Comedian Michael Loftus, host of the new TV show "The Flipside" goes on an extended rant about how people who supposedly believe in the upcoming end of the world brought on by global warming primarily seem interested in just making money for themselves.
By DAVID ROSE FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
The speech by former US Vice-President Al Gore was apocalyptic. ‘The North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff,’ he said. ‘It could be completely gone in summer in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.’
Those comments came in 2007 as Mr Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning on climate change.
But seven years after his warning, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that, far from vanishing, the Arctic ice cap has expanded for the second year in succession – with a surge, depending on how you measure it, of between 43 and 63 per cent since 2012.
To put it another way, an area the size of Alaska, America’s biggest state, was open water two years ago, but is again now covered by ice.
The most widely used measurements of Arctic ice extent are the daily satellite readings issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is co-funded by Nasa. These reveal that – while the long-term trend still shows a decline – last Monday, August 25, the area of the Arctic Ocean with at least 15 per cent ice cover was 5.62 million square kilometres.
This was the highest level recorded on that date since 2006 (see graph, right), and represents an increase of 1.71 million square kilometres over the past two years – an impressive 43 per cent.
Other figures from the Danish Meteorological Institute suggest that the growth has been even more dramatic. Using a different measure, the area with at least 30 per cent ice cover, these reveal a 63 per cent rise – from 2.7 million to 4.4 million square kilometres.
The satellite images published here are taken from a further authoritative source, the University of Illinois’s Cryosphere project.
They show that as well as becoming more extensive, the ice has grown more concentrated, with the purple areas – denoting regions where the ice pack is most dense – increasing markedly.
Crucially, the ice is also thicker, and therefore more resilient to future melting. Professor Andrew Shepherd, of Leeds University and University Coillege, London, an expert in climate satellite monitoring, said yesterday: ‘It is clear from the measurements we have collected that the Arctic sea ice has experienced a significant recovery in thickness over the past year.
‘It seems that an unusually cool summer in 2013 allowed more ice to survive through to last winter. This means that the Arctic sea ice pack is thicker and stronger than usual, and this should be taken into account when making predictions of its future extent.’
The speech by former US Vice-President Al Gore (above) was apocalyptic. He said that the North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff and could be gone in seven years
Yet for years, many have been claiming that the Arctic is in an ‘irrevocable death spiral’, with imminent ice-free summers bound to trigger further disasters. These include gigantic releases of methane into the atmosphere from frozen Arctic deposits, and accelerated global warming caused by the fact that heat from the sun will no longer be reflected back by the ice into space.
Judith Curry, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said last night: ‘The Arctic sea ice spiral of death seems to have reversed.’
Those who just a few years ago were warning of ice-free summers by 2014 included US Secretary of State John Kerry, who made the same bogus prediction in 2009, while Mr Gore has repeated it numerous times – notably in a speech to world leaders at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, in an effort to persuade them to agree a new emissions treaty.
The ice cap is falling off a cliff. It could be completely gone in summer in as little as 7 years from now
Mr Gore – whose office yesterday failed to respond to a request for comment – insisted then: ‘There is a 75 per cent chance that the entire polar ice cap during some of the summer months could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.’
Misleading as such forecasts are, some people continue to make them. Only last month, while giving evidence to a House of Lords Select Committee inquiry on the Arctic, Cambridge University’s Professor Peter Wadhams claimed that although the Arctic is not ice-free this year, it will be by September 2015.
Asked about this yesterday, he said: ‘I still think that it is very likely that by mid-September 2015, the ice area will be less than one million square kilometres – the official designation of ice-free, implying only a fringe of floes around the coastlines. That is where the trend is taking us.’
For that prediction to come true it would require by far the fastest loss of ice in history. It would also fly in the face of a report last year by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stated with ‘medium confidence’ that ice levels would ‘likely’ fall below one million square kilometres by 2050.
Politicians such as Al Gore have often insisted that climate science is ‘settled’ and have accused those who question their forecasts of being climate change ‘deniers’.
