The Settled Science of Ignoring Facts

Australia’s Academy of Science is overdue to clarify its position on global warming, but don’t expect that much-delayed document to be written in the ink of rational objectivity. Despite doubts creeping into the pronouncements of overseas counterparts, local warmists remain determined to defend the faith

the end is nighThe position of the Australian Academy of Science on global warming was last stated in August, 2010. It basically regurgitated the 2007 findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with some Australian temperature trends thrown in – from 1910, thus eliding the inconvenient 19th century heatwaves.

But the Academy has  had  problems with its promised update for 2014.   Kick-start funds for printing and production, undisclosed but modest, arrived from the Labor government in June, 2013.

By October, 2014, the text was finished  and the project moved to the design phase, in readiness for publication before the Lima climate fest, which started on December 1.  The booklet missed that bus and now the publication date has been put forward into 2015.  I gather that the delays reflect the usual problems of committee work, plus the illness of a key author.

The 2010 Academy document was called “The Science of Climate Change: Questions and Answers”. Its influence was profound – it has had about  a million readers, largely teachers and students. Not everyone loved it: one distinguished meteorologist complained of “woefully trite and misleading” statements. Even a top Academy man confessed that it was “not a great document”.  The new document will help massage public opinion towards action at the Paris climate conference next December, although guidelines from the top are to lay off advocacy this time.

In 2009, the Academy’s then-president, Kurt Lambeck, went to the Rudd Climate Change Department and extracted a $55,000 contribution towards the 2010 booklet. (Bang went the perception of Academy independence!). Amusingly, that document in August, 2010, forecast rainfall decreases in Victoria. Within three weeks, Victoria was awash with massive flooding. (As for NSW, 2011-12 saw 3350 official flood warnings and predictions).

The Academy did no  polling of members about support for the IPCC line, neither in the 2010 nor the 2015 exercise. Someone – the Academy doesn’t say who – “assembled”[i] a team to do the job. Nothing is known of Academy members’ views, as distinct from the views of the Academy leadership.

The Academy did however seek limited independent assessment of the draft from qualified scientists outside its drafting-review process. One of those approached received the draft  late last  June with a two week deadline for a review. His review was almost as long as the document and highly critical of egregious statements in the draft. He’s had no further feedback from the Academy.

By the way, don’t buy the “97% consensus” meme:

  • When the American Meteorological Society did poll its professional members in 2013, the results  came out 52% warmists, 48% sceptic.
  • The  US physicists’ body, the  American Physical Society (APS), issued a warmist statement in 2007 which caused resignations of some top people. The APS put out a toned-down version  in 2010. A year ago, it started a new review, including a highly-critical interrogation of the IPCC 5threport’s weak links in methods and findings. The whole review process is publicly transparent, not behind closed doors as per the Australian Academy. One workshop involved three top warmists and three top sceptics (Lindzen, Curry and Christy).

The APS reported last year:

“The APS Council will review the statement in November, followed by the APS Board of Directors. Consistent with APS by-laws, all APS members will be given an opportunity to review the statement and provide input during a comment period. The Climate Change Statement Review is a deliberative process. As a membership organization of more than 50,000 physicists, APS adheres to rigorous scientific standards in developing all its statements.” (My emphasis).

Could there be a bigger contrast with the Australian Academy’s closed-door procedure?

The toughness of the APS audit of the IPCC is suggested by its question about the prolonged halt to warming.

  • “If non-anthropogenic influences are strong enough to counteract the expected effects of increased CO2, why wouldn’t they be strong enough to sometimes enhance warming trends, and in so doing lead to an over-estimate of CO2 influence?
  • “What are the implications of this stasis for confidence in the models and their projections? 

Across the Atlantic, the Royal Society (UK) put out a warmist manifesto in 2007, then had to tone it down in 2010 after a   revolt by 43 members.

Closer to home, the Geological Society of Australia put out its own conventional statement in 2009 on global warming, written by a six-member management committee, which demanded emissions reductions. The executive claimed it enjoyed the authority to make such statements ex cathedra. This caused internal uproar  between believers and sceptic members, such that the Society decided to survey the membership about it. In 2012 it issued a more cautiously-worded statement (“The critical question, however, is the direction, rate and scale of change…”). This again caused such fury among members that, last March, the Society’s president, Laurie Hutton, announced:

“After an extensive and extended consultation with Society members, the GSA Executive Committee has decided not to proceed with a Climate Change Position Statement. … Society members have diverse opinions on the human impact on climate change. However, diversity of opinion can also be divisive, especially when such views are strongly held. The Executive Committee has therefore concluded that a Climate Change Position Statement has the potential to be far too divisive and would not serve the best interests of the Society as a whole. ..In many ways, the diversity of our membership is its strength… Long may it be so!”

