting in Katowice, Poland. This was nothing but an alarm-fest. It was addressed by among others, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and Al Gore. Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, moaned: “We’re running out of time. To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral; it would be suicidal.” And they actually expected us to believe any of that crap?

The 2019 CoP meeting was a bit of a nothingburger. Leading to Glasgow 2020, postponed to 2021 because of COVID-19, and which I’ve already covered in the second essay of this set.

The “Great Reset”

In 2020, we first heard about a so called “Great Reset.” This was, supposedly, a proposal to spur economic recovery after the COVID virus by acting “jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies.” It is a project of the World Economic Forum, a Swiss-based consortium of global big-business and political élites. (Al Gore is on its board).

One of those unveiling the “Great Reset” in 2020 was consummate hypocrite (the then) Prince Charles; who travels by helicopters and private jets to give speeches about lowering CO2 emissions. He ought to have walked or cycled, as he wants to force us to do. And would not the first step of a “Great Reset” in the UK be to abolish the monarchy, and throw Charlie out on his ears?

Let them eat bugs!

You can laugh (or cry) at the harangues, with which in recent years we have become constantly bombarded in an effort to persuade us to act to “solve” some unproven problem. That we should eat bugs instead of meat, in order to “save the planet.” That zero-carbon living is sustainable. That obese people losing weight could cut CO2 emissions. That there are too many people on our planet. And more.

To such tirades, my usual reply is: You go first!

The Sixth Assessment Report

As the date for the IPCC’s sixth assessment report (AR6) approached, the IPCC was busily publishing a series of Special Reports, each of which seemed to be trying to raise the general level of alarm a little bit higher.

And when the Summary for Policymakers appeared in 2021, the “hockey stick” was back! They also, in effect, “airbrushed out” of the record the Roman and Mediaeval Warm Periods and the Little Ice Age. It wasn’t easy to see the Holocene Optimum, either. Moreover, the report stated as “unequivocal” that human influence alone has warmed the planet. And in several areas, the Summary for Policymakers did not match what was said in the scientific parts of the report. Two climate skeptic organizations, CLINTEL [[8]] and the Irish Climate Science Forum [[9]], sent a letter to the IPCC chair, outlining these and other criticisms of the Summary for Policymakers. You can find that letter here: [[10]].

But despite all these shortcomings, the UN secretary-general described the situation as a “climate crisis” and as “code red for humanity.” Did he really think that anyone with even half an ounce of skepticism – including, increasingly, the very many ordinary people whose rights, prosperity, happiness and even lives are seriously threatened by this agenda – would believe him?

The Sharm-el-Sheikh CoP meeting

The CoP 27 climate meeting took place in November 2022 in an Egyptian luxury resort. There were, as usual, many attendees arriving by private jet. Hypocrites!

They agreed to a crazy idea, first mooted in Doha, called a “damage and loss fund.” This is supposed to be paid into by Westerners, supposedly to compensate “vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters” for the (unproven) bad effects on the climate, that are claimed to have been caused by industrialization in Western countries.

These “vulnerable” countries are, supposedly, relatively undeveloped countries, most of which are close to the equator, and whose relative poverty may make it harder to adapt to climate changes. This seems a bit odd to me. I would have expected that, with the exception of sea level rise and possibly coral reef decay, the climate will change less in the tropics than in more northerly and southerly regions. So, these countries may find it harder to adapt to a given change; but they will also have less of a change to adapt to.

As to coral reefs, a recent report by reef expert Peter Ridd [[11]] paints their state as “much less discouraging than is often thought, at least from the impacts of climatic temperature variations.”

As to sea level rise, the worst affected tropical countries, other than atolls, should be those with low average elevations, such as Singapore, Senegal and Bangladesh. The tide gauge data, which I used in the first essay, shows no up-to-date data for Bangladesh; and only one tide gauge in Senegal, which shows no alarming trend. And the Singaporeans are well aware that sea level rise is a potential problem for them, and are seeking to do what anyone in their circumstances ought to do: plan to adapt to the situation as it arises. [[12]].

So, I can only conclude, this “damage and loss” scheme is a scam. It’s no more than a continuation and enlargement of “foreign aid” scams already in place, that force poor people in rich countries (that’s us) to pay vast sums for the benefit of rich people in poor countries (like the Rajapaksa dynasty in Sri Lanka). Any Western politician that has even been willing to contemplate such a scheme is a traitor to those they are supposed to “represent.”

