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Book Review: ‘Climate Change: Natural or Manmade?’

This review of 'Climate Change: Natural or Manmade?' is by John Shade of Climate Lessons blog.

It soon becomes clear which way the author is inclined to answer the question in the book’s title.  On page 22,  we see these words ‘the biggest scientific fraud in history’, on page 77 ‘global temperature is not a function of CO2’,  page 83 ‘one of the biggest scientific shams in history’, page 89 ‘CO2 emissions have nothing to do with climate’, page 106 ‘the flawed hypothesis that humans are causing catastrophic global warming’, and similar sentiments are to be found on pages 117, 135, 137, 140, 149, 156, 164, 175, 186, and 109.  They are also to be found in the Appendix which reproduces the resignation letter of the distinguished physicist Hal Lewis who wrote, upon leaving the American Physical Society (APS) in 2010 ‘…the global warming scam … has carried APS before it like a rogue wave.  It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.’

The overall tone of this book, then, is one of denunciation.  It is backed up by nearly 500 footnotes linking to a mix of scientific papers, magazine and newspaper articles, books, and blogs such as WUWT.  There is also a ‘bibliography’ with some 43 references to books and scientific papers.   

My hunch is that the author, Joe Fone, is representative of a good many people competent in physical science or engineering (he has worked as an electronics technician and designer) and who have been persuaded by Schneiderian Scenarios (‘scary’, ‘simplified’, ‘dramatic’ – the notorious quote can be found on page 33) to look into them in search of substance.  Unsurprisingly (I am engaged on the same search!) he found nothing convincing about CO2 being a major driver of climate, but a lot to be concerned about in other ways where words such as ethics, prejudice, deception, political opportunism, profiteering, incompetence and vindictiveness start tripping off the tongue.  To put it mildly, he was not impressed.   His book is an introduction to his discoveries, and it ends with an appeal for continued questioning.

There are 8 chapters.  The first begins with 19th century interest in ice age theories and the possible role of CO2 and continues into the 20thcentury with the work of Callendar whom he criticises for discounting measurements showing relatively high ambient levels, more than 400ppm for example during the 19thcentury.  He notes, again with some criticism, the later work of Keeling, and Plass in the 1950s onwards and the ‘ice age’ scare of the 1970s.  He mentions Jawarowksi’s reservations about CO2 estimates taken from ice cores, and the politic efforts of Schneider to raise alarm first over cooling.  Noting that ‘there was nothing new in these reversals of climate alarm then over warming’, Fone quotes from newspapers in 1895 and 1912 about ice-scares, and in the 1920s and 30s on how the world was getting warmer and warmer.  Chapter 2 is mostly about what he reports as a very unpleasant vendetta against the controversial polymath Velikovsky, in particular for his conjecture than the planet Venus ‘was a relative newcomer to the solar system’ and would have anomalously high temperatures.  I am not at all familiar with this episode, but in Fone’s account it was not a very edifying one regardless of the credibility of Velikovsky’s views. The link to our climate issues is via Sagan’s deployment of a CO2-driven greenhouse effect to account for the high temperatures, and thereby refute some of Velikovsky’ ideas.  According to Fone, ‘it did not take long for Sagan’s quick-fix application of the enhanced greenhouse effect on Venus to be shown to be unworkable…’.  But perhaps more importantly, Fone draws attention to a study claiming ‘the suppression of Velikovsky’s ideas included “the techniques of denying and avoiding public discussion, of refusing access to scientific publications  - via articles or letters of reply or even advertising”.  To which can be added manipulation and distortion of scientific data and deliberate misquotations in order to give a completely warped idea of the scientific case.  We witness the same ploys and scientific fraud today as so-called climate change “deniers” are treated in the same way by establishment figures.’