The  GSA has never disclosed the results of its member survey.

The Australian Academy’s 2010 working group of climate scientists, assembled from around the country, and its “oversight” panel of academicians are unchanged for the update, except that Lambeck has joined the oversight panel, substituting for the lone sceptic, Dr Garth Paltridge.  Paltridge walked out after Lambeck insisted at the last minute that the oversight panellists, who had been specifically told that they were to be reviewers, not authors, be named in the document. Paltridge did not want to be seen as publicly endorsing the document in any way.  (Reviewers of scientific papers are generally anonymous, precisely to protect those who find themselves in precisely that situation). One of the drafting authors, Professor David Karoly, only ten months later claimed that Paltridge had approved the document. But Karoly was in error.

The 2010 and 2015 working group is Dr lan Allison (Co-Chair)
, Professor Michael Bird
, Dr John Church FAS
, Professor Matthew England FAS, Professor lan Enting, Professor David Karoly, Dr Mike Raupach  FAS (initially co-chair in 2014), Professor Jean Palutikof
, and Professor Steven Sherwood .

The new oversight panel of Academicians is Professor Kurt Lambeck , Professor Graham Farquhar, Dr Roger Gifford
, Professor Andrew Gleadow, Dr Trevor McDougall, Dr Graeme Pearman 
, Dr Steve Rintoul
, and Professor John Zillman.

The oversight panel for 2010 – and presumably for 2015 – was toothless. Paltridge quotes Lambeck as ruling that the panel   “could advise, but not insist on, alterations”. Of the 17 people involved with the booklet only one is not an IPCC author. At least four would be classed as IPCC stalwarts, having been cited more than a dozen times in the fourth report alone.

Further, seven[ii] signed the 2007 Bali Climate Declaration asserting “millions of people will be at risk from extreme events such as heat waves, drought, floods and storms, our coasts and cities will be threatened by rising sea levels, and many ecosystems, plants and animal species will be in serious danger of extinction…” The signatories went on to demand that “global emissions must peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years, so there is no time to lose.” Since the 18-year warming halt continues, we can conclude that things aren’t quite so catastrophically urgent.

Three on the Academy exercise (England, Karoly, Sherwood) also signed the Feb 1, 2012 Wall Street Journal petition. This said,

“Observations show unequivocally that our planet is getting hotter. And computer models have recently shown that during periods when there is a smaller increase of surface temperatures, warming is occurring elsewhere in the climate system, typically in the deep ocean. .. Research (sic)  shows that more than 97 percent of scientists actively publishing in the field agree that climate change is real and human caused.”  (My emphases).

A bare three weeks later, one of the 38 signatories, Dr Peter Gleick, made a grovelling apology for  obtaining by false pretenses internal documents of the sceptic Heartland Foundation. “In a serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name…”

The new Academy document seems to run to 50 pages, three times the length of the original. (Pages are normally padded with “climate change” pictures of bushfires, floods, cracked earth and dying reefs, none of which apparently occurred before 1950). At the time of the 2010 Academy essay, the halt to atmospheric warming had lasted between ten and fourteen years, depending on whose figures you go by. That hiatus should surely be worth the Academy’s attention. Instead, it set up a question — and a straw man:

“Has there been a global cooling trend since 1998?” (My emphasis).

Few or no sceptics claimed there’d been a “cooling trend”. What sceptics actually claimed, correctly, was that there had been no statistically significant increase in temperatures for what was then a decade or more and is now between fifteen and eighteen years. The IPCC itself grudgingly admits to the ‘hiatus’.

With its straw man in place, the Academy robustly answered its own question  about ‘cooling’:

“No, 1998 was an extremely warm year but 
the overall warming trend has continued over the past decade.”

The Academy  went on to discuss warming averaged decade by decade, an illogical treatment designed to mask the 21st Century warming halt.

Note also that the Academy’s metric was “global temperature trends”. Since this metric now shows a warming halt, true believers are instead citing (unmeasurable) “deep ocean heat content”. Will the Academy stick with its original temperature metric? And which of the 66 excuses in the recent literature (as of last November) will it use  to explain the lack of CO2-caused warming (other than that the theory about the CO2 control-knob is wrong)?

Kurt Lambeck wrote in 2010 that  “considerable progress has been made in understanding climate change and 
why it occurs.” What the Academy’s booklet did not mention was that in 1980, 34 years ago,  climate sensitivity to a doubling of C02 was put at  somewhere between 1.5 degCand 4.5 degC. The low figure implies no problem at all for the planet. The high figure implies death and disaster for humanity. After five IPCC reports and  tens of billions of dollars spent on climate  research, the estimated range continues to be between 1.5 degC and 4.5 degC.

