Why I don’t believe in the climate science


It’s time for a true confession. I don’t believe in climate science.

That’s because I’m a rational person. Belief is important in my life and I apply the term to things involving faith. Faith is how we believe when there is no rational basis for a decision – which doesn’t mean its irrational or wrong, just that there is no evidence to support the view taken. Faith and belief often apply to matters of the spiritual realm. But they also apply to matters of a more worldly nature, where the capacity for faith and belief has framed many positive developments in humanity over history. Despite the lack of supporting evidence, Churchill believed the allies would win WWII and Mandela believed majority rule would come, relatively peacefully, to South Africa. Faith is a powerful driver of human behaviour.

However, I don’t “believe” in climate science because it’s not a religious or a faith question. It’s just numbers and science on which to make rational judgements. The scientists tell us what they know, and what they don’t, and we decide how to respond. This is not a binary question, like the earth is flat or not, this is a system description based on best available knowledge.

Belief is actually a dangerous concept in relation to climate science and we should stop using the word in that context. Because belief is based by definition on “non-rational” thought, framing it this way leads to a tendency to resist counter arguments and associated data. It’s hard for more data to change a belief, because it wasn’t data based to begin with. As a result, interpreting science using a belief based approach leads to sloppy intellectual behaviour, where we discount data that challenges our “beliefs” and exaggerate the importance of data that supports them.

Climate science is at it essence just data. Always incomplete and open to challenge and debate but, fundamentally, just data which we then interpret and act on. We navigate this at times complicated process quite successfully in a range of other fields such as aeroplane and bridge design, food safety and medicine.

Where this process occurs in the absence of strong cultural or economic self-interest, there is little controversy, such as bridge design. As we move into economic self-interest, things get a little complicated, such as the reappraisal of safety levels for volcanic dust during the recent Icelandic volcano, when airlines pushed for a review, based on economic losses, from the application of what they saw as too strict an interpretation of the data. Again it worked out fine.

When we move into areas of strong cultural influence and beliefs, such as medicine and health, things get more complicated. So, for example, whereas many traditional medical scientists would argue the evidence for some alternative therapies is weak, people act on their “beliefs”, spending over many billions on them each year, including some where the science is definitely not proven and sometimes quite disproven.

In all these areas though, from bridges to medicine, as a society overall we accept the dominant scientific conventions. When a body of qualified scientists reviews the evidence and issues their judgements we generally act accordingly and the broad societal level. We make decisions on flight safety, on bridge design and on public health – not without controversy, but in the end we make decisions and we base them on rational thought.

Sometimes, though, it gets really messy, and such is the case with climate change. Here we see a great clash of cultural and political beliefs, mixed up with enormous economic self-interest. The result is quite irrational, belief-based debate and decision making or, in this case, the lack of decision making.

It’s important to recognise what’s going on in this process and to respond appropriately. So, for example, we should by now know that arguing science with a climate denier (as opposed to a genuine sceptical scientist) is as pointless as arguing the benefits of market economics and liberal democracy with an al Qaeda leader. No amount of rational data will help because they don’t want to believe, so they will deny any evidence that confronts their own beliefs.

The right approach with climate deniers is to ignore them. Fortunately their influence is on the wane and their cause now quite terminal because, in the end, we are a rational society and the evidence is clear. As US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

For genuine sceptics, and indeed for all of us, it is very important we maintain an open mind and keep the debate alive and vibrant. We must act urgently to reduce the risk of climate change by eliminating the net CO2 emissions of the economy as a fast as possible. But we must also keep researching, challenging and exploring the details as we do so, not least of all to identify the most effective actions we can take. Not all greenhouse gases are the same and, given what the science tells us about the urgency, it is going to take all of our ingenuity to pull us back from the cliff we seem to be racing towards.

So when someone asks if you’re a climate believer, tell them no, your far too rational for that.

75 thoughts on “Why I don’t believe in the climate science

  1. Adam

    CO2 blocks infra red energy. Naturally that atmospheric greenhouse effect will cause heating of the Earths biosphere.
    That has been known since the 19th century. Has that law of physics been overturned recently? Am I now expected to document every well known detail known about physics and chemistry in my posts?

