Many of the ‘Climate Experts’ Surveyed by the Guardian in Recent Propaganda Blitz Turn Out to be Emotionally-Unstable Hysterics


by Ben Pile

The Guardian last week published its survey of ‘climate experts’. The results are a predictable mush of fire-and-brimstone predictions and emotional incontinence. This stunt may have convinced those already aligned to the newspaper’s ideological agenda to redouble their characteristically shrill rhetoric, but encouraging scientists to speculate and emote about the future of the planet looks like an act of political desperation, not scientific communication.

For the purposes of creating this story, the Guardian’s Environment Editor Damian Carrington contacted 843 ‘lead authors’ of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports (IPCC) and 383 responded to his questions. The actual substance of the survey does not seem to have been published by the paper, but the main response Carrington wanted to get from his respondents was an estimate of how much global warming there will be by the end of the century. “World’s top climate scientists expect global heating to blast past 1.5ºC target,” claims one headline. A graphic in the article shows the responses:

The obvious problem this raises is that such a wide range of views on the next three quarters of a century discredits the notion that the IPCC represents a ‘scientific consensus’ on climate change. The ‘consensus’ – the putative expression of agreement by the worlds ‘top climate scientists’ – is the lynchpin of the narrative, epitomised by the Guardian, that the climate debate is between scientists and denialists. “Seventy seven per cent of climate scientists expect a rise of at least 2.5ºC,” explains the chart. Well, yeah, but 23% of climate scientists do not. And a good number of those connected to the IPCC believe that there will be just 1.5 degrees of warming – a third less warming than is anticipated by their colleagues at the other end of the spectrum. Clearly, there is, or needs to be, a debate.

This in turn raises the question of why this survey was necessary at all. The IPCC’s main output is an Assessment Report (AR), of which six have so far been produced since 1990. Each AR consists of three main volumes, each produced by a Working Group (WG), whose focus is on assessing the available research on “the physical science” (WG1), impacts and vulnerabilities (WG2), and mitigation options (WG3). A Guardian opinion survey is hardly going to shed any light on science that these scientists, who authored the reports, have not already published. It would seem rather silly to ignore the thousands of pages of summaries of the state of scientific understanding that hundreds of scientists and other experts have compiled and substitute it with a DIY opinion poll.

Opinion isn’t science. Even scientific opinion is not science. Yet Carrington seems to believe that tapping into the emotions of scientists is of greater value than reading their work. And all sorts of mush seems to have been unleashed by his project. “‘I am starting to panic about my child’s future’: climate scientists wary of starting families,” claims one headline based on the survey. According to the article, the victim of the panic is a Professor Lisa Schipper, whom Carrington describes as “an expert on climate vulnerability”. Schipper’s profile, however, reveals her actual occupation: “I am particularly interested in socio-cultural dimensions of vulnerability, including gender, culture and religion, as well as structural issues related to power, justice and equity.” I’m smelling a rat here, and more than a whiff of humbug. Schipper is not a climate scientist at all, as Carrington seems to imply in both his headline and his article.

Another article – an interactive page on the Guardian website – claims: “We asked 380 top climate scientists what they felt about the future.” The article quotes, among others, Lorraine Whitmarsh from the University of Bath, who tells Carrington:

[Climate change] is an existential threat to humanity and [lack of] political will and vested corporate interests are preventing us addressing it. I do worry about the future my children are inheriting.

But Whitmarsh is not a climate scientist either. According to her academic profile at Bath, She did a BA in Theology and Religious Studies with French at the University of Kent, graduating in 1997. She followed this with a Masters in ‘Science, Culture and Communication’, before completing a PhD in Psychology in 2005. Now Director of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST), Whitmarsh researches “perceptions and behaviour in relation to climate change, energy and transport” and “regularly advises governmental and other organisations on low-carbon behaviour change and climate change communication”.

I have discussed the nature of climate psychologists’ work before in the Daily Sceptic. And of course, CAST is of that lofty academic milieu which wraps naked Stalinism in motherhood-and-apple-pie. “We want to work closely with people and organisations to achieve positive low-carbon futures — transforming the way we live our lives, and reconfiguring organisations and cities,” says the group’s website. What it doesn’t have an answer to, however, is people who do not share CAST’s radical ideology and do not want their lives, cities or organisations transformed or reconfigured by self-regarding shrinks – who are manifestly the ones in need of help.

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And we all know the record all these guys have for being right.

What else can anyone expect from a Liberal News Rag like the Garbage-Can/Guardian their as bad as any liberal printed rag