Britain’s prime minister Rishi Sunak was denounced before he’d uttered a word on net zero ahead of his short remarks on Wednesday. Lord Deben, the recently departed chair of the statutory Climate Change Committee, took to the airwaves to accuse the government of stupidity. Lord Zac Goldsmith, son of the billionaire Sir James Goldsmith who resigned from the government earlier this summer, said the prime minister had no mandate to change any net zero commitments and should call an immediate election.
As it turned out, Sunak’s remarks did not substantively change very much. “I’m absolutely committed to reaching Net Zero by 2050,” the prime minister insisted. True, the prime minister pledged that the government wouldn’t force families to rip out their gas-fired boilers and replace them with expensive heat pumps. And he announced that the ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars would be pushed back to 2035, which former prime minister Boris Johnson had brought forward to 2030 in one of his periodic fits of climate jingoism. What Sunak didn’t say was whether the rising quota of electric vehicle (EV) mandates squeezing out sales of conventional vehicles would remain in place.
This, though, would be to miss what the prime minister had done: politically, everything has changed.
“No one in politics has had the courage to look people in the eye and explain what that involves,” Sunak said of net zero. “That’s wrong – and it changes now.” He promised that his approach to net zero would be pragmatic, proportionate, and realistic.
Of course, net zero by 2050 is none of those things. It is ideological, disproportionate, and unachievable.
So why the vehemence of the climate lobby’s attacks on Sunak? In their eyes, Sunak has committed the worst crime of all: he has broken the net zero omertà, which enforces a pact of silence on discussing the policy’s true costs. In public, net zero should only be spoken of as the growth opportunity of the century, something that’s good for the economy as well as the planet. That it might inflict cost and hardship must never be said.
Sunak has destroyed this silent agreement. He has made it possible for mainstream political discourse to mention possible downsides to net zero. In this respect, he’s been assisted by his opponent’s reaction. Labor could have closed the issue down by saying it would be counter-productive to bring forward the ban. Instead, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer immediately pledged to reverse Sunak’s reversal of the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. With EV sale mandates still in place, there is very little before and after difference – except Sir Keir now owns the downsides of the net zero anti-car policy.
Commentary on EVs focuses on the user experience – the vehicles’ cost premium, for example, or problems such as range anxiety and the inconvenience of re-charging them compared to filling up with a tank of fuel. These issues make EVs either a luxury purchase for individuals or a tax-efficient purchase made by businesses on behalf of their employees. There’s been much less focus on the implications for the electrical grid of mass EV adoption. As Manhattan Institute senior fellow Mark Mills discusses in a recent paper, “Electric Vehicles for Everyone? The Impossible Dream,” transitioning automotive energy derived from molecules to electrons has enormous implications for the grid and local distribution networks.
It’s not solely about the relative costs of electricity versus liquid hydrocarbons. (Electricity is much more expensive before taxes, a net zero fiscal hole Labor also needs to address.) According to Mills, transporting a unit of electrical energy using wires and transformers is about 20-fold more expensive than transporting the same quantity of energy as oil in pipelines and tankers. When you fill up your tank with gasoline, the same amount of energy per second is going into your car as being generated by four 5-megawatt wind turbines. The electrical grid and local distribution networks are simply not designed to accommodate the enormous increase in electrical power required for mass EV adoption – and the faster the EV charger, the more power it needs.
Upgrading Britain’s electrical network for EVs will cost many tens of billions of pounds. Who pays?
That’s now a question for Sir Keir and Labor to answer. Will electrical utilities discriminate between electricity used to charge an EV and boil a kettle? Some 55% of British households don’t own a car. Does Labor expect the 55% of non-car owners to subsidize the cost of grid and local network upgrades for the benefit of the small proportion of the 45% of car owners who have EVs? Labor’s green socialism inverts traditional socialism. It envisions less well-off members of the community subsidizing better-off EV owners through their electricity bills.
The prime minister can have had few illusions about the consequences of breaking with the climate consensus to speak of costs and downsides. The climate lobby is well-funded and deeply networked throughout politics and the media. It required courage and conviction for Sunak to have taken this step.
