Discussion Forum
Climate Change - A Matter of Opinion

Posted by Jasper
Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Reading the news article on HebWeb 'Is pester power making Hebden Bridge parents climate-friendly?' isn't it about time the general public received a balanced view, rather that the currently 'accepted' single minded unfounded brainwashing?

Following the link to calderdaleclimatechallenge.org.uk we’re met with unfounded and totally false statements such as 'There is now such strong evidence that all but a few scientists believe it's humans who are making the climate change, rather than nature.' Statements such as these are dangerous.

I urge everyone to research this important area independently. There are many books and many different theories regarding the changes we are currently experiencing. To blindly follow media and political propaganda is negligent; and could actually damage our planet rather than heal it.

You owe it to yourselves, and the future – become informed!!!

From Rev Tony Buglass
Wednesday, 25 April 2007

I take the point that there is a bandwagon rolling, and an orthodoxy which doesn't like heretics saying something different. I also think there is a lot of discussion to be had yet, along with a great deal of evidence that something is happening to our climate. And I'm seriously dischuffed with so-called green taxes, because I can't see how the additional revenue is ging to be used to combat or alleviate the effects of climate change.

However, this is not just about whether another gallon of fuel or firing up the central heating will do anything to the climate. It is also about the over-use of fossil fuels. They will run out. Oil, gas and coal will not last for ever, and the point will come when we have to learn to do without.

So even if it is the climate causing CO2 levels to rise rather than vice versa, there is still a good case for conserving energy and taking green measures.

From Anthony Rae
Wednesday, 25 April 2007

As project coordinator for Calderdale Climate Challenge, I endorse Jasper's comment that people must "become informed".

The best way to do this is by looking at the two recent publications (February and April 2007) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where the UN has brought together around 2500 of the world's most eminent climate change scientists in a unique and rigorous process.

You can download their summaries on the Physical Science Basis of climate change, and Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability from their website.

I should emphasise that it is not part of the Calderdale project to have public arguments about sincerely held views on the science of climate change; after all, individuals are perfectly entitled to their opinion. But in relation to the quotation from our leaflet that Jasper says is ‘unfounded and totally false’, I would refer to this statement from the IPCC Physical Science report:

"Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."

In the language of the IPCC, 'very likely' means more than 90% likely; and ‘anthropogenic’ means ‘caused by man’.

From Fran
Wednesday, 25 April 2007


Very very interested in your comments.

Can you recommend some reading?

From Anne
Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Jasper says "'There is now such strong evidence that all but a few scientists believe it's humans who are making the climate change, rather than nature.' Statements such as these are dangerous." I don't know about dangerous (I happen to think that global warming is far more dangerous!) but this statement is certainly correct. There is very strong evidence indeed and most scientists do believe it. Yes, there are a few scientists who don't believe it - just as there are a few scientists who don't believe in evolution or any other concept that is complex, difficult to prove, has frightening consequences, and is not consistent with strongly-held (Christian) beliefs. And it's important that the majority view is challenged at every turn. But surely, credit must be given to the weight of evidence in matters such as this. The latest IPCC report is out soon which is based on 2500 scientific experts' views, with contributions from 800 authors from 130 countries. According to summaries of the report, climate warming is unequivocal and the role of human activities is clear.

From Jasper
Thursday, 26 April 2007

I'm not promoting one theory and do not wish to get into an argument on specifics. I began reading around the subject about a year ago, when I realised I was only receiving one view; a view, in my opinion that just did not 'add up'.

I have read numerous books and papers, some more credible than others. Anthony and Anne, thanks for the links I'll certainly re-read them. I'd also ask that you remain open minded and perhaps research other arguments.

Fran, I'm not going to endorse any particular theory or text. However, visit amazon.co.uk (other online bookshops are available) and type in climate change; there seems to be quite a balanced selection. Which is exactly my point; why, in the main stream, are we only offered one opinion? 2500 'Scientists' do not represent a majority. There are other valid theories available.

Rev, I take your point about heresy. This is a highly emotive issue with far reaching consequences. Therefore, it is almost impossible to be objective. When I discuss this matter with friends I find they become defensive then a little aggressive as I question their views. They quote 'soundbites' from newspapers, tv and politicians. These soundbites become reinforced every time they are heard and as they go unchallenged, become fact.

Think about this. What if we are looking in the wrong direction? What if there is something else we could and should be doing? What if we are so immersed in reducing emissions that we could be ignoring the real cause? Heading, like lemmings, to self destruction?