IPCC Synthesis Report 2023

Not long before I finished this essay, the IPCC issued a “Synthesis Report,” whose purpose is – supposedly – to pull together all the most relevant information from the main scientific reports and the Summary for Policymakers. It was accompanied by three “special reports.” Expert Judith Curry has dissected it, here: [[13]].

She writes that the report “emphasizes weakly justified findings on climate impacts driven by extreme emission scenarios, and politicized policy recommendations on emissions reductions.” Even through “these extreme scenarios have been dropped by UN Conference of the Parties.” And it “emphasizes ‘loss and damage’ as a central reason why action is needed.”

She says further: “Climate change has become a grand narrative in which human-caused climate change has become a dominant cause of societal problems.” And concludes: “The IPCC Reports have become ‘bumper sticker’ climate science – making a political statement while using the overall reputation of science to give authority to a politically manufactured consensus.”

It looks to me as if the IPCC has, to use an Americanism, “jumped the shark.” The alarmist narrative has lost its way. It is no longer getting the traction the alarmists are looking for. Their reaction to this is to trumpet it from the rooftops, in more and more extreme forms, at full volume. The mainstream media, and those of the general public who still let themselves be influenced by them, may continue to believe – for a while. But those of us who concentrate on the facts aren’t taken in. Nor, I like to think, will the general public be taken in all that much longer. We do live in “interesting times.”

The green religion

Looking at all these things together, you may well find yourself, as I have, thinking of deep green environmentalism as like a religion. An extremely intolerant one, at that; not unlike the behaviour of the Catholic church from the late 15th century through the Counter-Reformation. And you may find yourself comparing its leaders and its acolytes with those that sought to subject innocent people to the Inquisitions.

Let’s not forget, too, that the 15th-century and later Inquisitions were the reactions of orthodoxy against a rising tide of skepticism about the doctrines of the church. This tide of skepticism, the historian in me thinks, was part of the mental changes which many people underwent during the Renaissance. Back then, the skeptics had at least a partial victory, and Protestantism was born. Does history repeat itself?

Science and nonscience

If you are interested in matters technical, you can read about the science of “climate change.” This section, I have written mainly for those who are interested in the subject, but are not yet fully up to speed on it. Those who consider themselves experts in the area should skip to the next section, on what the UK government has done to us since 1992.

The scientific method

Before I say anything about the science itself, I will put on my philosopher-of-science hat. Back in 2018, I wrote a brief description of the way in which science should be conducted, generally known as the scientific method. You can find it here: [[14]].

I think it’s worth repeating here my two lists, of the steps involved in using the scientific method, and of the more general rules for the conduct of science.

Steps in the scientific method:

  1. Pose a question, to which you want to find an answer.
  2. Do background research on that question.
  3. Construct a hypothesis. This is a statement, giving a possible answer to your question. In some circumstances, you may want to take someone else’s hypothesis for re-testing.
  4. Develop testable predictions of your hypothesis. For example: “If my hypothesis is true, then when X happens, Y will happen more often than it does when X doesn’t happen.”
  5. For each prediction, formulate an appropriate null hypothesis, against which you will test your prediction. For example: “X doesn’t influence whether or not Y happens.”
  6. Test the predictions against their null hypotheses by experiment or observation. If you need to use someone else’s data as part of this, you must first check the validity of their data.
  7. Collect your results, and check they make sense. If not, troubleshoot.
  8. Analyze your results and draw conclusions. This may require the use of statistical techniques.
  9. Repeat for each of the predictions of your hypothesis.
  10. If the results wholly or partially negate your hypothesis, modify your hypothesis and repeat. In extreme cases, you may need to modify the original question, too.
  11. If the results back up your hypothesis, that strengthens your hypothesis.
  12. If negative results falsify your hypothesis, that weakens or destroys the hypothesis.