Thanks to him, Britain’s climate policy debate will never be the same.
By: Gregory Wrightstone – Executive Director CO2 Coalition
You have likely heard that 97% of scientists agree on human-driven climate change. You may also have heard that those who don’t buy into the climate-apocalypse mantra are science-deniers. The truth is that a whole lot more than 3% of scientists are skeptical of the party line on climate. A whole lot more.
The many scientists, engineers and energy experts that comprise the CO2 Coalition are often asked something along the lines of: “So you believe in climate change, then?” Our answer? “Yes, of course we do: it has been happening for hundreds of millions of years.” It is important to ask the right questions. The question is not, “Is climate change happening?” The real question of serious importance is, “Is climate change now driven primarily by human actions? That question should be followed up by “is our changing climate beneficial or harmful to ecosystems and humanity?”
There are some scientific truths that are quantifiable and easily proven, and with which, I am confident, at least 97% of scientists agree. Here are two:
Carbon dioxide concentration has been increasing in recent years.
Temperatures, as measured by thermometers and satellites, have been generally increasing in fits and starts for more than 150 years.
What is impossible to quantify is the actual percentage of warming that is attributable to increased anthropogenic (human-caused) CO2. There is no scientific evidence or method that can determine how much of the warming we’ve had since 1900 that was directly caused by us.
We know that temperature has varied greatly over the millennia. We also know that for virtually all of that time, global warming and cooling were driven entirely by natural forces, which did not cease to operate at the beginning of the 20th century.
The claim that most modern warming is attributable to human activities is scientifically insupportable. The truth is that we do not know. We need to be able to separate what we do know from that which is only conjecture.
What is the basis for the “97% consensus” notion? Is it true?
Hint: You can’t spell consensus without “con.”
If, indeed, 97% of all scientists truly believed that human activities were causing the moderate warming that we have seen in the last 150 years, it would be reasonable for one to consider this when determining what to believe. One would be wrong, however.
Science, unlike religion, is not a belief system. Scientists, just like anyone else, will say that they believe things (whether they believe them or not) for social convenience, political expediency or financial profit. For this and other good reasons, science is not founded upon the beliefs of scientists. It is a disciplined method of inquiry, by which scientists apply pre-existing theory to observation and measurement, so as to develop or to reject a theory, so that they can unravel as clearly and as certainly as possible the distinction between what the Greek philosopher Anaximander called “that which is and that which is not.”
Abu Ali ibn al-Haytham, the natural philosopher of 11th-century Iraq who founded the scientific method in the East, once wrote:
“The seeker after truth [his beautiful description of the scientist] does not place his faith in any mere consensus, however venerable or widespread. Instead, he subjects what he has learned of it to inquiry, inspection and investigation. The road to the truth is long and hard, but that is the road we must follow.”
The long and hard road to scientific truth cannot be followed by the trivial expedient of a mere head-count among those who make their livings from government funding. Therefore, the mere fact that climate activists find themselves so often appealing to an imagined and (as we shall see) imaginary “consensus” is a red flag. They are far less sure of the supposed scientific truths to which they cling than they would like us to believe. “Consensus,” here, is a crutch for lame science.
What, then, is the origin of the “97% consensus” notion? Is it backed up with research and data?
The earliest attempt to document a “consensus” on climate change was a 2004 paper cited by Al Gore in his allegedly non-fiction book, An Inconvenient Truth. (Gore attended natural science class at Harvard, but got a D grade for it.) The author of the cited paper, Naomi Oreskes, asserted that 75% of nearly 1,000 papers she had reviewed on the question of climate change agreed with the “consensus” proposition favored by the IPCC: “Most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.” None, she maintained, dissented from this line of reasoning.
The Oreskes paper came to the attention of Klaus-Martin Schulte, an eminent London surgeon, who had become concerned with the adverse health effects of his patients from their belief in apocalyptic global warming.
Professor Schulte decided to update Oreskes’ work. However, he found that only 45% of several hundred papers endorsed the “consensus” position. He concluded: “There appears to be little basis in the peer-reviewed scientific literature for the degree of alarm on the issue of climate change which is being expressed in the media and by politicians, now carried over into the medical world and experienced by patients.”
