Aust Skeptics Inc statement on climate change

In 2010, Australian Skeptics Inc. released a statement about the troubling use of the term “Skeptics” or “Sceptics” in the context of climate science.

We now expand our position on so-called “climate change scepticism”.

After more than 60 years of research, the agreement among scientists is that the climate is changing and that this change is mostly human-induced. The agreement is as strong as that concerning evolution and the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Among experts, disagreement about the core elements is almost non-existent*.

Scientists have been cautious in their assessment of the evidence. Over time, most observations have turned out to be in the worst-case range of predictions**. A far cry from the alarmism climate scientists are often accused of.

It is not just scientists that treat climate change as a real and serious threat. Organisations around the world, from militaries to food manufacturers and insurance companies, are factoring the scientific predictions into their planning.

From a practical perspective, we can – indeed we must – take climate change and its human causes as fact.

ASI views climate change scepticism as a form of denialism. Like creationism and anti-vaccination rhetoric, it ignores the experts in the relevant fields, and engages in conspiratorial thinking.

ASI recognises anthropogenic climate change as a pressing global concern. We urge individuals, organisations and governments to prioritise limiting greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate their negative effects.

* Cook, J., Oreskes, N., Doran, P. T., Anderegg, W. R., Verheggen, B., Maibach, E. W., Carlton, J. S., Lewandowsky, S., Skuce, A. G., Green, S. A., & Nuccitelli, D. (2016). Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. Environmental Research Letters, 11(4), 048002.
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20 thoughts on “Aust Skeptics Inc statement on climate change”

    1. Question to ASI. Can you create a new $100,000 challenge to climate change deniers ? The challenge is simple enough.
      Facts agreed by all scientists:
      1. Carbon dioxide traps infrared radiation in the atmosphere; if it did not, our planet would be freezing cold like Mars.
      2. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing steadily since industrialisation began (by direct measurement).

      If anyone can offer a plausible theory, supported by measurable data, that can explain how temperatures will not rapidly increase as humanity adds 3 billion years of sequestered carbon into the atmosphere then they win the $100,000.
      I’m confident you will not be paying out. More importantly, just as the psychic challenge silences those who say “I’m sure there are some people with these powers, somewhere”, this would silence people who say “Oh no, there are credible alternative theories that debunk mainstream climate science”. We can simply point them at your website and say “money talks, bullsh$t walks”.

      1. Mark: Perhaps you’d care to offer the $100,000 prize?
        And who would do the judging?

        But be aware that
        A basic question to ask anyone commenting on Climate Change because of increasing carbon dioxide levels is,
        “Although a vast majority of folk believe that increasing carbon dioxide levels are causing the observed increase in global temperatures over the past decades, do they know this to be true? “

        A dead giveaway is the answer often given is that we must err on the safe side!

        The reason that this proposition cannot be supported is that it can be shown easily to be untrue – via simple and unequivocal Thermodynamics; it’s so much simpler than arguments framed around IR. See my site’s Chapter1B and even more simply in the one-page 1C.

        [ASI member Glenn Tamblyn is familiar with parts of my site and has contributed to its Comments extensively, between 03Mar18 and 23Apr18 – before I added Chapter 1B & C. He has difficulty in staying on topic, but reckoned he showed my reasoning wrong. But then, my later Thermodynamics showed my IR reasoning arrived at the same answer! Hence I’d like to know who you’d put forward to judge.]

  1. Unfortunately the denial mentality is not just limited to those denying climate change per se, it has infected those who just cannot grasp that their proposed solutions often do not work

    This form of denial of reality is even more dangerous. One can work round the Climate Change Denial problem only if the proposed solutions are practical. Renewables, where there is no possibility of abundant hydro to support them, simply cannot do the job. Where they fail it is the fossil fuel generators that come back on line. We are getting nowhere.

