The very success of environmentalism is now a real problem for the ageing activists who promoted and lived for the ‘cause’. For them the battle is never won. It is their raison d’etre. Perhaps that is why they have become increasingly shrill with their claims of catastrophic consequences for the planet caused by human generated global warming.
They have a problem. Nobody’s listening. This is shown in the findings latest findings of a Gallup Poll is the USA.
“Consistent with the decline in worry about specific environmental problems, Americans have become more positive about the quality of the environment in recent years….the current level of worry on each issue remains at or near those record lows.”
This is partly because the predictions of the 1990s are simply not coming true – there has been no ‘global warming’ for 18 years now – but also because scientists are breaking through the code of political correctness and orthodoxy that has stifled research into the claims underpinning the political orthodoxy of the past 30 years.
Take, for example, the claim that there is a global warming consensus amongst 97% of all scientists. This is challenged in a recent article by Richard Tol.
Now almost two years old, John Cook’s 97% consensus paper has been a runaway success. Downloaded over 300,000 times, voted the best 2013 paper in Environmental Research Letters, frequently cited by peers and politicians from around the world, with a dedicated column in the Guardian, the paper seems to be the definitive proof that the science of climate change is settled.
Consensus has no place in science. Academics agree on lots of things, but that does not make them true. Even so, agreement that climate change is real and human-caused does not tell us anything about how the risks of climate change weigh against the risks of climate policy. But in our age of pseudo-Enlightenment, having 97% of researchers on your side is a powerful rhetoric for marginalizing political opponents. All politics ends in failure, however. Chances are the opposition will gain power well before the climate problem is solved. Polarization works in the short run, but is counterproductive in the long run.
The 97% refers to the number of papers, rather than the number of scientists. The alleged consensus is about any human role in climate change, rather than a dominant role, and it is about climate change rather than the dangers it might pose.
Although there are large areas of substantive agreement, climate science is far from settled. Witness the dozens of alternative explanations of the current, 18 year long pause in warming of the surface atmosphere. The debate on the seriousness of climate change or what to do about it ranges even more widely.
The Cook paper is remarkable for its quality, though. Cook and colleagues studied some 12,000 papers, but did not check whether their sample is representative for the scientific literature. It isn’t. Their conclusions are about the papers they happened to look at, rather than about the literature. Attempts to replicate their sample failed: A number of papers that should have been analysed were not, for no apparent reason.
The sample was padded with irrelevant papers. An article about TV coverage on global warming was taken as evidence for global warming. In fact, about three-quarters of the papers counted as endorsements had nothing to say about the subject matter.
This is alarming indeed for the ageing hippies who continue to expound their doctrine of hatred towards Mankind. For true environmentalists, as opposed to the political opportunists, this is good news. It means real solutions to real environmental problems have a chance of being discovered. Pseudo-science has had its day.