How to Break the Climate Spell
Mark Imisides advises climate skeptics to reconsider how to dispute claims from climate believers in his Spectator Australia article Changing climate change: debunking the global colossus. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.
How is it that despite the scientific case for a climate apocalypse comprehensively collapsing some 20 years ago, we have seen a 16-year-old girl (at the time) being invited to address the United Nations, weeping children marching in our streets, and a federal election outcome in which this issue dominated the political landscape?
Where did we go wrong? And by ‘we’ I’m referring to those of us termed sceptics – people who understand the science, and the house of cards that comprises the notion of Anthropogenic Climate Change.
Put simply, we must learn the art of the polemic. The art of rhetoric. We must recognise that there’s no point in having evidence on our side if we don’t know how to use it.
We begin with this proposition. There is no case for reducing our carbon footprint unless all four of these statements are true:
- The world is warming.
- We are causing it.
- It’s a bad thing.
- We can do something about it.
No rational person can have any problem with this, and if they do, we need to find out why.
Here’s where we have to decide which of these points we want to contest. Remember, you only have to falsify one of them for the whole thing to collapse like a house of cards.
Most sceptics, in my view, pick the wrong fight. They do this by attempting to prosecute the case based on one of the first two points. This is a mistake.
Arguments about whether the world is warming revolve around competing graphs: ‘My graph shows it’s warming. If your graph shows it isn’t, then it’s wrong – no it isn’t – yes it is – no it isn’t…’ This argument also looks at Urban Heat Island Effects, and examines manipulation of data by government agencies. This is a poor approach to take because:
- You’re never going to prove your graph is right.
- You can be very easily and quickly discredited as a conspiracy theorist (Brian Cox did this to Malcolm Roberts on Q&A a few years ago). People just do not believe that government agencies would manipulate data.
- We should not fear a warming world. Records began at the end of the last ice age, so it’s only natural that the world is warming. And the current temperatures are well within historical averages.
As for arguments about whether we are causing the warming, this is even more problematic. The various contributions to global temperatures are extremely complex, involving a deep understanding of atmospheric physics and thermodynamics. With a PhD in Chemistry, this is much closer to my area of expertise than Joe Public, but I am very quickly out of my depth. I recognise most of the terms and concepts involved, but know just enough to know how little I know.
Sadly, many people on both sides of the debate don’t understand how little they know, nor how complex the subject of atmospheric physics is, and it is nothing short of comical seeing two people debating about a subject of which both of them are blissfully ignorant.
The bottom line is this – they simply don’t change anyone’s minds – ever.
Having seen these arguments used for years, and having used them myself, I cannot point to a single person that has said, ‘Oh yes! I see it now…’ The whole point of arguing, or debating, is to change someone’s mind (including, at times, your own). If that isn’t happening, then it’s futile to continue with the same approach.
I think the reason both these approaches fail that most people do not believe that all these experts, and the government, can be wrong. You say the world isn’t warming? Oh, I’m sure you have the wrong graph. You say that CO2 is not responsible? Oh, I’m sure the government scientists know more than you do.
This then brings us to the third point. Why is a warmer world a bad thing?
This is even more tempting than the first two points, as it’s so easy to prove that a warming world, so far from being a crisis, is actually a good thing. The reason for this is that, unlike with the first two points, they don’t have to look at a complex scientific argument. They just have to look at the weather. Are cyclones and hurricanes increasing? Are droughts increasing? Are flooding events increasing?
Regretfully, it is impossible to get people to even look at this. Even worse, they seem oblivious to the simple concept of cause and effect. We see this in that they simply can’t see that droughts and floods are opposites, and the same cause cannot produce exactly opposite effects. Astonishingly, they somehow think that charts that plot these extreme events are somehow manipulated, even when they come from a primary source such as the BOM, and that there really is a ‘climate crisis’.
Where does that leave us? Well, before we adopt Catweazle’s mantra of ‘nothing works’, there is one more point – point 4 (can we do anything about it?).
Most people will have seen the address of Konstantin Kisin at an Oxford Union debate, where he prosecuted this case to great effect. He pointed out, in simple terms, that as the UK only contributes 2 per cent to the global CO2 budget, anything they did will have negligible effect, and that global CO2 levels will be determined by people in Africa and Asia. He then pointed out that people in these countries ‘didn’t give a sh*t’ about climate change, as all they want to do is feed and clothe their children, and they don’t care how much CO2 that produces.
Finally, he pointed out that Xi Jinping knows that the way to ensure that he isn’t rolled in a revolution, as happened to so many other leaders in former communist regimes, is to ensure prosperity for the Chinese people. And indispensable to that goal is cheap, reliable, power, which is the reason that China is now building lots more coal-fired power plants – in 2021 alone they built 25 GW of capacity – equivalent to 25 x 1000MW plants.
By all accounts, his speech was well-received, with many people turning to his side. The beauty of prosecuting this case, as opposed to the other three, is that people don’t have to look at any evidence. They don’t even have to look at the weather.
The argument is at the same time simple, compelling, and irresistible. The question is this: will we see a major political party with the courage to take it on?
That part remains to be seen. But what is certain is this – the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different outcomes. If, for twenty years we’ve been telling people either that the world isn’t warming, or if it is we aren’t causing it, or if it is warmer but there’s no climate crisis, and not a single person has been persuaded by our arguments, then we have the brains of a tomato if we think anything is going to change.
Konstantin Kisin’s talk, and in particular the way it was received, fill me with hope that I haven’t had in years. It fills me with hope that if the case is prosecuted wisely, the climate change colossus can be brought to a grinding halt, politicians will unashamedly take on energy security as a political mantra, and the notion of climate change will at last be exposed as the unscientific, anti-human, regressive, apocalyptic cult that it is.