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John Houghton about ecofanatics: annotated version

Sir John Houghton, an ex-boss of the IPCC, and the hockey stick graph, visually demonstrating that the flawed hockey stick graph has "never" played any important role for the IPCC statements. Picture via AP and BBC

John Houghton wrote an article for the U.K. Times:

We climate scientists are not ecofanatics
The subtitle says:
If the IPCC has a fault, it is that its reports have been too cautious, not alarmist.
Sure. ;-) I will briefly comment on this amazing assertion later in the text.
In the UK only about 26 per cent of the population believe the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is man-made. Many feel they are being steamrollered into believing something false or flakey that will make them poorer or stop them flying.
People worry that they would have to stop flying even though the IPCC itself and its allies - especially the likes of Al Gore - are a living proof that despite the AGW panic, these folks fly more often than ever.
Given this dangerous mood of scepticism, it is no surprise that the IPCC — the body that represents the integrity of climate-change scientists across the world — is being attacked.
Note that Houghton considers skepticism "dangerous". This very sentence makes his reasoning fundamentally incompatible with the scientific method. The mood of skepticism is not dangerous: it is a basic pre-requisite for science.

The IPCC may represent the global climatological community but 90% of it is corrupt - it's bought to produce fake evidence in favor of AGW. It's easy to see where this number comes from. When climatology was a decent yet modest scientific discipline, the funding was 10 times lower than it is today. So 10% of the current funding goes to the science as it used to exist while 90% of the current funding was linked to the threat of AGW.

In other words, 90% of the salary of an average climate scientist in the world is paid for him or her to say things that support the basic thesis that multiplied the funding by ten - namely the statement that there is a man-made climate change worth talking about or even a dangerous one.

In yet another different counting, you may say that 90% of the current climatological community is not a part of it because of their desire to find the scientific truth but because of their intent to search for evidence supporting the pre-determined conclusion that there's a dangerous man-made climate change. The funding shows so.

The only way for climatology to regain its scientific status is to subtract those 90% of the funding and fire those 90% of the people who shouldn't be there. It's a necessary condition, not a sufficient one.
Let’s be honest, sometimes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does get it wrong. It was an error to include a poorly sourced claim in its 2007 report about the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are melting; but this mistake was marginal — it did not influence any of the IPCC’s main conclusions or appear in the summaries of the report. The great body of the IPCC’s work represents science at its best — and it needs defending from its detractors.
Houghton only mentions GlacierGate because it's the only one for which the IPCC has apologized - kind of. It hasn't apologized for the other scandals even though they're inherently more serious than the GlacierGate. The IPCC hasn't apologized again, and switched backed to the mode of denial, because it had previously "promised" itself that the GlacierGate was the only mistake in the 2007 IPCC report.

This statement of theirs is, however, completely absurd. Virtually every single statement in the IPCC report that looks worrisome is based on ideology, science that suffers from childish mistakes and deliberate mistakes, and is only supported by gray literature. That includes the statements about the glaciers, about the destruction of rain forests by climate change, about the dropping agricultural yields in Africa because of climate change, about the majority of the Netherlands being under the sea level, about the rising inherent damages caused by natural disasters, and everything else that makes the IPCC relevant in the political discourse and the media.

The IPCC is not "science at its best": it is a shame that discredits all of science and is dragging all other scientific disciplines under the water. It doesn't deserve to be defended: it deserves to be eliminated. People should pray that the damage caused by the IPCC to the institutionalized science in the whole world may be corrected in a foreseeable future.
The IPCC is not a self-selected group of scientists with a political agenda. It was founded in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation and the UN Environment Programme with a mandate to produce accurate, balanced assessments about human-induced climate change.
Indeed, the IPCC wasn't a self-selected group. It was a group cherry-picked by the politicians. The UN Environment Program is a political institution originally meant to influence environmental politics in the third world. All these people have always looked for new ways to increase their perceived importance.

