The science has been settled by the Pope. On The Hugh Hewitt show this, Lanhee Chen asked me about the Pontiff's new encyclical on "climate change":
MARK STEYN: Well, I'm not a Catholic, and so I take popes as I find them. And I preferred the other guy - the Pope Emeritus, as we rather improbably are supposed to call him these days - and he certainly wouldn't have come up with an encyclical like this... I'm the co-author of a book that's come out - and is doing rather well, in fact - called Climate Change: The Facts. And I'm the know-nothing, but there's a couple of dozen really hotshot scientists in there, and what we're all agreed with, really, is that we're now 18 years into the global warming pause, and the sky-is-falling alarmism needs something else. Nobody's buying it. Even if the Pope gets on the bandwagon, the Pope is the last guy to get on the bandwagon. And even if he does so, it can't change or make any more marketable this tired climate alarmism that nobody is buying... Climate science and the whole climate change industry needs something new.
I think that's true and it's one reason why I enjoyed my appearance (scroll down) at the 10th International Conference on Climate Change - because it was dedicated to "A Fresh Start".
Alas, the Pope's encyclical offers just another decade of flogging a dead tree-ring. One of my favorite comments came from Professor Richard Tol, who was amused to find some many hitherto anti-religious intellectuals "suddenly discovering their inner papist":
I do not like mystical waffle about Mother Earth, and I'm troubled by Earth being both mother and sister -- we should strive to be like God after all. I do not like the blending of Mary with Pachamama and Gaia.
Even a social-justice pontiff will find Mary and Gaia hard to square: God tells man that he is steward of the earth. The climate crowd think we're the scourge, which is why they're ever more openly hostile to all that ol' go-forth-and-multiply stuff. But they've made a cynical calculation that, with a bit of transnational prodding, the Pope could do for them this decade what Al Gore did for them the last. (Al's still out there, if you'd like the benefit of his wisdom.) His Holiness could give the Big Climate enforcers another decade of viable alarmism, in defiance of a two-decade pause.
If so, there will be real victims. As I told Lanhee Chen:
STEYN: To go with the Big Climate alarmism industry is to condemn one and a half billion people in the poorest parts of the world. It's to say to them, "You'll never get out of poverty. I can live in the Vatican, I've got a fabulous pad here in Rome, but you guys out there in the jungles and the deserts, you're never going to have anything like that..." Western Civilization lifts people out of poverty. The Pope cares more supposedly for the poor people of this world than anything else, and this Big Climate alarmism is a conspiracy by wealthy people and the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries against the poor of the world. It says we've got ours, tough on you guys.
LANHEE CHEN: It is interesting, because some of the language from the encyclical certainly phrases is such that you know, this is, we're pitting the wealthier countries, and it's time for the wealthier countries to I guess do their fair share. How do you think this, does this play into the discussion of the U.S. at all? Or is this sort of just another opinion in this long-standing debate?
STEYN: No, but you know what I think of as doing "my fair share"? It doesn't mean that I give up my SUV, or I give up my electric clothes dryer and agree to pay higher taxes and hang my clothes on a washing line.... Instead of doing all that, which does nothing for the poor of the world, we should be coming up with schemes for better electricity in the developing world, and cleaner water in the developing world, not all this sort of, this kind of narcissistic frivolity, which is what most of this stuff boils down to.
~If Big Climate ekes out another decade of sky-is-falling hysteria, there will be another victim, too. Matt Ridley has a marvelous essay in the Australian magazine Quadrant, deriving from what he calls "a fascinating new book", the aforementioned Climate Change: The Facts, featuring yours truly. The full essay has now been posted online, and it's well worth your time:
Sure, we occasionally take a swipe at pseudoscience—homeopathy, astrology, claims that genetically modified food causes cancer, and so on. But the great thing about science is that it's self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science.
Or so I used to think. Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas...
This is a deliberate tactic. Following what the psychologist Philip Tetlock called the "psychology of taboo", there has been a systematic and thorough campaign to rule out the middle ground as heretical: not just wrong, but mistaken, immoral and beyond the pale. That's what the word denier with its deliberate connotations of Holocaust denial is intended to do. For reasons I do not fully understand, journalists have been shamefully happy to go along with this fundamentally religious project.
That's why the same journalists who'd normally be damning the guy as a voodoo-peddling homophobe, misogynist and paedo enabler are all hot for his encyclical. They're not "anti-religious" now that he's on board with their religion.
And, of course, at the center of this corruption of science is our old friend Michael E Mann:
There was the Scandinavian lake sediment core that was cited as evidence of sudden recent warming, when it was actually being used "upside down"—the opposite way the authors of the study thought it should be used: so if anything it showed cooling.
There was the graph showing unprecedented recent warming that turned out to depend on just one larch tree in the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia.
There was the southern hemisphere hockey-stick that had been created by the omission of inconvenient data series.