However, while few scientists doubt that carbon-dioxide emissions cause global warming, and that this has caused Arctic ice to decline, there remains much uncertainty about the speed of melting and how much of it is due to human activity. But outside the scientific community, the more pessimistic views have attracted most attention. For example, Prof Wadhams’s forecasts have been cited widely by newspapers and the BBC. But many reject them.
Yesterday Dr Ed Hawkins, who leads an Arctic ice research team at Reading University, said: ‘Peter Wadhams’s views are quite extreme compared to the views of many other climate scientists, and also compared to what the IPCC report says.’
Dr Hawkins warned against reading too much into ice increase over the past two years on the grounds that 2012 was an ‘extreme low’, triggered by freak weather.
‘I’m uncomfortable with the idea of people saying the ice has bounced back,’ he said.
However, Dr Hawkins added that the decline seen in recent years was not caused only by global warming. It was, he said, intensified by ‘natural variability’ – shifts in factors such as the temperature of the oceans. This, he said, has happened before, such as in the 1920s and 1930s, when ‘there was likely some sea ice retreat’.
Dr Hawkins said: ‘There is undoubtedly some natural variability on top of the long-term downwards trend caused by the overall warming. This variability has probably contributed somewhat to the post-2000 steep declining trend, although the human-caused component still dominates.’
Like many scientists, Dr Hawkins said these natural processes may be cyclical. If and when they go into reverse, they will cool, not warm, the Arctic, in which case, he said, ‘a decade with no declining trend’ in ice cover would be ‘entirely plausible’.
Peer-reviewed research suggests that at least until 2005, natural variability was responsible for half the ice decline. But exactly how big its influence is remains an open question – and as both Dr Hawkins and Prof Curry agreed, establishing this is critical to making predictions about the Arctic’s future.
Prof Curry said: ‘I suspect that the portion of the decline in the sea ice attributable to natural variability could be even larger than half.
‘I think the natural variability component of Arctic sea ice extent is in the process of bottoming out, with a reversal to start within the next decade. And when it does, the reversal period could last for several decades.’
This led her to believe that the IPCC forecast, like Al Gore’s, was too pessimistic.
‘Ice-free in 2050 is a possible scenario, but I don’t think it is a likely scenario,’ she concluded.
GOOD NEWS FOR POLAR BEARS...
The apparent recovery in Arctic ice looks like good news for polar bears.
If there is more ice at the end of the summer, they can hunt seals more easily. Yet even when the ice reached a low point in 2012, there was no scientific evidence that bear numbers were declining, with their estimated total of 20,000 to 25,000 thought to be higher than in the 1970s, when hunting was first banned.
In many Arctic regions, say scientists, they are in robust health and breeding successfully.
Computer model predictions of decline caused by ice melt have also failed to come true. In 2004, researchers claimed Hudson Bay bear numbers would fall from 900 to fewer than 700 by 2011. In fact, they have risen to over 1,000.
However, the main international bear science body, the Polar Bear Specialist Group, admits it has no reliable data from almost half of the Arctic, so cannot say whether numbers are falling or rising.
The recent Neil deGrasse Tyson kerfuffle and the dogmatic defense of the global warming consensus raises the question: what’s the impetus? Why do people feel the need to proclaim themselves so loudly as the pro-science side of the debate and to write off all opponents as anti-science? What makes scientists so susceptible to a cultural vogue like global warming and so willing to be dismissive of evidence that contradicts their theory?
The least satisfying explanation is that it’s easy to make a name for yourself and get funding and research grants if you back the global warming consensus. That’s true, but it doesn’t seem quite sufficient. There are lots of way to get rich and famous and get invited to the right cocktail parties. Why choose this one? Nor is it enough to say that people are looking for an excuse to feel smugly superior, because there are also lots of ways to do that. I’ve even had Evangelical Christians do it to me, and truth be told, I’ve probably been a little smug once or twice myself.
All of these are just extra inducements added on to a deeper motive.
