Solid evidence the heart of science, blind faith its foe

Will you believe what you have not seen?

We might call it the Barcelona Effect (see below), though the Bible puts it differently. The essence of religious belief was given elegant form for all religions over 1900 years ago in the book of Hebrews (11, 1):

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (King James Bible, Hebrews 11:1).

This compassionate assurance has lent solace to countless generations in pain, soothed quaking hearts and granted peace to restless minds, yet such an evidence-free belief is repugnant to science, to which we readily turn for answers in all other matters. The scientist, whether religious or atheistic, possesses an indelible faith in tangible evidence, mathematics and logic. A deficit in any of those absolutely prohibits acceptance of a thesis.

This means that, should there be no evidence behind the IPCC climate narrative, it would be a monstrous betrayal of all that science has produced and stands for. In some ways it would resemble a football game played without spectators — a highly unlikely anticlimax and completely unsatisfying. As only evidence gives life to science, so only an audience gives passion and meaning to football. Yet here is the inimitable Barcelona in their home stadium on Monday, 2 October, 2017, against Las Palmas:

Barcelona plays Las Palmas with no spectators beyond officials and staff – click to enlarge.

In 2017 there were violent protests in the streets of the Catalonia region as they attempted to hold a referendum on splitting from Spain to become an independent nation. At the same time, Barcelona played a match against Las Palmas in an empty stadium to avoid a points penalty while expressing support for the protesters.

An empty stadium is not the equivalent of missing evidence—the television broadcast proves the game took place—but it’s a poor substitute for the fans’ love of game and players, while absent spectators wreck the atmosphere by diminishing the sights and sounds of the spectacle. Now, of course, all sports face the same calamity as the world tries to emerge from the COVID-19 panic.

No evidence means an act of faith

This logic is reversible: when unseen things are presented as evidence, it’s nothing but an act of faith, and so with the IPCC climate story. If there turns out to be no evidence behind it, then dangerous anthropogenic global warming (DAGW) has no more guarantee than a religious belief. However, religious belief is superior to a belief in DAGW, since the undeniable existence of the universe raises the question of how it came to be and believing that a god did it is a reasonable response. But DAGW raises no question, because so far it’s a remote and undetectable threat.

The IPCC is a political, not a scientific body, but it’s supposed to summarise the science behind a human influence on climate — see IPCC Procedures that set out the required criteria, and Appendix A: Procedures for the preparation, review, acceptance, adoption, approval and publication of IPCC Reports goes into detail. Section 4.2 of that appendix, General Procedures for Preparing IPCC Reports, makes interesting requirements of IPCC writing teams (emphasis added).

In Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, and Special Reports, Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs), Lead Authors (LAs), and Review Editors (REs) of chapter teams are required to consider the range of scientific, technical and socio-economic views, expressed in balanced assessments. Authors should use calibrated uncertainty language that expresses the diversity of the scientifically and technically valid evidence, based mainly on the strength of the evidence and the level of agreement in the scientific, technical, and socio-economic literature.

Where are the disputes and differences?

In preparing the first draft, and at subsequent stages of revision after review, Lead Authors should clearly identify disparate views for which there is significant scientific or technical support, together with the relevant arguments.

Three principles governing the review should be borne in mind. First, the best possible scientific and technical advice should be included so that the IPCC Reports represent the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic findings and are as comprehensive as possible. Secondly, a wide circulation process, ensuring representation of independent experts (i.e., experts not involved in the preparation of that particular chapter) from developing and developed countries and countries with economies in transition should aim to involve as many experts as possible in the IPCC process. Thirdly, the review process should be objective, open and transparent.

If necessary, and timing and funding permitting, a wider meeting with principal Contributing Authors and expert and government reviewers is encouraged in order to pay special attention to particular points of assessment or areas of major differences. It is important that Reports describe different (possibly controversial) scientific, technical, and socio-economic views on a subject, particularly if they are relevant to the policy debate. The final draft should credit all Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors, Contributing Authors, reviewers and Review Editors by name and affiliation (at the end of the Report).

If the IPCC summaries have complied with this guidance, the IPCC should have and must forthwith publish a list of the scientific papers with solid evidence that CO2 has a strong influence on climate, as they are critically relevant to the policy debate.

It’s pleasing yet disappointing to read these statements. On one hand they are of course perfectly plain and reasonable and one rejoices to see them, but on the other hand they are overshadowed by the blatant bias from the IPCC against contrary scientists and their papers, and the obnoxious treatment meted out to sceptical questioners, including addressing them as climate “deniers”. Even if the IPCC has never used this term, it is reprehensible that they also never reprimand their scientists and followers for using it.

These reasonable writing requirements make it obvious that IPCC reports must include contrary papers and opinions (but they hardly ever do) and their attitude towards sceptics is unacceptable (and that must change).

Which IPCC report we should believe

  • The SAR (1995) (now called AR2) that claimed to have a paper that identified a human influence in temperature data.
  • The TAR (2001) (occasionally called AR3) that hardly mentioned Mann’s paper but emphasised the hockey stick temperature graph.
  • The AR4 (2007) that didn’t mention the hockey stick graph (it had been shown to be false) but said temperatures were close to what models predicted.
  • The AR5 (2013) that revealed 111 of 114 climate models ran too hot over the previous 15 years, adding that it wasn’t certain there had been any warming at all in that time, despite the increase in CO2.

Those reports are mutually contradictory, so we cannot simultaneously believe them all. Which of them would the IPCC recommend and why?

Of a certainty, belief without evidence is known only to climate science and religion.

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