Fone goes on to cover a lot more ground.  He sees Prime Minister Thatcher spotting political advantage in concern over CO2 in her battles with coal-miners in the late 1970s and 1980s, and which led by this account to the setting up of the Hadley Centre.  She became sceptical later, but she had lost power and influence by then.  In Chapter 3, he describes how changes in CO2 generally follow changes in temperature in the geological reconstructions, reports on the case for a solar influence on climate, and mentions the lack of ‘statistically significant warming’ in recent decades.  Chapter 4 is mostly on how little CO2 there is in the atmosphere, and that positive feedbacks involving water vapour are required before any grounds for alarm are to be found.  Needless to say, he does not find the case for such effects convincing.  Chapter 5 contrasts ‘tipping points’ with the logarithmic effect of rising CO2 levels on radiation budgets.  He concludes that ‘runaway climate change’ is ‘little more than a catchphrase lacking scientific merit, a slogan designed to frighten the public’.  He begins Chapter 6 with some fighting talk ‘Epicurus understood more about how the earth behaves than the IPCC does two millennia later.’  Now that, like his claim about CO2 emissions having no effect on climate, is an overstatement that will make it easy for some to try to discredit the whole book.  As one who admires this book overall,  I am trying to see it as understandable polemic in the face of much worse from those who want to frighten us about CO2. The chapter is, like all the others, quite hard to summarise given the range of topics touched upon, but it is mainly about the notion that climate has always changed, and that despite our increasing ability to cope with it, there are those who would suspend democracy or advocate extinction of the human race in response to the unremarkable climate variation we are seeing now combined with theories of doom to come.  Chapter 7, entitled ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, is about the scheming that led to the formation of the IPCC, and the subsequent further promotion of the ‘theory that increased CO2 resulted in a corresponding increase in global temperatures, which supposedly would lead ultimately to climate doom unless emissions are reduced.’  The works of Laframboise on the IPCC, and Montford on the creation and subsequent breaking of the hockey-stick plot by McIntyre, McKitrick, and others, get mentioned, as do the shenanigans in New Zealand (where the author lives) over muddled and meddled-with temperature records.  The Climategate Saga is also covered briefly.  The final chapter, Chapter 8, begins with a lament over assertions that science is settled or done by consensus or that those who challenge it are heretics.  He sees manmade global warming as just one among many fads supported by scientists and eagerly promoted by the media, but he asserts that this is one that ‘has become a Frankenstein monster and seems to be out of control’.  He notes the huge sums of money that have been spent on it, and the money made by some and lost by most in carbon trading.  He recounts some recent foolishnesses in Australian and New Zealand politics, and lists some of the abusive remarks from commentators in the States about climate heretics, labeling them ‘deniers’, ‘traitors’, ‘irresponsible’, ‘immoral’, worthy of murdering, and, on Australian national radio, comparable to paedophiles and drug-pushers.   He concludes the chapter with these words:

 ‘Global warming hysteria eventually will subside, like so many earlier such scares that never materialized, leaving a strange legacy for future generations to ponder.’

A ‘Conclusion’ appears next as a kind of coda at the end.  In it he asserts that the key assertions underpinning CAGW have been shown to be wrong, and ends this brief section with these words:

The climate science community has been hijacked by vested interest groups, from politicians to environmentalist extremists, who are more concerned with advocacy for their causes than true unbiased scientific endeavour.  We can only hope to have begun here to redress the balance, and to ask the questions which vested interests do not want asked.

The writing style in generally straightforward, although occasionally a sudden change in topic made me recall the kind of wide-ranging conversations you can have with enthusiasts when one topic is displaced by a more recently raised one which is then pursued for bit.  The book is packed with nuggets taken from many sources, so there is plenty of scope for distraction.  The occasional over-the-top statements are a weakness.

I think it is an impressive and important book because for me it represents another ‘ordinary person’ fighting back against the top-down alarmism being imposed on us.  It is part of the Independent Minds series by Stacey, a series which includes blockbusters such as the The Hockey Stick Illusion and Climate: The Counter Consensus.  It does not have the forensic brilliance of the former, nor the academic clout of the latter, but it does pack a lot of punches nevertheless, and I think it will resonate with many others as it did with me.   I also suspect that we shall see many more books like it, from policy perspectives, from economic ones, from humanitarian ones, even from sociological and psychological ones as well as from more people versed in the physical and mathematical sciences, as they all share their particular insights and shock at discovering how few clothes are to be found on the emperors of alarm about carbon dioxide.  We shall need many bookshelves to contain what will then be a veritable encyclopedia on resistance to the climate madness and millennialism.  From the southern corner, Joe Fone has entered the ring.

Buy it here.

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Reader Comments (29)

What a great review. Supportive and sympathetic yet realistic about the weaknesses of overstatement and the assistance it gives to counter-criticism. I certainly aim to read Darwall's The Age of Global Warming first. But thanks John.