  2. Keith Reeves

    “CO2 blocks infra red energy”. Yes BUT. The effect of additional CO2 is asymptotic in a way that would not please the IPCC if they bothered to understand it. Once the existing CO2 has absorbed all of the incoming solar frequencies it can take it’s all over. Additional CO2 has nothing to “soak up”. CO2 is a harmless 4% of all greenhouse gas effect. Mans contribution is an un-noticeable 0.12% of the greenhouse gas effect. Totally undistinguishable from the error limits of the calculation. CO2 is harmless.

  3. Keith Reeves

    Another’s opinion on “the science”.

    “In their meticulous study, Soon and Baliunas( 19,20) criticized, in passing, the Mann et al. publications for improper calibration of the proxy data, and for statistical and other methodical errors. More in-depth and crushing criticisms of the work of Mann et al. were presented recently by McIntyre and McKitrick (22) who demonstrated that the conclusions of Mann et al. are based on flawed calculations, incorrect data, and biased selection of the climatic record. Using the original data sets supplied to them by author Michael Mann, McIntyre and McKitrick discovered many mistakes in the Mann et al. papers—for example, allocating measurements to wrong years, filling tables with identical numbers for different proxies in different years, using obsolete data that have been revised by the original researchers, and so on. Typical of these “errors” was, for example, their stopping the central England temperature series, without explanation, at 1730, even though data are available back to 1659, thus hiding a major 17th Century cold period. McIntyre and McKitrick not only criticized the work done by Mann et al., but also, after correcting all errors, analyzed their data set using Mann’s own methodology. The result of this superseding study demonstrates that the 20th Century temperature has not been exceptional during the past 600 years. Further, it demonstrates the falsity of the IPCC’s statement in its 2001 report, based on Mann et al., that the 1990s was “likely the warmest decade,” and 1998 the “warmest year of the millennium” (Figure 3).

    The McIntyre and McKitrick paper was reviewed before its submission for publication by leading experts in mathematics and statistics, geology, paleoclimatology, and physics (among them were R. Carter, R. Courtney, D. Douglas, H. Erren, C. Essex, W. Kininmonth, and T. Landscheidt), and it was then peer-reviewed by the reviewers of the prestigious British journal Energy & Environment.

    Two questions arise in this respect. How could the 1998 Mann et al. paper, with all those errors, have passed peer review for Nature magazine? And how could it pass the reviewing process at the IPCC? This affair sadly reflects upon the quality of science being performed in this body. ”

    This piece was written by a PhD.

  4. Adam

    You are simply wrong about the CO2 absorption having reached a peak.
    Where on Earth did you possibly get such an odd idea from? Can you please link to an actual non debunked paper that can support such a claim?

    “Energy & Environment” ? “prestigious”? LOL

    Your comments are a joke and you are making no contribution to anything with such nonsense. bye.

  5. Keith Reeves

    “That has been known since the 19th century. Has that law of physics been overturned recently?”

    No. It was overturned a few years after the original proposition was put up. Arrhenius” idea was always a joke and he eventually admitted it himself.

    What sort of scientist are you, not to have picked up the deliberate error in this: “Once the existing CO2 has absorbed all of the incoming solar frequencies”” Letting that through proves you don’t understand the IPCCs weird science. PhD??? Msc???? BSc??? —- HSC possibly.

  6. Keith Reeves

    “Where on Earth did you possibly get such an odd idea from?” Since you don’t seem to understand the science I’ll put it to you with a Prof Schneider analogy.
    If you have a funnel catching water from a water fall and piping that water away successfully; it then seems obvious that there is no point in increasing the size of the funnel or drain pipe.

    Or restated.

    Once you have absorbed all the incoming IR, there is no way that additional absorber ( the IPCCs CO2) can absorb more IR because THERE ISN’T ANY LEFT.

    Unfortunately for the IPCC, that is the science.

    Science wins, over belief.

  7. Keith Reeves

    “Laboratory measurements show that carbon dioxide saturates (absorbs to extinction) at its main peak in 10 meters under atmospheric conditions.* This means there is no radiation left at the peak frequencies after 10 meters. If then there is a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere, the distance of absorption reduces to half, or 5m. A reduction in distance is not an increase in temperature.”

