Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 4:34am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 4:34am

People would be idiotic not to question climate science

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

The debate over climate change and global warming shows no sign of losing its intensity. Those that disagree with the view that man's activities are contributing to global warming are branded as right wing, in the pockets of business, Fox News junkies, on the take from vested interests and a lot more. Only idiots we are told deny or are sceptical of "science." Yet the scientific method thrives and moves forward on scepticism.

It is true that science and its discoveries have been a powerful engine of growth. But its not all been one way. The bedrock of scientific research is that the same experiments yield the same results no matter who does them. However scientists at the biotech company Amgen, a few years ago attempted to replicate 53 cancer-related studies, but were only able to replicate six. Bayer HealthCare had a similar experience in only being able to reproduce a quarter of the result of 67 studies.

We are frequently told that we should believe that global warming science is irrefutable because the UN Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change report is supposed to be based on the work of 9,136 scientists and their 2,239 peer reviewed articles. However it's worth bearing in mind that the IPCC is not a scientific organisation. Its charter restricts it to looking for human induced global warming, rather than what occurs as a result of natural climate forces. In practice it is not interested in views which do not support the influence of human activity, specifically carbon dioxide.

However it is not unheard of in the past for the scientific consensus to be wrong. Tom Quirk, a former research physicist and a member of the Australian Climate Science Coalition, notes that for many years it was received medical opinion that "ulcers were caused by stress, spicy foods, and too much acid."

Subsequently two Western Australians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren proved that they were mostly caused by a bacterium and were better treated by antibiotics and not by surgery and drugs. The pair were awarded the Nobel Prize for their efforts but not before enduring criticism that they were peddling nonsense.

There are parallels with global warming with huge vested interests within the science community, finance, politics maintaining that anyone that denies global warming is idiotic. A huge one trillion US dollar industry has grown up around global warming. Making sense of climate is a difficult and highly complex operation. Climate models attempt to replicate, natural variability ocean currents, the intensity of sun cycles, estimate changes in cloud cover, vegetation and the changes brought on snow and ice cover. Then the impact of increasing levels of man-made C02 are combined with this.

However there is considerable disagreement among the scientific community about the efficacy of the models. The models have difficulty in replicating previous temperature let alone forecasting the future. There are a host of issues about the IPCC reports which have been raised by the Inter Academy Council, the world's premier scientific body, which are critical of the IPCC. Its August 2010 report on the UN's climate body identifies: political interference, conflicts of interest, bias, claiming certainty in absence of evidence, vague statements not supported by evidence, management problems and so on. Given all this it seems perfectly justified to be at least sceptical about the claims of the IPCC, and the so-called catastrophic consequences of global warming. Indeed if nothing else it is scepticism that has kept science honest. Given the billions of dollars that are being poured into policies on the basis of alarmist climate forecasts people need to be asking a lot of questions about the science.

 

Loneliness kills

Loneliness can be twice as unhealthy as obesity according to a study of loneliness among older people in Britain. Scientists tracked more than 2,000 people aged 50 and over and found that those who were the most lonely were almost twice as likely to die during the six year period of the study than the least lonely, The Guardian reports. Those who felt lonely had a 14 per cent greater risk of dying than the average person in the study. These figures mean that obesity has half the impact on early death as loneliness. Poverty increases the risk of an early death by 19 per cent.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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