Mar 12, 2013 at 2:11 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I agree with Richard Drake's comment at 2.11pm about the quality of the review. It would seem that the Joe Fone is like many others in being unable to understand why so many passionately believe in the global warming scare. Thus he views it as a fraud or conspiracy. Those who believe in the "climate consensus" are similarly unable to understand how any can rationally question "the science". This, possibly, explains why people so readily accept the denigrating nonsense talked by desmogblog or Stephan Lewandowsky.
It is better to find standards by which to evaluate the evidence, than (mostly) to restate the evidence polemically.

Mar 12, 2013 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Such a synopsis by a concerned layman of ability, character, integrity, will ultimately resonate more widely than credentialed specialists' cramped technical exegeses. Much like Enron accountants, all too many researchers act like "one-armed economists," so concerned with weighing trivia that whole forests of peculating fraud escape their notice.

AGW Catastrophism is above all a doomsday scenario, a millenarian myth designed explicitly to foster hierarchical rule by white-coated elitists calling themselves not High Priests but "scientists." The more who understand this, and are revolted by it, the sooner Briffa, Hansen, Jones, Mann, Trenberth and their Green Gang coteries will deliquesce.

Anyone who doubts these Luddite sociopaths' true aims should browse Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Keith Farnish, Kentti Linkola, Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber... for sheer self-destructive ill-will propagated in bad faith under false pretenses, history supplies virtually no precedent.

Mar 12, 2013 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterLloyd Martin Hendaye

Exactly my point of view. I wouldn't like to ask this guy his estimate of climate sensitivity. Climate sensitivity is for girls.

Lloyd Martin Hendaye

I agree.

A couple of additions to your list of Luddite sociopaths. George Monbiot, James Hansen and the British landed gentry including the Royal family.

Mar 12, 2013 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

Joe Fone is actually, like me, a resident of Christchurch NZ. I'll make sure he sees this.

Mar 12, 2013 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy Scrase

Interesting that in relation to the above, Germany is awaking to the reality that when the 'Dream Salesmen' have left their mark, it is more of a nightmare that remains, see Der Spiegel today:

This is what happens, when the law in relation to proceeding with due care and attention, completing the proper environmental assessments and public participation, is suspended due to a 'global planetary emergency'.


Mar 12, 2013 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat Swords

Lloyd Martin Hendaye, well said about Paul Ehrlich and co. But I don't think they're Luddites; rather Malthusians who hate ordinary people. This cabal set up the UNEP and IPCC in order to destroy our prosperity by creating this climate scare via the vilification of CO2 - an inevitable product of industrialisation and our prosperity. The cabal isn't self-destructive - most of them being very wealthy indeed e.g. Maurice Strong, Ted Turner, Club of Rome. And absolutely no precedent for the crafty disguise of all that ill-will and sociopathy.

Mar 12, 2013 at 8:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterAriane

I can hardly wait for L.Ron Hubbard's critique of von Dannikin's review of Velikovsky.

Mar 12, 2013 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Lloyd Martin Hendaye,
White coats are the uniform of scientists who go into the lab and get their hands dirty, not computer modellers. Those who don them for promotional photo-shoots often stand out like a criminal in the dock wearing a suit for the first time.

I just have a couple of minor quibbles with John Shade's review.

Firstly, I don't know what Joe Fone wrote but I think it is important to keep in mind the difference between saying "CO2 has no effect" and "the effect of CO2 may be indistinguishable from zero."

Secondly, in place of describing man-made global warming as one of those "fads supported by scientists", I would say it was one of those "fads that have scientists among it's supporters".

-The "97%" thing was always ludicrously contrived and unbelievable. The only time you get 97% of people apparently agreeing about anything is usually when someone like Saddam Hussein rules your country and invites you to vote for him as the sole candidate.

Mar 12, 2013 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Excellent review. Well done John.

Mar 12, 2013 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

Interesting that he goes for Sagan. Just look at any cloud about to rain and it's dark underneath, high albedo. Yet Sagan's aerosol optical physics claims that small droplets cause high albedo. As for 'back radiation', there has never been any experimental proof of its existence!

Mar 12, 2013 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

1. The Velikovsky affair was, indeed, shameful. His crazy ideas caused quite a stir at the time, but the reaction of the academy was vicious. I'm a bit surprised the reviewer did not know about it, but perhaps that is my age speaking.