    This was written by a PhD.

  8. Sherryl Broderick

    Hi ‘believers’, ‘deniers’, ‘rational men of science’ and ‘ranters’…

    I’m a scientist of modest talents, trying to be rational about the climate change debate (which is outside my area), and in turn be a responsible consumer. The kinds of messages that I’m able to make sense of are invariably from calm, non-aggressive and logical climate scientists. I check credentials before I trust the argument. From the point of view of a consumer of information this debate is a lot like a brand label. If the brand image is synonymous with ‘rational thought’ and the ‘label’ says “I know what I’m talking about” then I’ll buy it.

    We need to educate consumers about their choices and power in the market place of information, as well as products and services.

  9. Keith Reeves

    Hi Sherryl,

    Totally agree with you. It is not rational to offer your qualifications as a scientific proof as most global warming speakers do. Moderate scientists such as Robert Carter at James Cook University and Stuart Franks just deal with the science. In the end descriptions of qualities like ‘rational thought’ and ‘label’ and “I know what I’m talking about” may point to a more “genteel” human being but science is always based on testable truth. This is where the proponents on human induced climate change fall down. They can point to no science and more importantly no possible rational mechanism by which CO2 can heat up the atmosphere. They rely on semantics, as you are doing. Again and again and again. Repetition proves nothing.

  10. Keith Reeves

    Marius Kloppers has made an astute business move for his company by suggesting a mechanism for dealing with carbon emissions that will only burden the tax payer. BHP recognises that, regardless of the science, it must position itself in preparedness for the politics of CO2.
    At the political level our P.M. has postponed the need for action by taking the decision to move forward with climate change related activities only after a consensus is achieved in the voting community; whenever that might occur.
    For the PM, this is a subtle way of dealing with the groundswell of reality that has begun to emerge about climate change since the Copenhagen Conference. Spain, as a leader in alternative energy has finally been forced to face their reality. Politicians had managed to hide, for many years, the fact that heavy subsidization of “alternative” energy from tax money has been sending the country bankrupt. Watching them deal with this is going to be interesting.
    The issue of climate change and our collective guilt over the production of Carbon Dioxide is a sociological and psychological phenomenon of astonishing proportions.
    We are told by politicians, economists and global warming advocaats that our consumption of fossil fuels produces “harmful” CO2 and we are endangering our future.
    The paradox, as seen by scientists, is that Carbon Dioxide is perhaps the only industrial bye product of this process which is harmless to the environment and humans and an essential building block in the Earth’s biosphere.
    Perhaps we need a judicial inquiry to sift out the misinformation, pseudo science and assertions motivated by self interest to allow the scientific reality to assert itself once and for all.
    In calling for reduction in CO2 we seem to be putting the cart before the horse. Before engaging in costly, ruinous carbon reduction schemes we must first show that CO2 produced by man is damaging the environment. There is currently no evidence or possible mechanism known to science which causes carbon dioxide to act as a temperature accelerant.

  11. James

    Don’t worry Keith you need not have made all that effort. An undortunate competition, both underwhelming and pointless. This can’t be caused by human induced ghgs – no that would implicate you, me, us? No, not you. The atmosphere is just another sink, a bloody big one, but one no less. It would stand to reason that if you pump enough garbage in, should you be at all surprised that there are unfortunate side effects. How much is too much, tricky…but you are an engineer you know how much…don’t you? 

    You eat lots of ocean fish these days do you? A tuna man, or are you more keen on salmon? I loved tuna. You smoke? Why not, it doesn’t kill you? Were you outraged when the government replace leaded petrol for another toxic petrochemical? Happy to live in an asbestos house with lead water pipes? Probably would not bother you if we still spayed out crops with DDT? You must be tougher than me. 

    The Thames used to be a sewer, the Great Lakes lit up the shore and Sydney Harbour stunk, still is full of dioxins, probably naturally occurring eh? All smaller sinks, different circulation dynamics. I’m sure that there were plenty of people that used to think that the run off from a few tanneries and the bed pan from my house wouldn’t make much of a difference. Six billion bed pans…Multiplication is the name of the game…but you are an engineer, you know how that works. Me I just hate long division.  