Rules for the conduct of science:

  1. Any hypothesis that is put forward must be falsifiable. If there’s no way to disprove a hypothesis, it isn’t a scientific one.
  2. Data must not be doctored. Any necessary adjustments to raw data, and the reasoning behind them, must be fully and clearly documented.
  3. Data must not be cherry picked to achieve a result. Data that is valid, but goes against a desired result, must not be dropped.
  4. Graphs or similar devices must not be used to obfuscate or to mislead.
  5. Enough information must be supplied to enable others to replicate the work if they wish.
  6. Scientists must be willing to share their data. And code, too, when code is involved.
  7. Supplementary information, such as raw data, must be fully and promptly archived.
  8. To identify and quantify the error bars on results is important. (For example, by stating the range within which there’s a 95% chance that a value being measured lies.)
  9. Uncertainties are important, too. They must be clearly identified and, if possible, estimated.
  10. Negative or contradictory results must also be reported. Reporting only results that agree with your hypothesis isn’t science.
  11. Above all, the conduct of science must be honest and unbiased. In a nutshell: If it isn’t honest, it isn’t science. It’s nonscience (rhymes with conscience).

Sources of information

Many other people can tell you far better than I can the details of the science behind and around the “global warming” or “climate change” accusations. Today, Watts Up with That [[15]] is a good place to start, and you can often follow links to the formal scientific papers if you need to.

Another source of useful information from the skeptical side, both on the “climate change” issue itself and on matters around it such as energy policy, is the Global Warming Policy Foundation [[16]]. Many of their papers (reports, briefing papers and technical papers) are written by acknowledged experts in their fields, such as climate scientist Richard Lindzen, coral reef expert Peter Ridd and polar bear expert Susan Crockford.

Search engines being what they are, you can find the activist and alarmist side of the argument by googling almost anything with “climate change” in it!

How I learned about the science

I started on my own process of discovering the science in and around climate change back in the early summer of 2008. And I think it may be helpful, to anyone not yet fully up to speed on the matter, for me to say how I went about that process. At the time, the two main sources I had for climate information were, from the alarmist side, Real Climate [[17]], and from the skeptical side, Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit [[18]]. I spent a whole month of evenings going backwards and forwards between the two, trying to work out which I believed more, and why. Comparing the arguments of the two sides was an extremely useful exercise for me; if, at times, a rather frustrating one. It was a very good way – indeed, probably the only good way – to learn my way into the subject.

One thing became obvious after a while, namely, a difference in tone between the two blogs. At Climate Audit, when someone made a claim that the readership disagreed with, the alleged error was pointed out factually and, for the most part, politely. At Real Climate, on the other hand, there was a far greater propensity to descend into politics, and to insult or call names against those who disagreed with the site’s party line. You can still see this on today’s front page, where the article dated October 1st 2022 talks of “the start of a new wave of climate change denial and misrepresentation of science.” Ho-hum. At the time, I wasn’t up to speed enough to judge the disagreements on their own terms. But I certainly found the atmosphere at Climate Audit, despite the technical difficulty of some of the subject matter, far more compatible with how I understood science ought to work than at Real Climate.

Over time, this pushed me more and more towards the skeptical side. Then, on New Year’s Day 2009, I discovered Watts Up with That. And the rest is “history.”

What I learned about the science

Here are some of the things I have learned about over the years about the science of climate. And so, if you want to, can you!

I learned about relatively warm periods before the current period of warming. I learned about the Mediaeval and Roman Warm Periods, the Minoan Warm Period and the Holocene Climate Optimum. I learned about relatively cold periods too, such as ice ages, the Younger Dryas and the Little Ice Age. I learned that the climate changes, all the time.

I learned that, not only does the climate change all the time, but that it regularly does so through processes which have nothing to do with any human influence. Among these processes are: Variations in the strength of the sun. Changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Ocean oscillations, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the ENSO or Southern Oscillation (El Niño/La Niña). All this goes to show that climate changes, independently of anything humans do. Always has done, always will. And these “natural” processes can produce very significant changes in the climate. But one thing I learned above all. The idea of “stopping climate change,” so beloved of some politicians (including Alok Sharma, host of CoP 26), is complete nonsense. Whatever you do, you can no more stop climate change than you can stop an avalanche once it has started.

I learned also that there are human activities, beyond emissions of greenhouse gases, which can significantly affect temperatures. I learned about the “urban heat island” effect (UHI), which can cause temperatures in city centres to be as much as 4 degrees Celsius warmer than rural areas outside. And I learned about land use changes, for example from forest to cropland, changing the percentage of the solar radiation that is reflected, and so causing warming or cooling. Given that large areas of land have undergone land use changes in recent decades, temperature changes from this cause could be significant. Then there are aerosols, produced both by human activities and non-human processes such as volcanos. Most of these are generally thought to cause cooling.

