I know I should really ignore these things, but not only is the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) taken seriously by some, my incredulity also tends to win out. The latest in my they can’t really have said that, can they? series, is a report called The Small Print: What the Royal Society left out. The idea is to tell us things about climate change that the Royal Society won’t/doesn’t. There’s a very good reason why the Royal Society doesn’t tell us these things: these are particularly stupid things to say and the Royal Society – by and large – is not made up of idiots. It’s a little concerning if the GWPF released this report as some kind of joke. It’s even more concerning if they are actually serious.
Let me give you some examples. This alone should completely invalidate anything else they say:
Carbon dioxide levels have been increasing steadily. A body of evidence points to this being due to human effects – emissions from burning of fossil fuels and land-use changes – although the Earth’s carbon dioxide budget is not sufficiently understood to accurately quantify the human and natural contributions.
It’s all anthropogenic. This is not in dispute. It’s about as certain as anything can possibly be. Only half of our annual emissions remain in the atmosphere: more than half is absorbed by the oceans and biosphere. If they weren’t doing so, atmospheric concentrations would be rising even faster than they currently are. That the oceans and biosphere are absorbing more than they emit, means that they can’t be the source. All that’s left is us. It really is us. There is no plausible alternative.
The report also says
Is the climate warming?
This is hardly an important question. The Earth’s surface is always warming or cooling, or on some occasions barely changing. What is important is that the change referred to is small and imperfectly measured.
Small and imperfectly measured? Small is clearly a judgement. Imperfectly measured may be true in the sense that analysing all the data so as to produce a temperature record is difficult, imperfect and has errors and uncertainties. Noone, however, doubts that we have warmed and that the change in temperature since pre-industrial times is probably unprecendented in the Holocene.
I don’t want to go through too much, but another example is:
There is significant evidence that the Sun has played an important role in climate change, and over the 20th century in particular.
No, there isn’t. There really isn’t significant evidence that the Sun has played an important role in climate change over the 20th century. It certainly influences our climate, but the dominant change in forcing over the 20th century is anthropogenic.
The Earth has many and hugely varied climates. The climate also changes naturally on every timescale. Mankind is remarkably adaptable, living in almost all of these climates.
Well, yes, but there is vast difference between it being possible to live in a wide variety of different climates, and being able to provide food, shelter, and a decent standard of living for a population in excess of 7 billion people. As I may have said before, this isn’t about the survival of our species, but about the survival of our civilisations! There’s a reason why some regions of the planet are more heavily populated than others.
While carbon dioxide levels appear to be higher than they have been for hundreds of thousands of years, they are relatively low compared to most of the last 600 million years (when most lifeforms evolved), ….. there were periods during which the carbon dioxide level was as much as 10 times higher than today but the climate was colder, for example the Silurian Period (about 443–420 million years ago). The fact that most plant life evolved during these periods is because plants thrive when carbon dioxide is increased.
Good grief! Humans have only been on the planet for about 100000 years. Mammals for just over 100 million years. The plants that evolved during the Silurian are nothing like the plants we have today. This also ignores other issues, like ocean acidification, which the report also suggests may not be a big problem.
it is not currently possible to reconcile estimates of sea level rise with estimates of the factors that are thought to contribute to it.
Yes, it is. It is true that it’s difficult to project future sea level rise because of uncertainties about ice sheet melt, but the general view is that projections are probably a bit conservative: just ask the US Navy.
There’s plenty more if you can bothered to read it. Some might find it amusing; well in a depressing how can anyone possibly think this makes any sense kind of way. It’s quite remarkable that people who regard themselves as experts have actually endorsed this tripe. It seems that even some Fellows of the Royal Society are not immune.
It’s reports like this that make me cynical about the idea that we should reduce name-calling and engage in more grown-up dialogue. Not that I’m specifically arguing for name-calling, but if those endorsing this report are the elite of the “skeptic” movement – and if they are actually serious – grown-up dialogue is clearly impossible, and it’s hard to see how name-calling would actually make any difference, one way or the other.