Top climate scientist says “vast majority” of climate scientists do not believe that warming is a settled fact

(Note, 12/17 11 a.m.: this entry has been revised to deal with an ambiguity in Jones’s remark that I initially missed.)

Phil Jones’s interview with the BBC is the gift that won’t stop giving. Richard Lowry in his February 16 column in the New York Post caught this tidbit from the interview that I had not seen and that no one else I’ve read had written about so far:

Asked by the BBC what it means when scientists say “the debate on climate change is over,” the keeper of the flame sounded chastened. “I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this,” Jones said. “This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the … past as well.”

Jones, the head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, the main repository of the global temperature data that have been used to prove the putative truth of manmade global warming, has just dispensed with the global warmists’ central organizing assertion—that manmade global warming is an established scientific fact, and therefore only idiots and deniers of science deny the truth of global warming. Jones is not just saying that he doesn’t believe that the debate on warming is over; he’s saying that the vast majority of climate scientists don’t believe that the debate on warming is over.

However, as a reader has pointed out, Jones’s comment is ambiguous. It’s possible that his phrase, “I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this,” means only that he believes that a bare majority rather than a vast majority think that the debate is over, which would mean that a large minority think that the debate is not over. To my mind, however, his wording makes it more likely that he means to say that a vast majority think that the debate is not over, rather than that a large minority think that the debate is not over.

Either way, his comment is momentous. Up until three little months ago—that is, up until the massive downloading of e-mails and documents at the CRU by an unknown benefactor of humanity which revealed the ideological agenda of Jones and his colleagues—the only people who said that there were many scientists who doubted that anthropogenic global warming was an established fact were the warming skeptics, while the warmists consistently replied that the skeptics’ claim was false and that the only people who denied that warming was a settled fact were a few oddballs in the pay of evil carbon-spewing corporations, plus Christian fundamentalists who deny the truth of Darwinism and thus of global warming as well. But, to repeat the point with which I began, one of the most important warmists now says, not just (as the skeptics have said all along) that a significant number of climate scientists don’t believe that warming is a settled scientific fact, but that (based on alternative readings of Jones’s ambiguous phrase) either a large minority of climate scientists or a vast majority of climate scientists don’t believe that warming is settled scientific fact.

Where does this leave the issue? Look at it this way. The reason that global warming has been a political question for these last several years, and not just a scientific question, is that the scientific truth of manmade global warming was supposedly settled, and therefore it was no longer a matter of finding the truth about global warming (a job of science); it was a matter of acting on the truth about global warming (a job of politics). That’s why warmists said over and over that the debate was closed, that it was simply a fact that manmade emissions were warming the atmosphere to catastrophic levels, and that human industrial activity had to be drastically curtailed to save humanity, while the West also had to transfer its wealth to the Third World as guilt payment for the sin of having caused all that blasted warming in the first place. To seek to continue the scientific debate, as the warming skeptics wanted, instead of acting on the already settled knowledge of the truth of warming, was to endanger the survival of humanity for selfish and superstitious ends. But now we hear from one of the most eminent climate scientists that something between a large minority and the vast majority of his colleagues regard the truth about manmade global warming not as settled, but as open. Meaning: warming is still a scientific question, not a political question. Meaning: warming has no damned business being in the realm of politics, because the climate scientists themselves don’t know what the truth about warming is.

Which, by the way, is what I said in my reply yesterday to my friend Paul Nachman, a physicist and moderate proponent of global warming.

He wrote:

… Jones’s statement may be the political nail in the coffin for AGW, for awhile. But it’s not a scientific nail in the coffin….

Regarding what’s at your site on this subject, I think it’s time to tone it down. Climategate is about bad behavior, not the uncertain realities of the physical world.

To which I replied:

… when one of the top pro-global warming authorities states that the single most important datum on which the thesis of global warming has been based, namely the warming of recent years, hasn’t been occurring at all, then at the level of human common sense there is a reaction which says, “this whole thing has got to go back to the drawing board.” And that’s something for the scientists to do. As for the non-scientists, that’s not our concern. Our concern has been the political drive to push a supposedly scientific belief on the world in order to attain certain political ends. And that effort has been exposed as false and a fraud….

… it’s now time for scientists—not non-scientists—to salvage which is valid from this mess. After they’ve done that, they can address the public again….

… I’m perfectly happy to wait for that discussion [on the true facts about warming] to sort itself out. There’s plenty of time. I think the world will survive the five or ten years it will take for scientists to reach a more, excuse the wordplay, sustainable consensus on climate change.

- end of initial entry -

N. writes:

This article at NRO’s “Planet Gore” points to a reasonably rigorous discussion of the Czech climate data. I did not know that there were two long-running datasets in the European area, the Central England and the Prague set. Over 200 years of thermometer readings available in two locations indicate no statistically significant warming. But wait, there’s more: a review of the raw data from Prague in comparison with published data from warmists indicates serious tampering.

People don’t realize that there are always issues with data, and that various techniques for smoothing data in order to remove outlying, statistically unlikely, data points are useful to any research. But because these elementary statistical techniques are not generally known (due to a failure of Western science education, in my opinion) it is easy for improper, careless or even fraudulent use of such techniques to slip by.

Let’s sum it up this way: in the last few months, virtually every critique of Anthropogenic Global Warming has been shown to be correct, and many of the props of AGW have been demonstrated to be false, in some cases mendacious. Who is “denying science”? Who has been peddling fear? It is not enough to send climate science back to the field to gather data, some people need to be read out of science entirely, because they have deliberately and fraudulently misused the scientific method for political goals.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 17, 2010 06:00 AM | Send

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