All in all, to try to work out just how much effect non-human processes, and human activities other than emissions of greenhouse gases, have on the climate is very complex. The idea so often presented by alarmists, that CO2 is some kind of “control knob” which determines how the global climate will change, and that no other influences matter, human or otherwise, is at best a gross over-simplification, and may well prove to have been plain wrong.

Some things which are “not quite right”

As well as coming to appreciate the complexities of the effects of non-human processes and human activities other than emissions of greenhouse gases, I started to learn about several areas of the science, in which there seems to be something “not quite right.” These include instances in which the alarmists seem to have failed to follow the scientific method, or corrupted or misused the data, or failed to follow reasonable rules of scientific conduct. Many of these instances look to me like nonscience, rather than real science.

Temperature data

I learned about issues with the quality of the temperature data, on which any credible case for political action must ultimately rest. And about how the numbers have been adjusted, in ways that are often documented poorly or not at all.

Computer models

I learned about the extensive use of computer models (AOGCMs, atmospheric and oceanic general climate models) in climate science. About how they are used as tools to try to predict future evolution of the climate. That their results can be altered radically by changing the values of many parameters, the selection of which is up to the honesty of the modeller. I recalled John von Neumann’s famous saying: “With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.”

I learned how the models first have to be “hindcast” to match past temperatures, something which was not achieved until about 2004. How the model results are all over the place, and usually predict strong warming in the future. That the models’ predictions are only rarely compared with real-world data since the prediction was made, and usually fail miserably. That almost all the models run hotter than actual measured temperatures – often warming twice as fast, or more, than measured. And that this has been so almost back to the beginnings of climate modelling.

And AOGCMs do not produce testable “predictions,” only “projections.” From the fact that almost all models project temperatures higher than are actually observed, it looks as if the modellers do not accept, as the scientific method requires, that their assumptions are falsified if the model results are far enough from observations. Is this an example of nonscience?

The (non-existent) “hot spot”

In the first essay of this set, I brought up the issue of the “hot spot” in the atmosphere over the tropics, which ought to be detectable and permanent if the feedbacks to initial warming are significantly positive – as the IPCC claim. Yet no such “hot spot” has been found.

Data shenanigans

I learned about some of the underhanded methods, which alarmists have used in order to make their case look scarier than the reality. I learned of the grafting together of unrelated data, without explaining what was being done. Of data inconvenient to the alarmist case being dropped altogether. Of statistical methods that produce alarming looking “hockey sticks,” even when the data they are fed is merely noise; or exaggerate the contribution of a small sample, even down to a single tree.

I learned about attempts to minimize, or even to suppress the existence of, past periods of relative warmth, such as the Mediaeval Warm Period. Claims that CO2 is the one and only “control knob” regulating global temperatures. And attempts to downplay the significance of other human activities which do affect the climate.

Moreover, I learned about occasions when activist scientists refused to release the data on which they based their papers. Thus, making it all but impossible to replicate their results, or to show that they are invalid.

Publication shenanigans

I learned about attempts to stop publication of papers skeptical of the climate narrative. I learned about skeptical scientists and journal editors being persecuted or even sacked. I got an idea of the toxic atmosphere that has developed in climate science, and I read about its history from the point of view of skeptical expert Dr Judith Curry, here: [[19]].

I learned about the photoshopped picture of a polar bear on an ice floe, published on the front cover of Science magazine. I learned about repeated claims that the science is settled, when anyone who understands science knows that it’s never settled. I learned about claims of a consensus of “97% of publishing climate scientists,” who believe that “climate change is real, man-made and dangerous”. How many scientists was that 97% of? 77, picked from over 3,000 responses! I learned about – and have even, on occasion, been smeared with – the nasty names the alarmists like to call us climate realists, such as “far right-wing,” “denialists,” “flat earthers” or “conspiracy theorists.”

What the UK government has done to us in the last 30 years

Next, I’ll look at the matter from a UK perspective again, and note a few of the bad things the UK government have done to us since 1992, when Major and co sold us all down the Rio.

Anti-car policies

There has been an anti-car movement in the UK since the 1970s, perhaps even before. But it was in 1993, the year after the Rio summit, that the spin machine started to go into overdrive. Our TV screens showed (staged) pictures of rural roads chock-a-block with cars. Of traffic jams in foggy weather, complete with smoking exhaust-pipes. Of the aftermaths of accidents. It was hard, even then, to avoid thinking that we drivers were being set up. And organizations that should have defended us, like the Automobile Association, abdicated their responsibility. Worse, they even took part in the witch-hunt, blaming us for destroying the environment by driving our “gas guzzlers”.