    Denying a problem is bad enough. Blocking the solution is potentially fatal. Intermittent power sources are dysfunctional without 100% hydro or fuel based backup. The Renewables lobby misinforms in order to create a large number of fanatical adherents who have been conditioned to accept the misinformation fed to them, and operate on the basis of desire and emotion

    In a practical sense the cause of Climate Change is the failure to recognise and act on the need to move from combustion fuel sources to nuclear power. Climate Change need never have happened had the encouragement and will been there to set up a nuclear power cycle that was safe, properly monitored, and kept in a permanent condition of safe modernisation, moving constantly with the technology itself

    We can put all this right – but we need to do so quickly and thoroughly, and in a well organised international catch-up manner

    As I write this students worldwide are demonstrating to demand paying attention to Climate Change. Two hearty cheers for they are still being fed absolute nonsense in relation to the possibilities of wind and solar power.

    1. Well, hydro and fossil fuels aren’t the only backup for renewables (and nuclear power has problems you’re glossing over).

      Even if renewables can’t supply 100% of electricity (which I don’t concede), having at least some of the electricity coming from renewables instead of fossil fuels is a positive. Emissions will be increasing at a slower rate.

  2. I nominated some climate deniers for the bent spoon award (or was it a wooden spoon) a few years ago. Got no traction then perhaps niw is a good time.

  3. One has but to use the argument which goes something like this.
    It is a much safer option to err on the side of caution where it costs us rather than to ignore it and if we’re wrong on that one the game is up for us all.

  4. Denialism and skepticism are not the same.
    “After more than 60 years of research, the agreement among scientists is that the climate is changing and that this change is mostly human-induced” is in the above policy statement.
    Democracy has no place in science. The number of occasions when the “agreement among scientists” has been wrong is legion, especially in Medicine. Our own Nobelists, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, are a good 21st Century example.
    In our western air-conditioned lifestyle, I am, as a medical practitoner (retired) far more concerned about the possibility of a global pandemic spread through the air than I am about the remote possibility of global warming being a threat to mankind.
    Furthermore, I find it curious that there seems to be a general consensus that evolution is a phenomenon of the past. Seldom does anyone mention that, in the event of global warming or a pandemic, some people will survive. “Survival of the fittest” will still apply. Or do we neglect Darwinism for the future but embrace it for the past?
    In addition, I am perturbed by the way in which global warming skeptics, like Judith Curry and Ian Plimer, are pilloried, mocked, and treated as pariahs. That is not the way of science.
    Which government(s) are going to penalise their current voting citizens by taking actions which might – or might not – affect future generations – and remain in office.
    Finally, as the earth is warmed by our sun, I have to doubt our collective knowledge about the behaviour of the sun and the effects of its behaviour on the earth.
    The earth might be warming. Whether or not such warming is “mostly human induced” is something about which I remain skeptical. I have no evidence with which to DENY warming. But, like the late Barry Williams, I remain a ‘true skeptic’.

  5. When I joined Australian Skeptics, some 38 years ago, it was a true skeptical organisation. (Seek the evidence).
    It now seems to be hijacked by political activists. To claim there is as much evidence for carbon dioxide causing anthropogenic global warming (climate change) as evolution or vaccination is truly laughable. There is no empirical evidence, only dodgy computer models which have no predictive value. I have seen various attempted scares in the last 50 years; new ice age coming, end of snow, ice free arctic, our dams will never fill, 10 years to save the world, all miserable failures. If a theory in any other scientific discipline had as many failures as this one, it would have been declared wrong years ago. (See Richards Feynman’s definition of scientific method)
    How do you falsify this theory? Drought is climate change. Floods are climate change. No snow, more snow,
    hot weather,cold weather. None of this is unprecedented. It’s all happened before.
    There are way too many well qualified scientists (some Nobel prize winners) who are skeptical of this theory. Some have contributed articles to “The Skeptic). If ever a theory was crying out for skepicism, this is it, yet you are trying to silence its critics. The “Climategate” emails showed us how unethical scientists abused the scientific method to keep their gravy train going.
    Carbon dioxide is 0.04% of the atmosphere. Man’s contribution is 3% of that. ie 0.0012%. We can only cut a small fraction of that or we would send the world into the dark ages. To think that by eliminating that small fraction, we can save ourselves from catastrophic global warming (climate change) is ludicrous.
    If Australian Skeptics has really morphed into a political organisation and renounced real skepticism, I will not be renewing my subscription when my current one expires.