From Cllr Joanna Beacroft-Mitchell
Thursday, 26 April 2007

Anne – in no way do I want to divert this discussion off its present course but would ask that you consider not singling out an entire religion as being over simplistic, anti scientific and anti environmental. It is implicit in your reference to creationism that you do not agree with the environmental stance of certain sections of the so called ‘Christian Right’ but when you then bracket in the whole of Christianity you make an unfair and sweeping generalisation which does nothing for your argument and doesn’t suit the inclusive and tolerant image which Hebden is so proud of promoting.

From Fran
Thursday, 26 April 2007

I've read through everything posted following Jasper's initial thought provoking post. The contributors' links provide good solid background evidence. I seem to recall that this issue has been around quite a while and largely ignored by governments. I did wonder whether the issue was another "weapons of mass destruction" soundbite.

I agree with the Reverend's suggestion that green taxes might not be used to combat climate change and that fossil fuel will run out.

Of all the helpful articles I found via the Calderdale Climate challenge website I found the Richard Waller blog for saving energy the most useful because it focuses on what individual households can do. :

Ultimately it's all anyone can do - participate in their own small way and it makes good common sense for all sorts of reasons.

I will look at other reading though as suggested by Jasper and try and keep an open mind.

From Adam B
Thursday, 26 April 2007

I have to agree with Cllr. Beacroft-Mitchell. It is by no means an opinion of Christianity in general and it is not correct to say (or imply) that Christianity and evolution are inconsistant.

From Anne
Thursday, 26 April 2007

Oops! Sorry, Joanna, I really didn’t mean it to come out like that. What I meant to say was ‘challenging to some religious beliefs (including those of some Christians)’ but I should just have omitted the word Christians, instead of singling them out and clumping all Christians together. Very remiss of me and I apologise.

I also want to point out the difference between those publications (usually books and media outlets) that illustrate the author’s opinion – anyone can write a book saying how they feel about something - and those publications that show results of research and are peer reviewed. In the latter case, the research has already been challenged and accepted to some degree before even going to press. There are some peer-reviewed papers that shed doubt on the role of human activities on greenhouse gas emissions and also some that doubt the importance of emissions in climate change, but they are in the minority compared with the vast number which substantiate the statement quoted by Anthony, and this is why I say we should give credence to the weight of evidence. 2500 may not seem like a lot of scientists to you Jasper, but this is just the number of experts in the IPCC review process. The biggest disagreements among scientists are concerned with the extent to which changes have already been made, and how much we need to alter our behaviour to stop it or reverse it. It’s not easy to be clear cut about an issue in which there are so many variables, hence the unscientific-sounding phrase ‘very likely’. To me, it makes sense to err on the safe side, but others may prefer to ‘hope’ we have overestimated the whole thing.

From Jasper
Friday, 27 April 2007

Anne, thanks for proving me correct. I have not questioned your opinion and have only suggested there are other valid theories available for the purpose of balance. As has often happened, you have replied defensively with sweeping unfounded statements.

In the big scheme of things, it was not that long ago that the majority knew the earth was flat. It was also known by the majority that the earth was the centre of the universe and the sun was in its orbit. Fortunately, the minority questioned, and challenged these tenets.

It concerns me greatly that the Climate Change Schools Advisor is visiting local schools, potentially promoting the contents of the Calderdale Climate Web Site as uncontested fact. I only hope the schools, as they practice in other subject areas, are able to provide educational balance by discussing other equally valid theories.

I'm against indoctrination by stealth, and believe it's the individuals responsibility to come to an appropriate conclusion based on balance of facts and opinion. I do not enforce my informed opinion on others, but only humbly request that no-one accepts a single view based on its popularity or constant repetition.

This is partly why I haven't quoted sources, books, academic papers or websites. For every quote and 'fact' that is stated, I can provide two qualified arguments against. I don't doubt that this is also the reverse case.

'Climate Change' is not a new phenomenon, but it is the new emotive, social, political and economic issue of the moment.

So, I'll return to my original question - Why are we not being exposed to a balanced, unbiased, investigative and objective set of diverse opinions?

Posted by Tom Standfield
Friday, 27 April 2007

Jasper, climate change may have become the issue of the moment. Hooray! At last! There are many of us who have been trying to alert the world to the phenomenon of global warming for decades. Finally, some governments and public opinion are waking up the the possibility of a catastrophe which makes almost every other issue insignificant by comparison.

Yes, people used to think that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and was flat. How did our minds change? Because scientists such as Copernicus, Galileo and Newton produced evidence to show that these things could not be true.

In your post yesterday, you say you "don't want to get into specifics". But if this debate is to move forward, you need to do so. How can we agree or disagree with you otherwise?

The vast majority of scientists now agree that human activity is accelerating global warming. But this can't be proved 100%. Science doesn't work like that. But it could be disproved.

So if you have some evidence which the most eminent scientists alive today have missed, pleased let us all know.

In the meantime, it seems to me that we need to act very fast to take measures to counteract global warming.