Soon, there were attempts in parliament to set binding targets for reductions in road traffic. The first of these was made in 1994 by a Welsh nationalist MP, with a bill that had actually been written by Friends of the Earth and the Green Party! Not exactly independent or unbiased, then. And not representing the people, either.

A Road Traffic Reduction Act followed in 1997, and several attempts to set explicit national targets or limits for road traffic. Since then, it’s been all downhill. We have had creeping speed limits; virtually every rural road in my area has had the speed limit lowered at least once in the last 20 years. We have: Large areas of roads painted with no-go lines, supposedly for “safety.” 20mph zones. Cameras everywhere to track our movements, or to catch us out, or both. Junctions re-designed to reduce traffic flow. Road narrowing and closures. Speed bumps. Bus lanes. Cycle tracks and chicanes. Moreover, Whole developments of new homes have been built without sufficient parking. And fuel taxes have been used for decades to milk maximum revenue out of us.

More recently, we have been subjected to low traffic neighbourhoods, low and ultra-low emissions zones, forthcoming bans on the car technologies that are practical and affordable, 15-minute cities and traffic filters, proposals for road charging schemes, and all the rest. Moreover, all the mainstream political parties have supported anti-car policies for the last three decades at least. These policies have been inflicted on the ordinary people of the UK, without allowing us any chance to object, or even any say in the matter.

It looks, to me at least, as if this was all planned more than 30 years ago. This is not acceptable in what is supposed to be a democracy.

Inversion and perversion of the precautionary principle

Following on from the Wingspread Statement, the UK government formulated their own version of the precautionary principle. The Interdepartmental Liaison Group for Risk Assessment, a working party originally set up in 1994, produced in 2002 a report “The Precautionary Principle: Policy and Application”: [[20]].

They saw the purpose of the principle as “to create an impetus to take a decision notwithstanding scientific uncertainty about the nature and extent of the risk.” They saw it as to be applied whenever “it is impossible to assess the risk with sufficient confidence to inform decision-making.” They wanted to invoke it “even if the likelihood of harm is remote.” They said, too, that “the precautionary principle carries a general presumption that the burden of proof shifts away from the regulator having to demonstrate potential for harm towards the hazard creator having to demonstrate an acceptable level of safety.” And they misused an aphorism attributed to Carl Sagan, saying: “‘Absence of evidence of risk’ should never be confused with, or taken as, ‘evidence of absence of risk’.”

This goes further even than the Wingspread Statement did. It doesn’t just invert the burden of proof and require us, the accused, to prove a negative. But it enables them to take “precautionary” action against any risk, even one that is minuscule or very unlikely, instead of requiring an objective risk analysis which is accurate enough to support decision making. They want a decision to be taken before all the evidence has been mulled over. And even if there’s no evidence at all that our activity causes any harm to anyone, they wouldn’t accept that fact as evidence! In essence they decreed, in contradiction to the norm of presumption of innocence, that absence of evidence of guilt is not evidence of absence of guilt.

The UK government decided to re-write the precautionary principle to say, in effect: “if in doubt about a risk, government must act to prevent it.” They took the Wingspread perverted precautionary principle (PPP), and bent it further into a tool for tyranny. I call this tool the Pre-emptive Strike Principle (PSP), and put it as: “If in doubt, attack.” Not only is this tyrannical, but an extremely reckless strategy, to boot.

Further, while the report does include a section on “transparency and openness,” it does not address democracy at all, as even the Wingspread statement suggests it ought to. It talks about “engagement of stakeholders.” But that is a far cry from allowing the voices of everyone affected to be heard. That was no way to treat the people in a democracy.

This re-write was no more than a blatant power grab. And it has led to a culture of over-safety and government over-reach, which has shown up in many UK government policies since 2002. For example, in the creeping speed limits and other “safety” measures on the roads. And in smoking bans, policies over COVID, or fire precautions following the Grenfell fire of 2018. This culture actively encourages politicians to do bad things to us, since we bear the costs, while they get kudos and the satisfaction of being seen to “do something.” And we can’t vote them out, since all the main parties are in on the scam.