The right assessment about man-made climate change is that it is not worth a special discussion beyond the conferences of a few specialists who may look for various unusual effects that may influence the climate. But this conclusion, while honestly summarizing the existing science, goes against the existential interests of the IPCC itself. From the beginning, the IPCC had to be looking for a balance between the truth and their interest to survive. Recently, the survival got much more important than the truth.
I was chairman or co-chairman of the Science Working Group from 1988–2002, through the first three IPCC reports. About 70 scientists from around the world attended the first meeting of the group near Oxford early in 1989. We had no preconceived agenda regarding our conclusions. In fact, a number of attendees argued that not enough was known about human-induced climate change to produce any significant report. However, we agreed that we would identify carefully what we knew with reasonable certainty, estimate the uncertainties and distinguish it from what we were much more uncertain about. This doesn’t exactly mark us out as a bunch of ecofanatics.
Well, this was 21 years ago. While it's surely not accurate to say that the IPCC didn't have a preconceived agenda at the beginning, the situation was probably not as bad as it is today. Today, the agenda is completely manifest. Houghton himself even considers skepticism "dangerous". He a priori rejects the possibility that he's wrong.

Concerning the distinguished levels of certainty, where do the GlacierGate and dozens of other scandals belong? Was the IPCC certain about the glaciers' demise by 2035? How can we see Houghton's principles in action when it comes to any particular statements? The answer is, of course, that we can't. The statements that really matter - namely the statements that something dangerous is going on - are deliberately not assigned any meaningful odds.

And there's a good reason for this fact. While the actual scientific support for such scenarios is close to 0%, they're deliberately presented as something that science implies with the probabilities close to 100%. This confusion is the whole point of these speculations.

So Houghton may have agreed that they would be doing things correctly and honestly. But it is much more important to notice that they have simply not done it. They may have done it with "small technical questions" whose answers "don't matter". But whenever it comes to any pillar of the orthodoxy, i.e. the statement that the mankind is doing something dangerous to the climate, all the standards of scientific integrity were always thrown under the bus. And for the survival of the IPCC, they had to be thrown under the bus.
The IPCC is too big an organisation to ...
It's too big to fail, isn't it? ;-)
The IPCC is too big an organisation to be captured by an ideological cabal or fall foul of group-think. It draws in scientists from every discipline from many different nations. Climatologists from Benin rub shoulders with scientists from the West, and from Saudi Arabia and other petrol-states for whom belief in global warming is against their immediate interests.
It's a complete misunderstanding to believe that a bigger organization is immune against group-think or the influence of ideological cabals. Quite on the contrary, the bigger organization we have, the more influential group-think may become. Lysenkoism, Aryan Physics, and the anti-continental-drift hysteria are just three examples in which pretty much the whole communities in dominant nations were misled by group-think.

The only reason why we don't find too many "international" examples of group-think of this kind is that the United Nations were only created in 1945 and until very recently, the desires and tools to coordinate ideologies internationally remained limited.

The people from Benin were sent to the IPCC by their government because the government believed that man-made climate change is a good gadget for the poor countries to get some extra money from the rich. Houghton must know as well as I do that the climatologists from Benin have never played any important role in the creation of the IPCC reports - or climatology in general, for that matter.