    There is no difference between your endless and tiresome arguments (and my tireless diatribe) and each of the similar pseudo-debates which surround our present tragedy. The only difference seems to be one of imagination, or lack there of. I am rather worried that it is catching, a bit like a flu.  

    When Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring the objections were put forth, the same objections. Tiresome eh? What is a vested interest? An economist in a straight jacket? Or are they the pale lumps that lurk just out of my vision, you think you see them but they are fast. They often change their ‘professional’ bodies too. Very tricky to track down but inevitably are chained to an old fossil. They can usually be identified by their want to only critic others findings never by publishing their own, or not in major peer reviewed journals…unfortunately this was not meant to mean peers of the realm as reviewers.   

     This is not a debate anymore it is just a mis-information campaign. Like watching a Chevron ad on tele. Nor has my garbage intended to add to the great debate, or confirm or deny anyones belief system. But, if you plan to believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden, either write some poems like Blake did, or please keep it to yourself. Don’t use your award as an engineer to shame a proud profession.     

  12. Keith Reeves

    You sound just like Tim Flannery’s new book. Did you help him write it??
    You may recall some of my earlier posts where I expressed disgust at the fact that we are polluting the world. I think pollution is appalling. Why is nothing being done about it?
    Back to the book. It lists all of the real pollution and then goes on to rail against poor old CO2 in the same breath. It is not science to catalog all of mans true and obvious pollution sins, which you have done very well, and then slip in global warming so that it is guilty by association. There is no science that shows the human component of CO2 produces any effect on the earth’s atmospheric temperature. Not only that but there is no possible or known mechanism that can allow CO2 to have the influence over us that Al Gore ascribes to it in his dreams.
    James, your post is full of rage. Rage is good as long as it has an object. Raging at Carbon Dioxide is like raging at an imaginary phantom. Pointless. Want to hear a joke. look up Al Gore’s scientific qualifications and academic record.

  13. Keith Reeves

    I have just read the last 4 paragraphs of you last piece. I’m really puzzled. This blog is about Carbon Dioxide but you are bringing up a lot of material about pollution. I agree with you, the rate of chemical pollution of our environment has been improved in the West but is still too high and poorly monitored by governments which are getting a free ride from the likes of Greenpeace. Can you explain why Greenpeace fails to publicize government inactivity on real pollution??

  14. James

    Thanks for the complement. I’ll look for the book. 

    Wow, Greenpeace’s involvement in the decisions of state must be far larger than I was lead to understand.  True the article was no more about Greenpeace or Al Gore than the four paragraphs on pollution, that we agree is a serious issue, one that you will not extend to co2.

     Do I feel the good old leftist plot coming on? Is often found when raging against environmental organizations and the centrality of Al Gore to all things climate and environment.

    I think this entry was about the semantics of ‘belief’ as applied to a rational evidence based investigation of the topic of climate change, or as applied as a term to qualify outputs from such investigation. I’d think that as a term to use in this format it is not suited because of the high probability that it can misrepresent findings. One might say a loaded term. I consider that it creates an issue where religion/spiritual or personal beliefs can be readily mentally substituted for rational discourse. Unfortunately the term extends more of an emotional feeling than rational fact ie. ‘I believe/do not believe that CO2 created by anthropogenic means is effecting the earths climate’ rather than a factual statement.  

  15. Keith Reeves

    If you do what Tim does, mixing just causes with Phantoms, then sensible scientists seeing the flaw in the CO2 debate will simply write the whole lot off as “having no merit”.
    This weakens credibility.
    Look at BHP taking advantage of a business situation. They know that regardless of the science, they can make money dealing in carbon credits. They are not worried about the environment.

  16. Lee

    “They want to run half a model with a CO2 balance that includes only man made CO2 plus the assumed steady state atmospheric CO2 prior to mans organic combustion of coal, oil, wood and petrol. ”

    I suggest that anyone who want to go to the GISS web site and look at the models. They have description of the parameters that are included in the models and the code is available for those that want to look at it. I can not match what I see there with the quote above. The model include a vast number of physical processes, they are certainly not limited to “only man made CO2”.