And then there’s the BBC, or Biased Broadcasting Corporation as it is known in skeptical circles. In 2006, the BBC held a meeting of what they claimed were “the best scientific experts” to decide their policy on climate change reporting. When the list of attendees was eventually unearthed, it included only three scientists; all of them alarmists. It also included the Head of Campaigns for Greenpeace. In that same year, the BBC decided to cut the broadcast time allowed to those skeptical of the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) meme. Thus, they sought to deny us skeptics the right for our views to be heard, and the right to call witnesses – including experts. Many others in the media, such as the Guardian’s George Monbiot, have taken similar lines.

It is typical of the way the UK government has behaved that, having inverted the burden of proof, required us skeptics to prove a negative, and trashed the presumption of innocence, they then set out to deny our right, and those of our experts, to be heard.

The BBC’s handling of the climate change issue between 2005 and 2011 has been well documented here: [[21]]. For example, it edited interviews with skeptics in a biased way, that made their arguments appear less credible than they actually were. And since then, despite having being ticked off by its regulators, the BBC has continued to maintain a strongly alarmist stance. In 2018, it even likened allowing climate change skeptics to speak to “letting someone deny last week’s football scores!”

The Stern Review

In 2006, the Stern Review was published. This was an (apparent) attempt to provide a cost versus benefits analysis for policy action or inaction on reducing CO2 emissions. As I plan to address the costs versus benefits saga in some detail in the final essay of this set, I shall be content on this occasion with two general remarks.

First, of the three tools (integrated assessment models, IAMs) Stern had available to him, he chose the one which gave by far the most pessimistic estimate of the social cost of CO2 emissions. Second, on top of this, Stern made other assumptions, that resulted in a grossly exaggerated estimate of the cost of not taking any action.

The Climate Change Act 2008

Next, to the 2008 UK climate change bill, the case for which I shall discuss in more detail in the fifth essay.

They did make a token attempt at a cost benefit analysis. The numbers were based on the Stern review. Not only were these numbers dubious for the reasons outlined above, but they had a huge range of uncertainty too. They were not fit for purpose. Yet the politicians went ahead regardless. This was extremely dishonest and reckless towards the people who would have to pay for the policies they were putting in place.


On to November 2009, and what became known as “Climategate.”

Climategate was a release of e-mails from the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia. These e-mails showed, to those who bothered to look, that alarmists had interfered with the review and publication process for papers on which the IPCC was supposed to rely. They had dropped, spliced or misrepresented data to produce alarming effects. They had refused to share data to allow others to replicate their work. They had plotted to delete data to evade Freedom of Information requests. They had conspired against journal editors who published skeptical papers. And more. Whatever they were doing, it was neither science nor honest. And so, since taxpayers had paid for them to do honest science, these “climate researchers” were committing fraud against us.

The UK government commissioned no less than three inquiries into Climategate. First, a parliamentary committee, which (with the honourable exception of Graham Stringer MP) seemingly chose to avoid the most important questions. Second came the Oxburgh inquiry. It did not interview any critics of the CRU. It claimed that it would assess the quality of CRU’s science, but the papers it chose to look at did not cover the controversial areas. And it did not address work done for the IPCC. Yet the UK’s chief scientist at the time described Oxburgh’s inquiry as “a blinder well played.” The third inquiry, under Muir Russell, failed to investigate the central issues – Was the science being done properly? And was it being done honestly? It avoided answering the important questions, and the ones it did investigate were largely irrelevant. So, all the important issues “fell through the gaps” between the three inquiries. The outcome of the inquiries, then, was no more than a whitewash. The wrongdoings, which had been exposed by the Climategate e-mails, were never followed up and punished.

Want to know more about Climategate? You can read the e-mails themselves at [[22]]. And you can read Andrew Montford’s account at [[23]]. He says of the enquiries: “The best of them – the House of Commons inquiry – was cursory and appeared to exonerate the scientists with little evidence to justify such a conclusion. The Oxburgh and Russell inquiries were worse.” For another view, you can read the account by professor of environmental economics Ross McKitrick: [[24]]. He says: “In many cases the inquiries themselves report affirmative answers, yet they couched such conclusions in terms that gave the opposite impression. In other cases they simply left the questions unanswered. In some cases they avoided the issues by looking instead at irrelevant questions.”

Were these inquiries not yet more examples of extreme dishonesty, shown by the UK government towards the people it is supposed to serve?