From Anthony Rae
Saturday, 28 April 2007

Jasper, I'll respond to your two subsequent postings in turn:

No.1: It seems to me that the questions you are asking are not actually about climate change science at all, but rather about the theory and philosophy of how science is practised in general.

- 'There are other valid theories available'. What do you mean by 'valid', in the context of Karl Popper's philosophy of science and his test of falsifiability? The significance of this is: it is for those who disagree with climate change science to provide the evidence that it is not true - not the other way around. There are other theories - there always are, and should be - but when subjected to the rigorous scientific process of peer review, they haven't so far been found to be valid.

- So when you say you are only receiving one view of the subject (presumably established climate change science) which, in your judgment, does not 'add up' [not quite sure what that means?], and that we should balancing this with other theories; you are just mixing up different types of knowledge. Science does not work like a media operation like the BBC, where balance between two sides of an argument is required

- Scientific judgments are not 'opinions'; they are controlled by a formal peer review process. As I said in my first message, we are all entitled to our own opinion about climate change science, but because we hold that opinion doesn't make it true.

- '2500 'Scientists' do not represent a majority': Yes it does, of the world's climate change scientists. The IPCC process has been structured to bring that particular discipline together, including those who might be thought to challenge the 'orthodoxy' of the current science.

- 'What if we are so immersed in reducing emissions that we could be ignoring the real cause?' Taking the same line of argument, you could equally say that we shouldn't immerse ourselves in researching other 'theories' to the extent of not taking action to reduce emissions.

No.2: You say you are concerned that our Schools Advisor is going around promoting climate change science as 'uncontested fact', engaging in 'indoctrination' and asking that all this be accepted simply based on its 'popularity or constant repetition'. Actually what she is doing, at the invitation of each school, is providing education about climate change in exactly the same way that the schools provide education on every other subject. Presumably your approach to learning would require 'educational balance by discussing other equally valid theories' for all those subjects as well e.g Darwinism 'balanced' by Intelligent Design?.

- If I may echo Tom Standfield, and recalling what I wrote about Karl Popper above ('it is for those who disagree with climate change science to provide the evidence that it is not true'), when you say: 'For every quote and 'fact' that is stated, I can provide two qualified arguments against' then please do so, but bear in mind that the evidence you provide will have to be peer-reviewed science etc.

Either you trust established scientific method, which in turn has produced the rigorous climate change science of the IPCC, or you find yourself adrift on a sea of relativism. Ordinarily, that might just prove bewildering; what the climate change science is pointing out to us however is that a tidal wave is approaching.

From Anne
Saturday, 28 April 2007

“Anne … As has often happened, you have replied defensively with sweeping unfounded statements.”

On the contrary, I have agreed with you that there are other theories, even among published scientists – my main point being that those other theories are in the minority and that the stringent process of peer review is the accepted way of getting a true perspective of a large body of research.

I am not an environmental expert, but I am an information scientist and I understand how the communication of scientific research works. If, by unfounded statements you mean the reference to religious beliefs, I admit that I should not have singled out any religion, but I still feel that in some cases it is religious beliefs that are preventing some people from accepting certain scientific findings (that is just my opinion, and not a statement I need to prove).

From Jasper
Saturday, 28 April 2007

Tom, I am challenging the fact that despite many valid theories available, we are only generally faced with one opinion. Specifics of alternative theories are not necessary to support this argument.

Anthony, thanks for your very interesting post. I agree with your statement 'you are just mixing up different types of knowledge.' Guilty as charged. I have read contradictory theories and have noted the merits of each. 'Adrift on a sea of relativism'? Definitely!

Anne, I don't doubt your opinion in reference to (non-specific) religious beliefs. I can also see there are other parallels with religion in terms of 'belief systems'. No offence intended.

Which brings me to my next question. As humans are involved, then psychology plays a major part. I'd be particularly interested if anyone can supply details of a 'survey' on the populations opinions of Climate Change. Also, has there been any 'Game Theory' or other modelling of human behaviour relating to this issue?

From Anthony Rae
Sunday, 29 April 2007

Jasper, you ask: 'I'd be particularly interested if anyone can supply details of a 'survey' on the population's opinions of Climate Change.'

DEFRA, who are funding Calderdale Climate Challenge (one of around 80 local such projects) have so far undertaken 4 waves of a national survey on attitudes to climate change, together also with some regional analysis. You can find these here.

The Calderdale project also did its own awareness survey (though with a relatively small sample, because we could not afford any more!) and if anyone would like a copy of this - about 100 pages of data tables - you are most welcome (just send an e-mail to info@calderdaleclimatechallenge.org.uk). We used it to help us prepare the contents of the leaflet which started this discussion.