Given the size, breadth, and intensity of the global warming vogue and the pro-science pose of its supporters, it must answer some profound need, some crisis of the soul.
It is needed because the left is fundamentally reactionary.
The modern left formed as a reaction against capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. I think this reaction was driven by a deeply ingrained attitude toward morality. Practically every moral philosophy has warned against the evils of greed and self-interest—and here was an economic system that encourages and rewards those motives. You could look at this and decide that it’s necessary to re-evaluate the moral issues and come to terms with self-interest in some way. Most factions of the modern right have done so, whether they accept self-interest as a necessary evil or to make a virtue of selfishness.
But if you’re not willing to make such an accommodation, you’re going to look around, see all this heedless profit-seeking, and conclude that it must be evil in some way and it must be leading to evil consequences. So you will lend an eager ear to anyone who claims to validate your moral suspicions about capitalism.
In the first go-around, these anti-capitalists tried to capture the science of economics, forming theories about how capitalism is a system of exploitation that will impoverish the common man, while scientific central planning would provide abundance for all.
Let’s just say that this didn’t work out. When it turned out that central planning impoverishes the common man and capitalism provides abundance for all, they had to switch to a fallback position. Which is: to heck with prosperity—too many material goods are the problem. Our greed for more is destroying the planet by causing environmental catastrophes. This shift became official some time in the 1960s with the rise of the New Left.
Some of the catastrophes didn’t pan out (overpopulation, global cooling) and others proved too small to be anything more than a speed bump in the path of capitalism (banning CFCs and DDT). But then along comes global warming—and it’s just too goodnot to be true. It tells us that capitalism is not just exploiting the workers or causing inequality or deadening our souls with crass materialism. It’s destroying the very planet itself.
The global warming theory tells us that the free market is a doomsday machine bringing about the end of the world. It turns capitalism into a metaphysical evil.
And there is no halfway solution to the problem, no practical fix or technological patch. Carbon dioxide emissions are an unavoidable byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels, and the entire system of industrial capitalism runs on fossil fuels. So the only way to avoid catastrophe is to shut it all down.
You can see how this brings order and balance back to the left’s universe. Their visceral reaction against capitalism is validated on the deepest, most profound level.
You can see how this would be almost like a drug or like an article of religious faith. How can you allow people to question and undermine the very thing that gives meaning to your life? Hence the visceral reaction to global warming skeptics.
Then there is a second dilemma faced by the left. Their own history—and indeed their present—hasn’t always been so liberal and enlightened and progressive. The hard-core advocates of central planning had embraced or excused Soviet totalitarianism, with its party lines and Lysenkoism, and the central planners and “pro-science” types of a previous era had embraced eugenics. Today, there are still those who want to shut down opposing opinions, and every couple of years somebody floats a proposal to imprison global warming skeptics. Or maybe they just try to sue them and shut them down in the courts.
What to do? Construct an alternative narrative in which the political right is the modern-day successor to the Inquisition and the political left is the inheritor of a tradition of bold free-thinking that goes all the way back to Giordano Bruno. Even if you have to fudge a few facts to make it work.
Now put these two together: the left’s imperative to think of itself as a tradition of free-thinkers opposed to religious dogma, and their need for a scientific theory that validates their prejudice against capitalism—and you get the impetus for the whole mentality of what the blogger Ace of Spades calls the “I Love Science Sexually” crowd (a play on the name of a popular Facebook page). And you can also understand their adulation of popularizers like Neil deGrasse Tyson who repeat this conventional wisdom back to them and give it the official imprimatur of science. Once the narrative is established, it becomes a bandwagon and others jump onto it because being “pro-science” sounds like (and is) a good thing, and because they don’t know enough to question the story they’re being told.
You can also see why they would be more concerned with having the image of being “pro-science” than they are with actually being scientific. The first allows you to hold fast to the specific conclusions that are comforting to you; the second means that you have to be willing to challenge them.
In short, this is an attempt to capture science as a metaphysical validation for the worldview of the left—even if they have to kill it to capture it.
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