2. Yes, it was Margaret Thatcher who pushed the CO2-induced warming idea into politics, both nationally and internationally. The fact that she had a degree in chemistry meant that she had more scientific credentials than most other politicians, and that gave her extra credibility.

Her sometime adviser, Lord Monckton, seems to have made it his business to reverse this effect. Penance, perhaps?

(Enron and sundry other profiteers saw it as a route to easy money. And yet these sort of blogs are full of reds-under-the-beds loonies who rant about it being a Marxist plot!)

Mar 12, 2013 at 11:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoHa

It is better to find standards by which to evaluate the evidence, than (mostly) to restate the evidence polemically.
Mar 12, 2013 at 5:41 PM ManicBeancounter

It's certainly worth evaluating the evidence.

But the end of the Great Delusion will eventually happen for reasons other than that the evidence has been properly evaluated.

Mar 12, 2013 at 11:47 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The book I am waiting to be written is a scholarly history of how we got where we are today. We can agree that CO2 or other trace GHG emissions do not control the earth's climate; they are minor players, though the exact influence remains to be determined. But it is important to understand the PROCESS by which we got to this bizarre state in which most of the western science societies and academies continue to support the scam, corrupting both themselves and the scientific process so carefully constructed over the centuries.

Mar 13, 2013 at 12:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterNoblesse Oblige

I can not argue with anything John Shade says but I do not think it is a good "review". For me it is too long and tries to be a precis, not a review, sorry John :(

Mar 13, 2013 at 2:01 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Skeptical books and hopefully documentaries based upon them are crucial since blogs are so prolific that basic dirt simple skeptical arguments get buried.

Mar 13, 2013 at 4:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterNikFromNYC

michael hart

'The only time you get 97% of people apparently agreeing about anything is usually when someone like Saddam Hussein rules your country'

Or if you come from the Falklands ;-)

Mar 13, 2013 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

On whether this review was good, consider that those in the London Review of Books are often much longer. Admittedly some in the LRB may fall foul of Thomas Sowell's strictures in 2001 in the brilliant Some Thoughts about Writing:

Book reviewing is, in a sense, the final phase of the publishing process. After that, it is all up to the reading public. To say that book reviewing has its idiosyncrasies is to put it politely—too politely.
Unfavorable or even biased reviews are a fact of life for anyone who writes on controversial subjects. What is maddening to me (even when it is not my book) are the reviews that don’t review.

The non-reviewing review seems to be considered chic these days. The first four or five paragraphs don’t even mention the book that is the ostensible reason for the review. Instead, the reviewer puts the whole subject “in context” with lofty generalities and pre-emptive assertions. Then the book’s title puts in a cameo appearance, followed by an analysis of what the author was “really” trying to do and the reviewer’s comments on its appropriateness, originality, and consonance with his own ideological predispositions.

All this is often just a prelude to a long editorial by the reviewer on the subject raised by the book—or even on a tangential topic suggested by it. Sometimes it takes some shrewd reading between the lines to figure out whether the reviewer thought the book was good, bad, or indifferent. Sometimes even a shrewd reading draws a blank. One of the reasons some people cannot get to the point is that there is no point to get to. In non-reviewing reviews, the only point often seems to be a display of the reviewer’s sense of superiority.

In addition to this ordinary garden variety of non-reviewing review, there is also the more imaginative non-review in which a steady stream of deep-sounding questions, miscellaneous sociological or psychological observations, and expressions of agonizing moral issues, all combine to conceal the simple fact that the reviewer hasn’t read the book.

John Shade has definitely read the book and has avoided a sense of superiority. As a guide to whether I want to read the book I still give him full marks. And while we're on the Sowell, this has to be one of the best ever paragraphs from the sage of Palo Alto:

To say that my relationship with editors has not always been a happy one would be to completely understate the situation. To me, the fact that I have never killed an editor is proof that the death penalty deters. However, since nowadays we are all supposed to confess to shameful episodes in our past, I must admit that I was once an editor. Only once. And I didn’t inhale.

And this morning there's this from NikFromNYC:

Skeptical books and hopefully documentaries based upon them are crucial since blogs are so prolific that basic dirt simple skeptical arguments get buried.

A point nobody should miss. We need many and various perspectives. Thanks again to John and Joe.

Mar 13, 2013 at 9:24 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Andy Scrase. O/T but I would appreciate your and others' assistance on the Discussion thread.