Here we might pause to ask ourselves in what other field of science has comparable research spending generated such a farcical absence of progress in narrowing a vital range of estimates?

A question tackled by the Academy in 2010 was

Could the 20th century warming be just a part of the natural variability of climate?”

The Academy confidently claimed that natural variations, such el Nino ocean oscillations, “typically change the global average temperature by no more than a few tenths of a degree, and only for a year or two.” The Academy conceded that some natural fluctuations could be on a century time scale. But it said recent warming was unprecedented in the past 20 centuries – citing, remarkably, the debunked Michael Mann hockey stick graph as evidence.  Those Academy people could easily be sold the Sydney Harbor Bridge. (The inability of Mann’s tree ring proxies  to replicate late 20th climate led to the “hide the decline” confession in the 2009 Climategate emails).

Moreover, the global warming of the past 100-150 years, far from being a “clear trend” (AAS 2010)  is not statistically significant, ie., it is within the limits of natural random fluctuations. This was established by answers to a series of questions to the minister for energy and climate change, i.e. the Met Office, in the House of Lords in early 2013.[iii]

The Academy’s bold statement against natural variability in 2010 will handicap the current Academy team in explaining away the warming halt via ‘natural variability’, assuming they don’t disappear their past position  down the memory hole. The IPCC admits to having no idea of why the halt continues – note that in IPCC-speak, ‘internal variability’ means ‘things we don’t know about and can’t model’.  As the IPCC put it,

… an analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 historical simulations [computer models]   reveals that 111 out of 114 realisations show a [temperature] trend over 1998–2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 trend [actual temperatures] ensemble. This difference between simulated and observed trends could be caused by some combination of (a) internal climate variability, (b) missing or incorrect radiative forcing, and (c) model response error. (My emphasis). [iv]

Thus, the ‘settled science’. Even Lambeck admitted  when launching the Academy’s 2010 booklet that he had no idea what level of negative feedback clouds exert on CO2 warming: “If temperatures go up, there is going to be more evaporation, and that will produce more clouds,” he conceded. “That could produce a negative feedback, but to quantify that is a very difficult thing.  How do we put that cloud cover into the models? That’s where uncertainty comes in, but that’s not going to change the basic outcomes.” So Lambeck didn’t know the facts, but was sure of the conclusions.

The 2010 booklet was dismissive of the sun’s role in warming since the end of the Little Ice Age 200 years ago. It said:

“While there have been some suggestions of a significant solar contribution to the observed warming over the past 20 years, all the trends in 
the Sun that could have had an influence on the Earth’s climate have been in the opposite direction to that required to explain the observed rise in global average temperatures.”

The source for this was two papers written by the same two scientists, Lockwood & Frohlich. The revised 2015 paper will have to be more respectful of the new body of scientific work suggesting that sunspot fluctuations could be indirectly seeding cloud formation and hence climate cycles.[v] The problem for warmists here is that the more weight is given to non-human climate forcings, the more the hypothesis   that   human forcings are dominating climate is put under question. The same goes for natural climate impacts of giant multi-decadal ocean oscillations in the Pacific and Atlantic, which are not included in  climate models.

Here’s a theory on the delay to the Academy paper: Any discussion of the 15-to-18 year warming plateuat and the newly-arrived importance of ‘natural fluctuations’ will be cross-checked against the 2010 paper’s dogma, provide ammunition to the dreaded ‘deniers’ and undermine the ‘cause’ at Paris next December. But since the InterAcademy Council audit of the IPCC in 2010 has forced the IPCC into a more balanced treatment of ‘the science’, how can the Academy document keep pretending there’s nothing to debate with sceptics?

The authors probably wish they’d never signed on to this no-win review.

Tony Thomas blogs at

[i] 2013-14 AAS Annual Report, p66

[ii] Allison, Church, England, Enting, Raupach,  McDougall, Rintoul.


[iv] [chapter 9, text box 9.2, page 769]

[v] The current sunspot cycle is the weakest for 100 years,  which on past correlations, points to a cooling influence.


  1. Peter OBrien


    Your point about the uncertainty range for climate sensitivity is well made and effectively gives the lie to the ‘science is settled’ mantra, but more than that it begs the question of how the hell governments are supposed to set CO2 emission reduction targets to ‘keep warming below the dangerous level of 2C’. If the ‘scientists’ can’t tell us how much CO2 produces 2C warming, what is the basis of the (admittedly highly unlikely) Paris treaty? What guidance have governments been given? It’s just feel good rhetoric and we know that most governments will act in their own national interest (as they should) so why they continue to genuflect at this tinfoil altar baffles me.


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