  17. Yvan Dutil

    Keith Reeves,

    Wow, I never met someone so much scientifically illiterate with a degree in engineering. Actually, you are also a very bad scientist. This is my personal opinion based on the fact I have a PhD in physics, I got course with engineer, I have worked as a system engineer and now I form engineer at graduate level. It is obvious to me that you dont even have a clue about the complexity of the typical problem studied by the average physicist.

    Obviously, you do not understand very simple concept like radiative transfer. About all the flaws you find in the models, they have all been ruled out by measurements. Hence, your opinion is based not on your understanding of the topic but your political opinion.

  18. Keith Reeves

    “the average physicist and it would also seem a PhD. ” Appears to be either gullible or scientifically sloppy. There is no science that shows the human component of CO2 produces any effect on the earth’s atmospheric temperature. Not only that but there is no possible or known mechanism that can allow CO2 to have the influence over us that Al Gore ascribes to it in his dreams. If Physics PhDs would get out of the Lab and into the real world which engineers inhabit, they would find how dopey the IPCC claims of CO2 induced heating really are. You don’t seem to have any clue about radiative transfer or the practical constraints of the atmophere’s absorption spectra..

  19. Keith Reeves

    “About all the flaws you find in the models, they have all been ruled out by measurements.” A very sweeping statement but at least you admit to the flaws. That’s progress.

  20. Adam

    Wow. Keith, you are still here and still sprouting your nonsense?

    And I see you are now stating that
    “There is no science that shows the human component of CO2 produces any effect on the earth’s atmospheric temperature”

    Wow! that’s a relief! For a while there I had thought that CO2 was contributing to the temperature of the Earths atmosphere. Now it seems that the effect was only caused by the *natural* CO2. Human generated CO2 must look the same as natural CO2 but is too lazy to absorb and re radiate energy.

    There is a lot more scope for atmospheric CO2 infra red absorption left. You should read the science. Here is a good primer for you : http://scienceofdoom.com/roadmap/co2/

  21. Keith Reeves

    Even the bankers are getting out of Green investments, what do they know? Is the game now up?
    Had a look at SOD at http://scienceofdoom.com/roadmap/co2/ and surprise (no not really) it’s just the same old philosophy of science type article which tries very hard to impress by pasting up some interesting basic science which is tangentially related to the main argument. No real science there. Measurement is key to all science. This really cant be pushed aside. A case in point was illustrated on recent flight to Singapore. At 39,000 ft above sea level the temperature outside the aircraft was minus 55 degrees C. This is 218 degrees K. most real scientists can see from this one simple measurement that we are too close to a frighteningly massive heat sink. At 7 or 8 miles above ground effectively all heat energy is absent and our main concern should be how to make sure we hold on to what little radiant solar energy we pick up and prevent heat escaping from the Earths crust. Carbon dioxide aint guilty.

  22. Adam

    What have Green investments got to do with the scientific evidence that humans are warming the planet due to the excess CO2 being produced?

    The Science of Doom website is very good as it clearly demonstrates the complexity behind the CO2 physics (and SOD does not get into the really tricky stuff either). I doubt that you can get any more related to the current CO2 heating issue than outlining just how the CO2 physics works. SOD also explains the atmospheric conditions (your ‘heatsink’ analogy) very well.

    I’d say your statement that CO2 aint (sic) guilty would be violating the laws of Physics (and by extension to those of your God). If you know how the mathematics is wrong you should write a paper on it, get it published and overturn conventional physics as we know it. Your Nobel prize surely awaits!

    And wouldn’t an anti science approach be akin to listening to the Devil?

  23. Sandy

    Hi Paul,
    Would you agree that the majority of people who AREN’T taking action on climate change aren’t doing so because they don’t believe their small effort will make any difference? That there is to much out of their control? Too many cars, too many people, too many ski fields in the desert in Dubai etc etc?
    Do you think that if people could be convinced that their effort WOULD literally change the future of all living things on the planet from doomed to saved, that they would make every effort they could?
    So! How can we convince people that everything they do contributes to either the doom or the saving of all future living creatures? I feel like there is an analogy, and it has to do with faith I think? I need your help! How do we convince people to have faith in their actions, to believe they can make a difference?
    Thank you.

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