There was the infamous "hide the decline" incident when a tree-ring-derived graph had been truncated to disguise the fact that it seemed to show recent cooling.
And of course there was the mother of all scandals, the "hockey stick" itself: a graph that purported to show the warming of the last three decades of the twentieth century as unprecedented in a millennium, a graph that the IPCC was so thrilled with that it published it six times in its third assessment report and displayed it behind the IPCC chairman at his press conference. It was a graph that persuaded me to abandon my scepticism (until I found out about its flaws), because I thought Nature magazine would never have published it without checking. And it is a graph that was systematically shown by Steven McIntyre and Ross McKitrick to be wholly misleading, as McKitrick recounts in glorious detail in his chapter in The Facts.
Its hockey-stick shape depended heavily on one set of data from bristlecone pine trees in the American south-west, enhanced by a statistical approach to over-emphasise some 200 times any hockey-stick shaped graph. Yet bristlecone tree-rings do not, according to those who collected the data, reflect temperature at all. What is more, the scientist behind the original paper, Michael Mann, had known all along that his data depended heavily on these inappropriate trees and a few other series, because when finally prevailed upon to release his data he accidentally included a file called "censored" that proved as much: he had tested the effect of removing the bristlecone pine series and one other, and found that the hockey-stick shape disappeared.
But plus ça change, plus c'est business as usual:
In March this year Dr Mann published a paper claiming the Gulf Stream was slowing down. This garnered headlines all across the world. Astonishingly, his evidence that the Gulf Stream is slowing down came not from the Gulf Stream, but from "proxies" which included—yes—bristlecone pine trees in Arizona, upside-down lake sediments in Scandinavia and larch trees in Siberia.
This might be a good place to remind readers that Mann's defamation suit against me is about to enter its fourth year.
Matt Ridley also points out the most obviously unscientific aspect of the hypothesis: its unfalsifiability. If what the learned societies predict does not happen - and if, indeed, the precise opposite happens - then that is simply incorporated into the hypothesis:
Venerable bodies like the Royal Society almost never criticise journalists for being excessively alarmist, only for being too lukewarm, and increasingly behave like pseudoscientists, explaining away inconvenient facts.
For example, scientists predicted a retreat of Antarctic sea ice but it has expanded instead, and nowadays they are claiming, like any astrologer, that this is because of warming after all. "Please," says Mark Steyn in The Facts:
No tittering, it's so puerile—every professor of climatology knows that the thickest ice ever is a clear sign of thin ice, because as the oceans warm, glaciers break off the Himalayas and are carried by the El Ninja down the Gore Stream past the Cape of Good Horn where they merge into the melting ice sheet, named after the awareness-raising rapper Ice Sheet ...
Or consider this example, from the Royal Society's recent booklet on climate change:
Does the recent slowdown of warming mean that climate change is no longer happening? No. Since the very warm surface temperatures of 1998 which followed the strong 1997-98 El Niño, the increase in average surface temperature has slowed relative to the previous decade of rapid temperature increases, with more of the excess heat being stored in the oceans.
You would never know from this that the "it's hiding in the oceans" excuse is just one unproven hypothesis—and one that implies that natural variation exaggerated the warming in the 1990s,
I thought my parody of climatespeak was pretty funny, but in fact whichever ingenious satirist wrote that Royal Society paragraph is gem is way better at it.
~Needless to say, among those "suddenly discovering his inner papist" is Michael E Mann himself:
One of the leading climate scientists in the world on Thursday lauded Pope Francis for having entered the contentious debate on climate change.
Michael E. Mann, a Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University and a Nobel Peace Prize contributor, said the pontiff's encyclical on climate change contributed a critical voice to the scientific efforts to create urgency with regards to addressing climate change.
"Pope Francis brings great moral authority to this matter," said Mann, who in 2007 was among scientists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on climate change.
It would be great if Pope Francis could bring his great moral authority to the matter of Mann falsely claiming to have been "awarded the Nobel Peace Prize". It's the lie that won't die. Two-and-a-half years ago, Dr Geir Lundestad, then director of the Nobel Institute in Oslo, declared explicitly that "Michael Mann has never been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize" and he and the IPPC told Mann to knock it off. But, when gullible rubes like Ivey DeJesus are interviewing you, it's hard to resist temptation.
In the courts it's a different business. His legal complaint accusing me of "defamation of a Nobel Prize recipient" was a step too far, so he was obliged to re-file his complaint and withdraw that particular charge, prompting the above-mentioned Professor Tol to Tweet of Mann:
He was not entirely truthful in a court case.
Now that Mann's "discovered his inner papist", maybe Pope Francis can hear his confession.
~Speaking of Mann's Nobel porkies, a week ago I had the honor of being the keynote speaker for the start of the ICCC's second day, and addressed the matter of his self-conferred Nobel prize. Click below to watch. I show up about 25 minutes in. The capacity crowd seemed to like it, and maybe you will, too: