SCIENCE IN NEW ZEALAND UNDER THREAT
"What I think I am glimpsing at here is a dark shrouded hand which I have seen operating here in our NZ science system since the science reforms of 1990. Science more than ever before in its long and noble history is now captured either by political or commercial interests. The very purpose of science – to discover the truth – is under threat. " - Soil scientist, Dr Doug Edmeades "comes out" as a skeptic.
Coming Out: Why I have become a Climate Change Sceptic
Dr Doug Edmeades
Today I am “coming out”; today unashamedly I make my position public; today I join the ranks of the environmental skeptics. But I must be precise in my declaration: I accept that the global climate changes – after all it has done so quite “naturally” for aeons. My scepticism amounts to this: I no longer believe, pending convincing evidence to the contrary, that the world is currently warming as a result of an increase in greenhouse gases, and in particular carbon dioxide, resulting from man’s activities. Why this apparently sudden declaration?
First a qualification: I am a soil scientist and as such I do not read the scientific literature on climate change and so I cannot be considered an authority on the subject of climate change. I am in this respect like you, a lay-person, albeit literate in scientific methodology. I must rely on the views of others who specialise in this topic. Like you I must then deal with that awkward question: who do I believe given the extreme polarity of views for and against?
My first exposure to the issues came from Bjorn Lomborg’s book “The Skeptical Environmentalist”. I cannot say that I read this lengthy missive from cover to cover. But I did read enough to start to see how the scientific evidence was being ‘distorted’. This book left me uneasy but open-minded.
My next learning was more brutal. I was given an article written by Ross McKitrick (see the chapter in “Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming” Patrick J Michaels editor 2005) who together with Stephen McIntyre exposed the now infamous “hockey stick’ graph for what it was – a piece of scientific chicanery. This was the graph which underpinned the claim that global temperatures were rapidly increasing during the 20th century relative to earlier times going back about 1000 years. My natural and healthy scientific scepticism was awoken. What was going on in the world of science?
More recently our local branch of the NZ Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science heard an amazing exposition of the science of climate change from our “local” specialist, Dr Willem de Lange of the Waikato University. His credentials include being once a member of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – he turned his back on this august and influential body because of what he saw happening to science. To my mind, the most revealing piece of evidence he presented was a graph showing the cyclical changes in global temperature and carbon dioxide concentration over the last thousand or so years. The key point was that carbon dioxide concentrations followed the temperature cycle. Carbon dioxide concentrations do not drive temperature – the opposite occurred. This, to my mind, was damming evidence against the hypothesis that the climate is warming because of man’s activities and in particular greenhouse gas emissions.
Upon the heels of this meeting, Professor Dr Bob Carter from Queensland visited NZ. Unfortunately, I could not make his meeting but you can read for yourself his views on the subject (see his website and in particular http//members.iinet.net.au/~glrnc/new-page-1.htm). He presents data suggesting we are entering a period of global cooling! He is dismissive of the IPCC suggesting that they are now exhausted of empirical evidence and are ‘on the run’.
This is all heady stuff for the layman. Surely as a mere soil scientist I must bow to those with superior knowledge, the experts in this field? Surely my opinion in such matters must be set aside if there is a consensus of scientific opinion from specialists to the contrary. This is why I read with much interest a recent lengthy article by Christopher Monckton entitled, “Consensus”? “What Consensus” (see http//scienceandpublicpolicy.org/Monckton_papers/consensus-among-climate-scientists-the debate-is-not –over.html). He documents a recent analysis of scientific literature over the period 2004 to 2007 which demolishes the notion that there is a consensus among scientists on this very important issue. Furthermore, he documents cases where the IPCC has published misleading data to support their man-made-global-warming position. But more telling to this layman is his claim that the IPCC reports are not and do not represent a consensus of scientific views. They are it appears political documents driven not by science but by politics. This was my ‘nail in the coffin’; this is when I decided too “come out”. If there is no consensus then my opinion is as worthy as IPCC’s political opinion.
What I think I am glimpsing at here is a dark shrouded hand which I have seen operating here in our NZ science system since the science reforms of 1990. Science more than ever before in its long and noble history is now captured either by political or commercial interests. The very purpose of science – to discover the truth – is under threat.