The primary paper that is often trotted out in support of the notion of “97% consensus” was written by John Cook and his merry band of climate extremists. Published in 2013, it is the most widely referenced work on the subject of climate consensus and has been downloaded more than 1.3 million times.
Cook runs a climate website that is a smorgasbord of climate fear rhetoric, specializing in attacks—often personal and spiteful in tone—on all who have proven effective in leading others to stray from the dogma of impending climate doom.
The project was self-described as “a ‘citizen science’ project by volunteers contributing to the website.” The team consisted of 12 climate activists who did not leave their climate prejudices at home. These volunteers, many of whom had no training in the sciences, said they had “reviewed” abstracts from 11,944 peer-reviewed papers related to climate change or global warming, published over the 21 years 1991 – 2011, to assess the extent to which they supported the “consensus view” on climate change. As Cook’s paper said,
“We analysed a large sample of the scientific literature on global CC [climate change], published over a 21-year period, in order to determine the level of scientific consensus that human activity is very likely causing most of the current GW (anthropogenic global warming, or AGW).”
The paper concluded,
“Among abstracts that expressed a position on AGW [anthropogenic global warming], 97.1% endorsed the scientific consensus. … Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW.”
The paper asserted—falsely, as it turned out—that 97% of the papers the reviewers examined had explicitly endorsed the opinion that humans are causing the majority of the warming of the last 150 years.
When one looks at the data, one finds that 7,930 of the papers took no position at all on the subject and were arbitrarily excluded from the count on this ground. If we simply add back all of the papers reviewed, the 97% claimed by Cook and his co-authors falls to 32.6%.
A closer look at the paper reveals that the so-called “97%” included three categories of endorsement of human-caused climate change (Figure 1). Only the first category amounted to an explicit statement that humans are the primary cause of recent warming. The second and third categories would include most skeptics of catastrophic anthropogenic warming, including the scientists of the CO2 Coalition, who accept that increasing CO2 is probably causing some, probably modest, amount of warming; an amount that is likely rendered insignificant by natural causes of warmer weather. Only by casting a wide net could Cook conclude that there is any type of “consensus.”
Agnotology is defined as “the study of how ignorance arises via circulation of misinformation calculated to mislead.” This is how David Legates and his co-authors (2015) describe the Cook paper and similar attempts falsely to promote the notion of broad scientific consensus surrounding the subject of a looming, man-made, climate apocalypse.
They reviewed the actual papers used by Cook and found that only 0.3% of the 11,944 abstracts and 1.6% of the smaller sample that excluded those papers expressing no opinion endorsed man-made global warming as they defined it. Remarkably, they found that Cook and his assistants had themselves marked only 64 papers—or 0.5% of the 11,944 they said they had reviewed—as explicitly stating that recent warming was mostly man-made (Figure 2). Yet they stated, both in the paper itself and subsequently, that they had found a “97% consensus” explicitly stating that recent warming was mostly man-made.
“Agnotology has the strong potential for misuse whereby a ‘manufactured’ consensus view can be used to stifle discussion, debate, and critical thinking.”
It appears that Cook and his co-authors manipulated the data to present an altogether untrue narrative of overwhelming support for catastrophic human-caused warming.
Note that the official “consensus” position—supported though it was by just 0.3% of the 11,944 papers reviewed—says nothing more than recent warming was mostly man-made. Even if that were the case—and the overwhelming majority of scientists take no view on that question, for it is beyond our present knowledge to answer—it would not indicate that global warming is dangerous.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
— Joseph Goebbels
From the information we have just reviewed, the percentage of scientists who agree with the notion of man-made catastrophic global warming is significantly less than advertised. Several unbiased attempts have been made to assess what the actual number might be. One of the largest petitions concerning climate change was the Oregon Petition signed by more than 31,000 American scientists, including 9,029 holding PhDs, disputing the notion of anthropogenic climate alarmism (Figure 3).