    From H. L. Mencken whose quips are often quoted in “The Skeptic”

    The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary

  6. As a subscriber to your magazine for some years I have enjoyed and agreed with its editorial direction on most subjects. Your exposure of the danger to society of the anti – vaccination activists, the expensive uselessness of most ’complementary’ medicines, homeopathy, chiropractors, ufos, etc. is admirable particularly from my perspective of a medical practitioner.
    However, I now spend my time funding and protecting a small, expert group of experienced research scientists in the field of environmental, particularly climate, science. I have encouraged them to take a sceptical view of ‘settled’ science which they have done to their detriment, having had a painful disagreement with one university and been kicked out of another, when their published work threatened the large number of research grants from government departments going to other members of the faculty who had published only what the bureaucracy and its political masters deemed worthy.

    We have had a number of small triumphs including outing of the Federal Department of Climate Change from information received under the Freedom of Information Act [despite kicking and screaming] which showed that the Department was giving huge sums of money to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO equivalent to three times the salary of an ordinary research scientists. When this was about to become public, the Department was closed down the next day.
    More recently our team was approached by a Queensland university to join a team pitching for a contract funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to train members of the Indonesian Bureau of Meteorology in rainfall prediction using artificial neural networks. The reason they were asked was that the Indonesians had done their homework and the only group that had done advanced research on ANNs in rainfall projection in Australia was our team; not the BOM, CSIRO or any of the universities. The resultant seminars were very successful and much appreciated by the Indonesians but, as usually happens in this field, the university has pulled out of the project, probably due to pressure from the BOM and the university establishment.

    Now to the reason I am contacting you. I was appalled by the article ‘School for Thought’ in the latest edition of The Skeptic. Your correspondent Richard Saunders has clearly abandoned the essence of scepticism and has swallowed the whole postmodern narrative of anthropogenic climate change. True science consists of observation and measurement, ideas that are anathema to post modernists as are the ideas of the European Enlightenment which stress reason and logic. Postmodernists hold in common many of the aspects of Leninism e.g. ‘ Truth is that which advances the revolution’.
    When Brad Hodge talks about teaching the ‘settled science of climate change’ he is teaching nothing of the sort. He is relying on the IPCC’s computer projections on the future climate which have assumed that the anthropogenic release of carbon dioxide is the prime cause of atmospheric warming ignoring natural factors which have been present since the origin of the planet. In the past two decades none of the IPCC’s projections have been shown to be valid. The Earth has not warmed nearly as much as was indicated by the models.
    There are other problems with the official narrative. One of our team has been taking a close look at the BOM’s official figures and has shown many examples of manipulation of the figures using a process known as homogenisation. Homogenisation is a perfectly legitimate process as long as strict rules are followed,
    for instance if a particular measuring station has been moved, if there has been a change in instrumentation, if a motorway has been built next to the station this must be accounted for, etc. All this can mean comparing the new measurements with surrounding stations , running new instrumentation in combination with the old one and so on. The BOM has frequently failed to carry out these necessary checks and balances. In one case our researcher has shown the raw data [the measurements] showing a cooling of 0.3 degrees C. transformed in to warming of 1.6 degrees C. over the past century. She has also shown the BOM fiddling with the official ACORN-SAT temperature series to show warming where none exists.

    This all brings me to the matter of the ‘Australian Skeptics Statement 0n Climate Change’. This is a disgraceful document signed by a series of climate activists who if they know anything about climate science are not telling. One of the signatories is the co-author of an infamous paper which stated that 97% of scientists support the narrative of anthropogenic global warming. This is a blatant lie in a paper which should never have been accepted for publication and the methodology lacking any credibility.
    Another signatory, a so called science historian seems to know nothing of the Earth’s history beyond the last 150 years, even if she knows that. The history of the Holocene is a blank page and everything else is swallowed in a postmodern mist. And don’t let me get started on Lewandowsky.

    In conclusion, I think this document should be withdrawn as it is I disgrace to the skeptic cause.

