Two years of work and diplomacy have culminated in the COP26 world climate summit agreeing a deal that, though predictably disappointing, offers at least ‘a lifeline’ to meeting the Paris agreement target of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C. At least, this is what most observers seem to agree. Summit president Alok Sharma said the target was still alive but ‘its pulse is weak’. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the planet was ‘hanging by a thread’.
Yet for many conservatives, the very notion that the countries of the Earth should be meeting to decide how potentially catastrophic climate change can be averted is absurd. The global warming/climate change theory is a hoax, a grand conspiracy, peddled by the world’s scientific community (or at least by 97 per cent of published climate scientists), who have succumbed to mass hysteria, or ‘groupthink’, which renders them incapable of rational thought, and puts them under the spell of a worldwide political movement to deprive us of our freedoms – the same movement, in fact, that concocted the Covid emergency.
Luckily, a very small minority of ‘climate change denial’ dissenters have escaped this spell, and, with the aid of a host of libertarian and neoconservative organisations, like the American Enterprise Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Institute, and Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs, have provided us with an alternative objective view. Although all these have in the past enjoyed generous funding from the likes of ExxonMobil and the Koch foundations (Koch Industries is an oil and gas conglomerate), more recent funding has been from ‘dark money’, that is, through intermediate organisations which conceal the original funder.
So, ranged on the one side, we have the anthropogenic global warming theory, according to which a dangerous warming of the world’s atmosphere is caused by carbon emissions originating from human industrial activity. And on the other side, we have the view that though there may be some global warming taking place, it is (a) nothing to worry about, and (b) not primarily caused by human activity.
Who are we to believe? For the 99.999 per cent of us who are not remotely qualified to understand the intricacies and complexities of glacial/interglacial cycle timescales, global glaciation thresholds, the comparative deposition of carbonates in geologic time periods, solar cycles and radiation variability, volcanic activity, changes in atmospheric composition, Earth orbital shifts, incoming and outgoing atmospheric radiation spectra etc. (the list could be extended indefinitely) – let alone understand how all of these interact to determine our climate – we have no means of knowing. And, so, we are reduced to latching onto websites that confirm our pre-formed view, and chucking cherry-picked ‘How do you explain this?’ facts or statistics at each other.
So, for example, we hear from climate change deniers that humans contribute only a tiny percentage of annual CO2 emissions, and that CO2 itself forms only a tiny percentage of the Earth’s atmosphere. Case proved. But if we read the rebuttal from climate change proponents, we hear an explanation which runs something like this: (1) Most CO2 emissions form part of the natural carbon cycle, which ensures that what is generated by one process is absorbed by another – which explains in turn why, before the industrial revolution, levels of CO2 had remained steady for thousands of years; (2) Because fossil fuel emissions are not part of this cycle, they are not absorbed, and the CO2 builds up in the atmosphere; (3) Because this process is cumulative, the result has been an unprecedented increase in CO2 concentrations in a short time period; (4) The absolute level of CO2 in the atmosphere is irrelevant to the effect ‘trace’ levels of CO2 have in trapping radiation and contributing to global warming
Which is the real science?
The latter account sounds more plausible, if only because it hints at a complex process and deeper scientific understanding, whereas the former does not. Go on to the ‘SkepticalScience’ website https://skepticalscience.com/argument.php?f=taxonomy and see over a hundred such ‘climate myths’ (that is, climate change denial myths) rebutted in complex detail. But for all we know, the latter could still all be spurious, all part of a brilliant worldwide hoax perpetrated by the scientific establishment.
All we have left, it seems, is a balance of probabilities. Which is the more likely: that the worldwide community of climate scientists (the 97 per cent) are engaged in a hoax; or that the scientific consensus is right, and that the 3 per cent are wrong, their advocates perpetrating a hoax of their own, aided and abetted by the fossil fuels industry?