Saudi Arabia has the same pro-AGW attitudes because it believes that the oil consumers will pay compensation to the Saudi Arabia for the falling profits that result from the "fight against climate change". At any rate, this is not primarily about the whole nations. The climatologists in any nation have a vested interest in the AGW panic because it gives them 90% of their funding. They don't directly depend on the oil money.
The IPCC process also makes it impossible for green propaganda to be slipped in. The IPCC has published four reports — in 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2007. Each contains three volumes covering science, impacts and mitigation; in 2007 each volume was about 1,000 pages long. Their main content is a detailed review of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers. But a report from Greenpeace or any other campaigning body would not be included because the science would not be considered robust enough.
That's very interesting because most of the preposterous statements about the glaciers and other things were directly imported from documents of The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Do I need to say more? Is Sir Houghton living in another galaxy? Or does he rely on the assumption that everyone will forget that all these bogus statements were justified by promotional WWF booklets, undergraduate theses, and mountaineering magazines? Why is it so easy for various people to lie in such a flagrant way?
Each chapter of an IPCC report goes through three reviews. The first is by expert scientists. The second involves a wider international community of climate scientists and others with an interest (including industrial and green NGOs) and the third is by national governments. Report summaries are scrutinised sentence by sentence at an IPCC plenary meeting over three or four days. These scientific meetings can become intense. I recall one that got bogged down over whether the words “appreciable human impact” were justified by the evidence. We clapped with relief when we agreed on “discernible human impact”.
This procedure is itself unscientific. The final word always belongs to the political groups. Scientists do the early work at the beginning so that the report looks scientific. The later corrections and censorship is done by the NGOs - and the final word belongs to the government. The more important stage of the process you consider, the more political people have the power to dictate what happens.

But even if these manifest problems with the procedure were fixed and the NGOs and governments would be sent home, this idealized system of multiple reviews could only work if the people were rewarded for their search for the right answers. In reality, they're rewarded for producing the AGW panic: not only the politicians and NGOs are encouraged to create this panic but the scientists are encouraged as well. They're corrupt, so whatever the rules say on paper, is simply not reflected in the actual work. This is the real thing that matters.
A further myth is that the IPCC is alarmist. In truth, it’s far easier to find what now looks like excessive caution in IPCC reports. For instance, the 1990 report stated that increases in greenhouse gases were causing global warming but added that, because of natural climate variability, this warming could not be clearly detected in the observed record. As warming has continued at about the rate projected by the reports, each subsequent report has in general shown increasing confidence in its conclusions. Let me give you another example: the 2007 report declined to estimate the possible effect of accelerated melting of ice caps, as it considered no reliable estimates were available at that time.
Once again, the first reports may have been somewhat more honest. But the newer ones were getting increasingly dishonest. There's been no statistically significant warming in the last 15 years so it is physically impossible for the "continued warming" to justify the increasing amount of dishonesty and claimed certainty in the IPCC report. The real explanation is that the climatological community has gotten significantly more corrupt since 1990 and the importance of the alarming statements about the AGW relatively to the scientific truth has substantially increased.

But even Houghton's story in the previous paragraph shows the real political character of the formulations adopted by the IPCC reports. They would always vote about adjectives - "appreciable" vs "discernible" was his example. And each of the voters had to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest, in words of Stephen Schneider.

The actual evidence says that the man-made impact is "barely discernible" but because that would make the IPCC ineffective, and threaten its raison d'être, most people in the IPCC choose to be effective and replaced "barely discernible" not only by "appreciable" but sometimes even "dangerous". That's how it works. So even John Houghton sometimes tries to act as an honest person - but only when almost no one is listening to him and when he only tries to question the observations that he was previously dishonest.

When it really matters, his assertions are lies supported by no scientific evidence. The statement that the IPCC has usually been "too cautious" is completely absurd. Pretty much every inaccuracy or lie that has ever been found in the IPCC report and acknowledged by the panel showed that the IPCC presented the climate in a more hysterical, more CO2-sensitive, more dangerous way. In fact, I don't know a single example when it was the other way around. Houghton's proposition is simply a lie. A ludicrous one.
A third myth is that the IPCC has refused to recognise that there has been no significant increase in global average temperature in the past decade or so. Sceptics cite this as evidence against human-induced global warming. But the level of natural year-to-year variability in the temperature record shows that a decade is too short a time to establish a change in the long-term trend. It is also known that a substantial part of the recent variability is down to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a massive climate pattern in the Pacific. The Pacific sector has certainly been cooler than elsewhere during the past decade.
So the IPCC didn't refuse to recognize that there's been no statistically significant warming for 15 years...