The (lack of) a prototype

A more general point. Should any contemplated political action, on the kind of scale the “net zero” advocates seek, not first be tried out on a small scale, to check that it would not have negative effects? And would not failure to prototype the effects of such a proposed action be an egregious violation of the true precautionary principle, “Look before you leap?”

It’s amusing to think how we might create such a prototype. Set aside a suitable zone, and run an experiment there to find if a net zero economy is sustainable or not. Require all those – activists, politicians, bureaucrats, corrupt academics, celebrities, media figures, and all the rest – that have promoted or supported the net zero agenda, to go live in that area. Monitor that the zone doesn’t emit any more CO2 than comes in. And though they may trade with people outside the bounds of their zone, the zone must be economically self-sufficient. They have to prove that a net zero economy can survive and prosper without subsidies, grants, or gifts of money or goods from outside – including, indeed especially, from government.

Along these lines, we might create an NZZ (Net Zero Zone). A ZNEZ (Zero Nitrogen Emissions Zone). And a BEZ (Bug Eaters Zone). There may well be more possibilities.

Then, let’s just leave them there; and get on with our own lives in our own ways. If they succeed in the experiment, we’ll see them in 2050. If not, it will show that “sustainable development” policies are not sustainable. Which will both prove them wrong, and serve them right. And all human beings worth the name will say “good riddance.”

To sum up

There is so much in this back-story, that I feel a need to sum up under six separate headings!


The story of the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report tells us much about corruption in the IPCC’s processes. Since then, these processes have become more and more contorted and dishonest. And the IPCC’s reports have become more and more alarmist, and less and less credible to those who seek truth.

The CoP meetings

At successive Conference of the Parties meetings, governments have again and again moved the emissions goalposts. Always in the direction of tightening the restrictions on the people they are supposed to be serving. In Copenhagen and Paris, they even moved the goalposts to set, and then to lower, the limit of what they considered a desirable temperature!

And in Doha and Sharm-el-Sheikh, they tightened the screws on us all, giving themselves carte blanche to tax us out of existence to pay for what they see as our “sins of emission.”

Corruption of science

There have been many instances in which the alarmists have failed to follow the scientific method, or have corrupted or misused the data, or have failed to follow reasonable rules of scientific conduct. They have also sought to interfere with the publication process.

The UK government, through the BBC, have sought to deny the right of skeptics of the “climate change” narrative, including experts, to be heard. They also, through three badly conducted “inquiries,” whitewashed the wrongdoings which had been exposed by the Climategate e-mail leak.

Anti-car policies

The UK government’s anti-car policies have been gathering pace for 30 years. The crusades to victimize car drivers, and to force out of our cars those who cannot afford to buy expensive electric cars, is now reaching fever pitch. It looks as if this was all planned more than 30 years ago. This is not acceptable in a democracy.

The perversion of risk analysis

But perhaps the most important single strand of the back-story to the green agenda since 1992 has been the sidelining of objectivity in the very important area of risk analysis. This absence of objectivity has led to a culture of over-safety, that grossly favours those demanding government action over those who will be affected by that action. It has also led to many instances of government over-reach, not all of them related to “climate change.”

The process of sidelining began with the ideas of “post-normal science.” It continued to the Wingspread Statement of 1998, which radically re-wrote and perverted the precautionary principle. In effect, it inverted the burden of proof in risk assessment, rejected the presumption of innocence, required the accused to prove a negative, and mandated “precautionary” action regardless of how much pain it would cause. It also threw out all consideration of objective cost-benefit or risk-benefit analysis. Thus, it gave governments a free hand to violate our human rights as they please in matters affecting the environment.

The UK government has taken this process even further. They have empowered themselves to take “precautionary” action against any perceived risk, even one that is minuscule or very unlikely, or is not even scientifically proven. And they have decreed that absence of evidence of risk (or guilt) is not evidence of absence of risk (or guilt). They have perverted the principle into, in effect: “if in doubt about a risk, government must act to prevent it.”

In conclusion

There is no doubt in my mind that all this was done deliberately, in order to foster tyrannical policies. Such conduct is inexcusable under any circumstances; but most of all in a supposed democracy, where government only has legitimacy when it acts in the interests of, and with the consent of, the governed.

The UK government in particular has behaved, towards the people it is supposed to serve, with extreme arrogance, dishonesty and recklessness, over a period of decades. This must be stopped.


[[2]] Hat tip to Andy May at for the account of these shenanigans























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