Friday, 20 March 2015

GLOBAL WARMING:  IS THERE A SCIENTIFIC CONCENSUS?                                                        
                                                           It is frequently asserted that there is an overwhelming
concensus of expert opinion that dangerous global warming is taking place and is
caused mainly by anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.  This view is bolstered by
citing the number of scientfic papers which support  it.  Opponents cite the large
number of scientific papers which cast doubt on the thesis.
                                                         Assessment of the controversy requires an examination
of the procedure of scientific publication, depending heavily on "peer group review",  
and the associated research grants and academic appointments and promotion.  The
procedures have developed comparatively recently, since the huge explosion of university
teaching and research since the early 1960s.  At the risk of being accused of caricature,
it might be said that before that time academics published something only when they
had or thought they had something valuable to say;  since then it has become
necessary to publish in a peer-reviewed journal in order to qualify for a research
grant and an academic job. From a lifetime working in social science teaching and
research, I would be dubious about the validity of the procedures there. No social
science journal, as far as I know, takes the elementary precaution of reviewing
submissions "blind", to rule out the possibility of preference being given to authors
and institutions which can give reciprocal favours.   In three fields with which I have
been particularly concerned- crime, immigration into Britain, and global warming- I
believe social science research bodies have acted not merely to promote a particular
standpoint but to suppress dissenting views.
                                                   I have always believed that in physical sciences the
situation is different and that the peer-group review system works as it should, but the
global warming debate suggests that at least in this field there are grave defects.
                                                   The view that there is an large conscensus in favour
of anthropogenic CO2 as the main cause of warming ignores the long-established
and still continuing work of astrophysiocists and others who support the
Milankovitch theory of climate change- that it is due to the earth*s relationship to
the sun- and also the large number who are still examining the idea that it is due
to solar acivity, especially sunspots.  It is highly significant that several of these, in
contrast to the IPCC and other warmists, conclude that the causes of climate change
are at present unknown. For example Brian McDougall,  Frozen earth:  the once and
future story of ice ages  (University fo California Press, 2008) says that since the
general acceptance of the tehory of ice ages in the middle of the nineteenth century
"literally hundreds, perahps even thousands, of scientists have pursuded research into
the causes of ice ages.  The intellectual challenge presented by the geological event,
with its multiple possibilities, has attracted the efforts of geologists, chemists,
physicists, mathematicians, biologists and climatologists.  There is still much uncertainty
about how, and especially why, an ice age actually happens.  To be sure, there are
hypotheses, but none have yet attained the status of an accepted theory  (p.8-italics
                                                    A question which can usefully be posed to all who
believe they know the causes of climate change is what caused the Little Ice Age
(about 1350 to 1850) and its ending. An authoritative study of the literature on sunspots
(Judith Broady, The enigma of susnspots,  Floris Books, Edinburgh, 2002) concludes
"The verdict at present has to remain that neither climate nor solar variability are
suffcieintly well defined, either spatially or temporarily, nor their causes adequately
understood.  Increasing solar and human activity both contribute to global warming
but in what proportion is still unknown..... At the moment all we have is surmises and
it is pretty unlikely that we shallever stumble on four- or five-hundred year-old
reliable meterological records for the whole planet". (pp.171-172).


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