June 15th GreenMonk Energy & Sustainability show – Face Off!

Last week I wrote a post in response to Dennis Howlett’s ZDNet article questioning the causes of climate change and therefore our reactions to it.

I also mentioned Dennis’ post in last week’s Energy and Sustainability show so Dennis contacted me and asked for an opportunity to come on the show to put forward his point of view. Dennis is an old friend, so of course I said yes.

So yesterday’s Energy and Sustainability show was a Tom vs Dennis face-off on climate change (actually it was a good natured chat with Dennis basically saying he was asking questions because not enough people were being skeptical!).

What do you think?


Do you take your sick child to a gerontologist?

Dennis Howlett is a good friend. He writes about enterprise software over on ZDNet and is a regular viewer and commenter on the GreenMonk Energy and Sustainability show.

You can imagine my dismay then when in his latest post he discusses climate change and asks if we are being hoodwinked! Dennis trots out the old one that

CO2 is an effect, not a cause of global warming and that there is more likelihood that natural activity by the sun is causing climate change.

Sorry Dennis but there is plenty of evidence that that is not the case. To whit:

there is no correlation between solar activity and the strong warming during the past 40 years. Claims that this is the case have not stood up to scrutiny (pdf document).

Direct measurements of solar output since 1978 show a steady rise and fall over the 11-year sunspot cycle, but no upwards or downward trend .

Similarly, there is no trend in direct measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet output and in cosmic rays. So for the period for which we have direct, reliable records, the Earth has warmed dramatically even though there has been no corresponding rise in any kind of solar activity.

Dennis then goes on to use the Great Climate Swindle to back up his case. Oh dear! Seriously. Even the scientists who were quoted in that film have criticised it! Another scientist who considered working with the producer said:

To put this bluntly: the data that you showed in your programme were wrong — and may have been deliberately faked… it does show what abundant experience has already taught me — that, left to their own devices, TV producers simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

Incredibly Dennis then compares the climate crisis to Y2K

In retrospect the principle reason put forward – that there would be a mass failure of equipment essential to our industrial well being coupled with possible loss of life – was little more than a fraud. At 00:01 1st January, 2000 nothing happened.

Was there some hyperbole in talking about the risks associated with Y2K? I have no doubt there was but just because very little went wrong that is a sign that we were well prepared, not that it was a fraud. That is the same logic which says “I got a vaccination for hepatitis and I never got hepatitis, that vaccination was a complete waste of time.”

Dennis even throws out the old chestnut that

recent media reporting has been skewed firmly in favor of the green lobbyists

Even if this were true, and it is not (actually the reverse is true climate skeptics are receiving vastly more media attention than their numbers justify), reporting for decades has referred disparagingly to anyone talking about climate change as ‘looney lefties’, ‘treehuggers’, ‘sandle-wearers’, etc. It is great to see this message being taken a little more seriously by mainstream media at last.

The real crux of Dennis’ argument is one of the credibility of the science though. He says:

The problem for most of us is that the science on which we’re encouraged to think green is, as Jeff points out, something very few of us truly understand. That means we have to take on faith that what we’re being told is correct.

Dennis goes on to refer to my post last week where I say enough of the half-measures, time to get the thumb out…

Tom’s a good friend and another Irregular but his comment is based upon the recent report by MIT on Climate Change which is making polemic predictions about climate change

[my emphasis]

I’m sorry Dennis but you may have missed the bit where I said the MIT study was the:

most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century

This was by the numbers research, peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Climate – nothing polemic about that.

I could go on further dissecting Dennis’ post line by line but you get the gist.

Basically it comes down to a question of credibility. We live in an age of specialisation. If my child is unwell, I bring him to a paediatrician, a doctor who specialises in the care of sick children. I do not bring him to a gerontologist – who, although also a doctor, specialises in the care of the elderly. By the same token, if there is a problem with the climate, I am more likely to believe the opinion of climatologists than I am that of geologists, chemists or even famous botanists, for that matter. And the climatologists are pretty much unanimous in their belief that mankind is the cause of climate change.

I am disappointed that Dennis chose to publish this post before having a chat with me about it. I would certainly have helped him write a better post by pointing out some of the flaws in the article (and hopefully he’d have written a better post as a result).