A distinguished institution falters
The new president of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse has been crowing to the Guardian’s environment pages about how he bested me in a documentary for the BBC on Climate Change. This isn’t how I remember it.
Nurse came to interview me at my home last summer, ostensibly – so his producer assured me – as a disinterested seeker-after-truth on a mission to discover why the public is losing its faith in scientists. “Not scientists,” I replied. “Just ‘climate scientists.'” But as is clear from the Horizon documentary Nurse had already made up his mind. That’s why about the only section he used out of at least three hours’ worth of footage is the one where he tosses what he clearly imagines is the killer question: Suppose you were ill with cancer would you wish to be treated by “consensus” medicine or something from the quack fringe?
As you’ll see in the programme, this took me rather by surprise. Nurse had come posing as an open-minded investigator eager to hear why Climategate had raised legitimate doubts about the reliability of the “consensus” on global warming. Instead, the man I met was a parti-pris bruiser so delighted with his own authority as a proper Nobel-prizewinning scientist that he knew what the truth was already. And to prove it, here was a brilliant analogy which would rubbish the evil climate deniers’ cause once and for all!
But Nurse’s analogy is shabby, dishonest and patently false. The “consensus” on Climate Change; and the “consensus” on medical care bear no similarity whatsoever.
In the field of medicine, treatments are tested in a semi-open market. Those with more favourable outcomes (the patient gets better) will quickly gain popularity over those with less favourable outcomes (the patient gets worse). Sure there are market distortions (eg the vast marketing budgets and rampant greed of the big drug companies; inefficiency and incompetence in the public healthcare sector), but generally in the field of medicine, the “consensus” on what constitutes good, bad or indeed “quack” treatment is a fair representation of the facts as they are currently known and empirically tested.
The “consensus” on ‘Climate Change’, by contrast, is a figment of Al Gore’s – and, I’m sorry to say, Sir Paul Nurse’s – imagination. It exaggerates the number of scientists who believe in Man Made Global Warming and it grotesquely underestimates the number who have many good reasons for suspecting that there is far, far more to “Climate Change” than anthropogenic CO2.
What’s more such “consensus” as there is is an artificial construct. It has not been subjected to the rigour of an open or even semi-open market. It is the creation, almost entirely, of politically-driven funding from US government, from various UN bodies, from the EU, from left-leaning charitable foundations on a scale unprecedented in the history of science. So far, in real terms, no less than five times the amount of the Manhattan Project has been squandered on research into AGW. For that kind of money you can buy an awful lot of scientists prepared to suspend any belief they might have that global warming is anything other than man-made. (I put this point to Nurse but he wasn’t having it. As a scientist he just “knew” that scientists didn’t behave like that.)
But you can’t say all that in a TV friendly sound bite. And even if I’d managed, it would no doubt have ended up with the rest of the three hours’ of reasonably cogent argument I made to Nurse – on the cutting room floor.
At the end of the programme, Nurse argues that it is vital that the quest for scientific truth should be divorced from politics. I don’t think he’ll find anyone in the ‘sceptic’ community who disagrees with him on that. What’s depressing is that he seems to have reached this conclusion in defiance of almost everything he has said in the previous hour.
In Nurse’s Weltanschauung, NASA’s temperature records must correct because, well just look at all those spiffy satellite charts this nice man from NASA is showing me and he’s a proper scientist so he should know; and Phil Jones is clearly a man more sinned against than sinning, because look here he is all broken and rueful (and he’s a proper scientist, you know, unlike all those deniers) telling me why Climategate was about how a few innocent emails were distorted by horrid deniers.
Meanwhile, according to Nurse and his execrable documentary, climate change “deniers” are on a par with people who don’t believe that AIDs is caused by the HIV virus and people who destroy GM crops (eh??? Since when did we have any truck with those eco-loons?). Is this really the level of intellectual sophistication we might have hoped for from the new president of the world’s most distinguished scientific association?
Or rather, of the world’s ex- most distinguished scientific association. As I’ve reported before, the Warmist bias of the Royal Society has become such a standing joke that last year 43 of its fellows wrote in to complain. Under its two previous presidents, Lord May and Lord Rees, it has tossed aside its traditions of lofty neutrality and eagerly embraced a new role as political activist for the green lobby.
Perhaps there was a time when this made some kind of warped sense. But with no ‘global warming’ since 1998, a succession of bitter winters, scandals cropping up every day about everything from Met Office incompetence to skullduggery in the EU carbon trading business, growing doubts in the scientific community about the validity of climate models, demands in the US for law suits against dodgy client scientists, and increasing public scepticism, it is only a matter of time before the AGW industry collapses and all those people who associated themselves with it suddenly look very foolish.
With his new documentary Nurse has sent out a signal that, bright boy though he thinks he is, he is happy to be taken for one of those fools. If he wants to join the Warmist lemmings on their final dash, that’s his look out. But what a pity for the rest of us that he’ll be taking the credibility of the Royal Society over the cliff with him.
- Sir Paul Nurse’s big boo boo
- Sir Paul Nurse – saviour of the universe!
- I’d rather stick my hand in a bag of amphetamine-injected rattlesnakes than put my trust in tonight’s BBC Panorama documentary on ‘Global Warming’
- Why the BBC cannot be trusted on ‘Climate Change’: the full story
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