Mar 13, 2013 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterGiixxerboy

off-topic, John Redwood (him who couldn't sing the Welsh National Anthem, well who can!) is sympathetic to CAGW sceptism and Energy realism.

Mar 13, 2013 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterFragpig

I’m pleased to see so much reaction to the review. It was good of the Bish to publish it, and help get some publicity and attention for this new book.

Manicbeancounter draws a conclusion from the review which reveals a weakness of it. The book is not a polemic, and nor is the author of it convinced by some of his sweeping statements such as ‘CO2 emissions have nothing to do with climate’. For example, he gives some prominence to the notion of a logarithmic effect of CO2. There is a lot of other reasoned argument in the book as well.

I do agree with Dung that it was a bit long. The précis section is in the middle, with more review-like comments on either side. I guess the whole précis bit could be chopped out and the review would still make sense, but then folks would know less about the contents and tone.

Noblesse Oblige wants a scholarly work explaining it all. I think it would be too much for one scholar, hence my suggestion that a veritable encyclopedia will be needed and may ensue. This astonishing level of alarm over carbon dioxide has been, and still continues to be, a remarkable event and one that I hope we can learn from to reduce the chances of it happening again. The new book by Darwall is on my desk and promises a lot of insight into the history of climate politics in modern times.

I was aware of Velikovsky, RoHa, but only dimly. I recall him being treated as a figure of fun. I never read any of his works, nor any of those getting stuck into him. I think it is reasonable of Joe Fone to draw attention to the vindictiveness of those attacks given what we have seen from outraged followers of the Faith in Climate Alarm. This kind of ‘academic mobbing’ is not limited to climate issues, as this article describes: for a recent book also with a cosmic compass.

As another admirer of Sowell’s work, I must say I am pleased to see it quoted in connection with this review in one of Richard’s very generous comments. Thanks!

Mar 13, 2013 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Sorry, if the guy takes Velikovsky seriously - planets moving orbits within the era of human recorded history, contrary to all known laws of physics, and with the only evidence for it being a long convoluted chain of reasoning starting from V's idosyncratic interpretation of papyrus and other fragments...... Well, he lacks any critical sense and its not worth paying him any mind.

Very disappointing.

Mar 13, 2013 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

Joe Fone's key point re Velikovsky is not dependent on the merit or otherwise of Velikovsky's ideas, michel, so you might want to give his book a second chance. In his second chapter he writes

Whether Velikovsky's theories on the origin of Venus are right or wrong is almost immaterial here. The point is that the greenhouse theory is hopelessly inadequate to explain the Venus heat problem, while the scientific community went into overdrive to shut Velikovsky down because he represented a serious threat to accepted wisdom with a wide-ranging and consistent hypothesis.

Minor typo in the review: for '109' read '199' in the list of page numbers in the first paragraph.

Mar 13, 2013 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Yhat such views are now publishable shows how things arer changing. A few years ago Lord Lawson, who normally has no difficulry being published, had to go to the US to find a publisher.

Mar 13, 2013 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Has the 7z archive password just been released ? See Tom Nelson...

Mar 13, 2013 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Joe is right. Now we need to get the idiot alatmists to actually read it.

Mar 13, 2013 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Don't be too hard on Velikovsky. At the time he wrote his books [circa 1950] the status of geology was much more primitive than now. I read his books in the fifties.

I took a course in geology at Edinburgh in the '58 and at that time they did not teach/ acknowledge the theory of techtonic plates!. So Velikovsky's theories were not any more outfield than the University of Edinburgh.

Mar 13, 2013 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBill Bowie

I have a title that is closer to asking the right question:

Climate Change: What Is That Exacty/What Is That Phrase Supposed To Mean?


Mar 13, 2013 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Bill Bowie: Sorry I missed your comment till now. I've never heard testimony from someone who studied geology pre the acceptance of tectonics - though some of the geologists at RTZ's exploration arms in Newbery and Bristol that I worked for in the early 90s must have been in the same boat chronologically. I have become very aware of the transition in the 60s, almost at the same moment the Big Bang also became accepted through discovery of the cosmic background radiation. Both very old theories that took a long time to break through a crusty consensus. But thanks for this and for putting Velikovsky in a fair historic perspective.

Mar 14, 2013 at 3:18 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

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