The curious social movement of environmentalism is in decline. The strange little cult of anthropogenic global warming is moribund. This is good news for science.
When the Chretien government signed the Kyoto Protocol, I argued they had succumbed to moral panic. Moral panics are periodic outbursts of nuttiness similar to what some of the Vancouver rioters said happened to them. When I was a kid, they said that comic books would destroy your soul. Then it was video games. Current moral panics include obesity, especially in kids, and the oilsands.
In the past year or so, the moral panic over global warming has died. Climategate helped. We now know that climate scientists, particularly if they work for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, like to cook their data.
Steve McIntyre, who with Ross McKitrick exposed the fraudulent IPCC "hockey stick" graph purporting to show massive global temperature increases, regularly discusses sequels to the Climategate story. The latest concerned the contribution of a lead author to an IPCC report, Sven Teske, an activist with Greenpeace International. He recycled a piece of advocacy journalism he first wrote for Greenpeace. He then peer reviewed his own work for the IPCC. That's one way to get another line on your resume.
Today, academic conferences have become venues for real scientific debate. Recently, the University of Ottawa hosted an international meeting of "climate realists," as Bob Carty, a geology professor from Australia, called his colleagues. Only one speaker came close to endorsing the catastrophic claims of the IPCC. The rest of the panic-mongers stayed home. For them, the science is truly settled. They have nothing more to learn.
And yet, science moves on. For example, earlier this year, a Swedish geophysicist, Nils-Axel Moerner, published a paper in the journal Energy and Environment flatly contradicting the IPCC predictions of an ice-free Arctic, a prospect that has significant policy implications for Canada.
His argument was straightforward. Variation in solar activity -radiance and sun spots -affect the Earth's temperature and rotation, which in turn affect the Gulf Stream and the movement of ice and cold Arctic water, allowing it to penetrate as far south as Portugal. Soon, kids will skate again on the Thames and England will become a hockey powerhouse.
Another geophysicist, Ivanka Charvatova, has shown how gravitational forces in the solar system affect the wobble of the sun, called solar inertial motion, which affects weather patterns on Earth. The IPCC has never considered solar inertial motion or any other solarterrestrial link. Not geomagnetic changes, cosmic rays, solar gravitational change. Nothing. They haven't even looked at volcanic eruptions.
Volcanoes matter. Somebody calculated that in four days, the Grimsvotn eruption in Iceland a month ago wiped out five years of effort to control CO2 emissions. No one has required Iceland to purchase carbon offsets. Yet.
Somebody else calculated the year-long eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines 20 years ago spewed more carbon dioxide than the entire human race for the whole of human history.
Up the road in Edmonton, Fangliang Hu co-authored a paper published in the important science journal Nature that explained the models attempting to show disappearing Arctic fauna, from polar bugs to polar bears, were deeply flawed. Reaction by a selfdescribed "conservation biologist" (as distinct from an ordinary scientific biologist) was that the authors had taken a cheap shot at his research. Stephen Hubbel, the other co-author, said it was evidence that science is self-correcting.
And speaking of models, last month, John Mitchell, a research fellow at the Meteorological Office in London, was asked about the absence of warming since 1995. He replied: "People underestimate the power of models. Observational evidence is not very useful. Our approach is not entirely empirical."
In fact, it is not at all empirical. Believe in powerful models. Drink the Kool-Aid, people.
So the advocates of moral panic are still with us -some in my own university. I won't name names.
The legacy of the original anthropogenic global warming panic, Kyoto, expires in December. Canada has already said it will not join a successor. That is a good measure of how genuine science has pushed the silliness from public consciousness.
Barry Cooper is a political science professor at the University of Calgary. His column appears every second Wednesday.