    1. Mr Macfie says that the statement is “signed by a series of climate activists who if they know anything about climate science are not telling. … One of the signatories is the co-author of an infamous paper which stated that 97% of scientists support the narrative of anthropogenic global warming. Another signatory, a so called science historian seems to know nothing of the Earth’s history beyond the last 150 years, even if she knows that. And don’t let me get started on Lewandowsky.”
      It should be pointed out that none of those ‘signatories’, whether named or not named, worked on the statement in any way.

  7. Genuine question re the figures re climate change and CO2. Global concentration of CO2 is agreed at around 400ppm which equates to 1:2500. Half of this is naturally produced by volcanos, fires etc. The other half is apparently down to human activity. Most of this is absorbed naturally. Australia’s share of this is around 1.3% of the global total. The largest emitters (2015 figures) are China (28%) and the US (15%). My first question is, are we facing an existential crisis due to CO2 emissions? My second question is, if so, why are so many activists advocating action by Australia whilst ignoring the largest emitters, China and the US? My third question is: how is something as dilute as the global CO2 concentration actually causing all of this damage, as the hysteria does not appear to be matched by the arithmetic? CO2 levels may have risen since the Industrial Revolution, but correlation does not mean causation. Finally, is it possible that this entire debate is more about politics than fact? My fear re this is that if accepted as fact, any catastrophic or existential phenomenon can be used to justify pretty much anything: higher taxes, draconian policy, crony capitalism etc as part of the saviour mentality. As we face an election in which climate seems to be a critical issue, surely we deserve more clarity on this.

    1. Interesting info here on CO2. And re Australian action cf US and China – I don’t think anyone is ignoring the larger emitters, though our output of CO2 is high relative to our size. Everyone needs to do their bit. Think world humanitarian aid – Australia’s contribution is reasonably high in $$ terms (though not as high as some smaller countries like Norway and Sweden) but relatively low as a proportion of gross national income (GNI). We contribute our bit, and every bit helps.

  8. Thanks Tim, but your response doesn’t address the questions asked: Is there an existential crisis or not? If so how can anything Australia does (1.3%) make any impact at all when compared to larger emitters (China 28% and US 15%)? If not then we can stop the hysteria. The per capita argument is a furphy used by climate evangelists to make Australian figures look bad so they can argue from a false moral high ground. My understanding is that this per capita figure also includes all of our mineral exports including coal and iron ore. I also understand that this is counted twice when it is converted to finished goods in industrialised countries. As asked: How can something as dilute as CO2 with a GLOBAL concentration at 1:2500 be creating so much chaos? This is a fundamental question which needs to be answered before anything else such as mitigation can be addressed. This is increasingly important as only half of this is apparently created by human activity so the real figure is 1:5000, and even half of that is absorbed naturally. Every bit might help if paid voluntarily by those who truly believe, but it seems we will have no choice if we are taxed involuntarily by a government which bases its policy on something as doubtful as CO2 emissions. Could it be that this is really about a grab for increased political power via taxation and other ‘social’ policies to interfere more into our lives? Norway and Sweden? Really? Norway is one of the world’s largest oil producers and has a massive sovereign wealth fund. Not too sure about Sweden, but it is home to some very large automotive companies and complicated furniture manufacturers. Please, just an answer to the question re how the dilute CO2 concentration is causing all the havoc will suffice for now.

    1. Martin Hess.

      Just on one point you raise, since it is rather central. “How can something as dilute as CO2 with a GLOBAL concentration at 1:2500 be creating so much chaos”.

      Why is it’s concentration the relevant issue? Surely it is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere that matters, not it’s percentage. Because the essential point is that the greenhouse gases such as CO2 behave quite differently from the non-GH gases such as nitrogen.

      The central point is that the GH gases are the dominant, defining feature wrt transmission of infrared radiation through the atmosphere. Around 90% of the IR radiation that is radiated up from the Earth’s surface does not escape directly to space. It is absorbed by the atmosphere, by the GH gases, even though they are only a small proportion, they are the active proportion.

      Consider something else. A cubic meter of air at sea level contains around 8,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 CO2 molecules. The cubic meter above that the same, and so on up through 1000’s of meters of the atmosphere. Is this enough to have an impact on the transmission of infrared? Yes. But importantly, trying to infer an answer to this question just by considering ratios and percentages, can be misleading.

      To use an analogy. If I fill a swimming pool with 1 million litres of water, put on some goggles, and duck my head underwater at one end, I can see all the way to the other end of the pool. It is crystal clear. If I remove 400 litres of water and replace it with 400 litres of ink and repeat, what then? I can’t see very much. The water and the ink have VERY different optical properties. So too the main gases in the atmosphere, and the small amounts of GH gases have vastly different optical properties in the infrared bands.

    2. Also Martin, something to consider regarding how serious/catastrophic/existential CO2 changes may be.

      When we look at the changes in temperatures and CO2 concentrations as obtained from ice-cores, we see several salient points. CO2 changes are only one part of what goes on. Methane levels also change, dust ext. And obviously there are large changes in ice and snow cover and thus the reflectivity of the planet. All contribute to the climate changes we see over the ice core record. But an important issue here is speed.

      The periods of most rapid change are during the great deglaciations. Vast ice sheets melt, sea level rises by 120 meters or more and global temperatures rise by something like 6 degrees C average. This puts into perspective how significant a change of ‘just a few degree’ can be. During the most recent deglaciation, from around 20,000 years ago over the next 7-10,000 years, changes of this scale occurred and CO2 levels rose by around 100 ppm. That is around 1 ppm/century.

      Today CO2 levels are rising at 1 ppm every 22 weeks!

      If CO2 is an important factor in the climate – it is – then changing it so FAST may not be a good idea. In fact, when we look back through the geological record this pace of change appears to be unprecedented in the last 250 million years. Human activity hasn’t yet been changing CO2 levels for 1000’s of years as happened in the deep past. But the speed with which we are doing it is utterly extraordinary.

      Also the math you are using regarding man-made vs natural CO2 flows is misleading. Because it is ignoring sinks. Yes there are major sources of CO2 emissions in the natural world. But there are also large features of the natural world that absorb CO2. It is the balance, the net that matters. And we can see from simple data that the natural world is a net absorber of CO2.

      We know from basic economic data roughly how much CO2 we ADD to the atmosphere every year – all that coal, oil, gas etc. Yet when we look at how much extra CO2 is IN the atmosphere after each year, it is only around half that much. The natural world must be a net absorber, taking up a fair part of what we emit. And substantially the natural world is a net absorber BECAUSE we are emitting so much. As CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere rise, the equilibrium between atmospheric CO2 and carbon in the oceans is disturbed, and the oceans end up absorbing CO2 to try and rebalance things. Our additions of CO2 are driving the natural balances out of balance, and the natural world responds by taking up some of what we emit.

      The only other significant source of CO2 that doesn’t come from these natural sources and sinks is emissions from volcanoes. And volcanic emissions are something like 1% of human emissions – volcanoes don’t spew out a lot of CO2 compared to us. If they did, we would see it reflected in the records of CO2 concentrations; we would see significant changes after major eruptions, and we don’t.

  9. I was considering joining this organisation until I saw this statement. For around 30 years now, belief in man-made global warming has been a totally infallible guide for me to the sub-standard quality of a person’s thinking. I think the late author Michael Crichton was one of the first to popularise the notion that science has NOTHING to do with consensus. The earth’s climate is a a question of science, not politics. Sorry guys – you’re not skeptical enough for me. If you believe in this stuff, I can only wonder what else you’ve got wrong.

    1. The term “skepticism” is often used against Skeptics organisations, suggesting that those who accept climate change are not being skeptical. But it is important to note that skepticism is not the opposite of agreement. Skepticism (as in scientific skepticism) is a process of assessing and reassessing evidence. Eventually, the weight of evidence may lead one to accept a proposal (as far as that can be done in science) for at least the time being, as it has with evolution and vaccination, despite there being naysayers even among the scientifically-trained. Skepticism does not mean to always doubt, which is classical Pyrrhonist skepticism – the distinction is important. – Tim Mendham, executive officer, Australian Skeptics Inc

  10. I am skeptic of both deniers and fanatics… But i am 100% in support for protecting our planet from pollution and destruction e.g. plastics, fossil fuels, mining, carbon dioxide, nuclear bombs, deforestation, etc.

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