More recently, in 2016, George Mason University (Maibach 2016) surveyed more than 4,000 members of the American Meteorological Society and found that 33% believed that climate change was not occurring, was at most half man-made, was mostly natural, or they did not know. Significantly, only 18% believed that a large amount—or all—of additional climate change could be averted.
Science does not advance through consensus, and the claim of consensus has no place in any rational scientific debate. We ask: What do the data tell us? What does it mean? Can we reproduce the results?
If those promoting man-made climate fear need to resort to an obviously flawed consensus opinion, rather than argue the merits of the science, haven’t they already conceded that their argument cannot be won through open debate?
“Cook’s 97% nonsensus [sic] paper shows that the climate community still has a long way to go in weeding out bad research and bad behavior. If you want to believe that climate researchers are incompetent, biased and secretive, Cook’s paper is an excellent case in point.”
— Professor Richard Tol
“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”
Legates DR, Soon W, Briggs WM et al (2015) Climate consensus and ‘misinformation’: a rejoinder to ‘Agnotology, scientific consensus, and the teaching and learning of climate change. Sci Edu 24:299–318, doi: 10.1007/s11191-013-9647-9
We are told climate change is a crisis, and that there is an “overwhelming scientific consensus.”
“It’s a manufactured consensus,” says climate scientist Judith Curry in my new video. She says scientists have an incentive to exaggerate risk to pursue “fame and fortune.”
She knows about that because she once spread alarm about climate change.
Media loved her when she published a study that seemed to show a dramatic increase in hurricane intensity.
“We found that the percent of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes had doubled,” says Curry. “This was picked up by the media,” and then climate alarmists realized, “Oh, here is the way to do it. Tie extreme weather events to global warming!”
“So, this hysteria is your fault!” I tell her.
“Not really,” she smiles. “They would have picked up on it anyways.”
But Curry’s “more intense” hurricanes gave them fuel.
“I was adopted by the environmental advocacy groups and the alarmists and I was treated like a rock star,” Curry recounts. “Flown all over the place to meet with politicians.”
But then some researchers pointed out gaps in her research — years with low levels of hurricanes.
“Like a good scientist, I investigated,” says Curry. She realized that the critics were right. “Part of it was bad data. Part of it is natural climate variability.”
Curry was the unusual researcher who looked at criticism of her work and actually concluded “they had a point.”
Then the Climategate scandal taught her that other climate researchers weren’t so open-minded. Alarmist scientists’ aggressive attempts to hide data suggesting climate change is not a crisis were revealed in leaked emails.
“Ugly things,” says Curry. “Avoiding Freedom of Information Act requests. Trying to get journal editors fired.”
It made Curry realize that there is a “climate change industry” set up to reward alarmism.
“The origins go back to the … U.N. environmental program,” says Curry. Some U.N. officials were motivated by “anti-capitalism. They hated the oil companies and seized on the climate change issue to move their policies along.”
The U.N. created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“The IPCC wasn’t supposed to focus on any benefits of warming. The IPCC’s mandate was to look for dangerous human-caused climate change.”
“Then the national funding agencies directed all the funding … assuming there are dangerous impacts.”
The researchers quickly figured out that the way to get funded was to make alarmist claims about “man-made climate change.”
This is how “manufactured consensus” happens. Even if a skeptic did get funding, it’s harder to publish because journal editors are alarmists.
“The editor of the journal Science wrote this political rant,” says Curry. She even said, “The time for debate has ended.”
“What kind of message does that give?” adds Curry. Then she answers her own question: “Promote the alarming papers! Don’t even send the other ones out for review. If you wanted to advance in your career, like be at a prestigious university and get a big salary, have big laboratory space, get lots of grant funding, be director of an institute, there was clearly one path to go.”
That’s what we’ve got now: a massive government-funded climate alarmism complex.
Global warming, climate change, all these things are just a dream come true for politicians. I deal with evidence and not with frightening computer models because the seeker after truth does not put his faith in any consensus. The road to the truth is long and hard, but this is the road we must follow. People who describe the unprecedented comfort and ease of modern life as a climate disaster, in my opinion have no idea what a real problem is.