Another lie. In this very article, John Houghton himself attempted to deny the fact that there's been no statistically significant increase in global mean temperature since 1995. If you forgot about the point, let me recall that one sentence in this very article by Houghton says "As warming has continued at about the rate projected by the reports, each subsequent report has in general shown increasing confidence in its conclusions."

However, there's been no statistically significant warming since 1995 which was the year of the second IPCC report (the years were 1990, 1995, 2001, 2007). So there was no empirical basis for the reports after the second one - namely the third and the fourth one - to get "shriller" or more "certain" than the second one. The very sentence "as warming has continued..." is a denial of the lack of a statistical warming in the last 15 years. Houghton contradicts himself.

By the way, if you want to see how brutal the denial by the AGW advocates about the lack of a statistically significant warming since 1995 continues to be, look e.g. at Deltoid. These people are completely devastated by the fact that Phil Jones had to admit that there was no statistically significant warming for 15 years. It's not just an inconvenient truth: it's a complete shock, a gigantic blasphemy that attacks the deepest religious instincts of these people. The denial of the lack of recent warming has always been one of the main pillars of the AGW cult.

They're doing everything they can - permutations of words, hiding their heads into the sand, and so on - to regain their belief that Phil Jones could have never admitted that. John Houghton is doing the same thing. While he has to admit that there's been no statistically significant warming since 1995 whenever the discussion focuses on this point, as soon as no one is watching him, he returns back to the lies about a "continued warming" that justifies the "increasing certainty" and hysteria of the IPCC reports.

Because it's important for the likes of Houghton to say the truth about the important questions and because they are clearly unwilling to say the truth unless they're under pressure, it's extremely important to keep dishonest people such as John Houghton under constant pressure.
Perhaps there is a criticism that can be made of IPCC scientists: they have been too slow publicly to defend their integrity. They have not been willing or able to hit the airwaves or make their case in newspapers. But scientists are now faced by powerful lobbies who are working to distort and discredit the science behind climate change. We scientists have facts on our sides — we must not be afraid to deploy them.
They're not defending their integrity because it doesn't exist and one can't defend something that doesn't exist. To say it concisely, "nothing" is indefensible.

Comments about powerful lobbies have been debunked hundreds of times. The funding for the groups that are defined by their support for the AGW alarm beats the funding for the AGW skeptics by a factor of more than 3,000. The discrimination of the sane and honest people by the insane and dishonest ones is so huge that it allows a crappy railway engineer and porn writer to stay at the top of the U.N. climate panel even now - when everyone knows that he helped to make his panel more fraudulent than ever before.

This railway engineer is politically more powerful within climatology than the likes of Richard Lindzen. The situation in the climate science continues to be completely insane. The only reason why these stunning imbalances of the power and funding aren't able to convince the scientists and the public about the threat coming from the AGW is that the arguments in favor of such a threat are so preposterous that billions of dollars are simply not enough to pay the people to believe in them.
Sir John Houghton is former chief executive at the Met Office.
Sir John Houghton may call himself and his ilk "we scientists" but that won't change that they're crooks who have nothing whatsoever to do with the scientific integrity.

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reader Brian G Valentine said...

In the UK only about 26 per cent of the population are dumb enough to believe the scientific “consensus” amongst fakirs that climate change is happening and is man-made. Many are aware that they are being steamrollered into believing something false or flakey that will make them poorer and stop them from flying. Given this encouraging mood of scepticism, it is no surprise that the IPCC — the body that represents the epitome of climate-change fraud across the world — has, correctly, lost virtually all credibility.

It’s high time.

reader Steve Koch said...

Great stuff! Why aren't USA climate scientists outraged by the gross politicization of climate science? Are they mostly cowards or are they really AGW fanatics who think the ends justify the means?