In an article posted yesterday in the Daily Mail, Professor Michael Kelly explains how he and 43 other Fellows wrote a letter to the Royal Society’s then-president that its position on was premature and not supported by facts. That was five years ago. Since then, things have only gotten worse for the august Society.
The Royal Society, which is considered the longest running, most prestigious scientific organization still in existence, is also the British government’s scientific advisor, “receiving parliamentary grant-in aid.” The Society also “acts as the UK’s Academy of Sciences, and funds research fellowships and scientific start-up companies.”
The five-year-old letter, penned by Kelly et al, was a reaction to a Society document that stated, in part, “If you don’t believe in climate change you are using one of the following [eight] misleading arguments.”
To Kelly, already a Fellow, the “implication was clear: the Society seemed to be saying there was no longer room for meaningful debate about the claim that the world is warming dangerously because of human activity, because the science behind this was ‘settled.'”
And as one unidentified fellow told the BBC about the letter from the 43:
“This is a very serious challenge to the way the Society operates…In the past we have been able to give advice to governments as a Society without having to seek consensus of all the members.”
Their letter was written in the hopes of persuading the Society to rethink its position as it oversimplified the message.
But since then, Kelly writes, it “has become more, not less dogmatic – despite the fact that since we sent that letter, it has become evident that there is even more uncertainty than previously thought. Carbon dioxide levels (CO2) in the atmosphere have continued to rise, but since 1998 there has been no statistically significant rise in global temperatures at all.”
Based on the Society’s stream of reports released in the past five years to the government and public, it has become even more forthright in its assertion that there is a strong link between CO2 emissions and climate change.
Professor Kelly’s primary complaint is that the Society was not following its long-standing mission and founding principle: ‘Nullius in verba’ or ‘don’t take another’s word for it; check it out yourself,’ regarding the theory that claims there is a link between increased CO2 levels and global warming.
Kelly goes on to write they wanted to warn the Society that it “was in danger of violating its founding principle.”
To Kelly, this five-year-old document signified the Society was putting politics over science and that “there was no longer room for meaningful debate about the claim that the world is warming dangerously because of human activity, because the science behind this was ‘settled’.”
In the article, Kelly notes that there has been no statistically significant rise in global temperatures for nearly two decades, even though CO2 emissions have gone up.
“This flies in the face of the confident predictions made by nearly all the climatethat the temperature would continue to rise as it did from 1975 to 1998. More than 60 different explanations have been proposed to explain why this ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ has happened, and their sheer number is the clearest evidence that the system that climate scientists are seeking to model is irreducibly complex. Human-sourced carbon dioxide is at best one of many factors in causing climate change, and humility in front of this complexity is the appropriate stance.”
Yet the Society continues producing a “stream of reports” ignoring the observed science. Kelly writes there was a pre-Christmas booklet labeled A Short Guide To Climate Science as well as a 2014 joint publication with the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) called “Climate Change: Evidence And Causes, and another report called Resilience,” just to name a few.
All these publications answer questions on sea level rise, temperatures, ocean acidification, and more. There’s only one problem: “The Society has ‘left out’ parts of the science, so the answers to many of the questions ought to be different.” That’s according to yesterday’s report from the academic council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Their report (PDF) was written by a slew of professors and researchers with backgrounds in a range of sciences.
“I have personal experience of [the Society’s] selectivity,” Kelly writes. “Last year, at the request of the president, I produced a paper that urged the Society’s council to distance itself from the levels of certainty being expressed about future warming.”
“I said it ought at least to have a ‘plan B’ if the pause should last much longer, [putting] the models into still more serious question. I got a polite brush-off.”
Kelly thinks the lack of nuance exhibited by the Society can be attributed to both scientific liability and legal liability. “Policymakers say they want ‘scientific certainty’. As an engineer, I find that amazing: we remain legally liable for what we say professionally, so will always qualify our statements. But the misleading lack of qualification in the statements made by the Royal Society and others is creating policy nonsense.”
As for the Climate Change Act that requires the “UK to cut its CO2 emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050,” Kelly writes that achieving that goal will incur “mind-boggling costs. Generating electricity from windmills has contributed to electricity prices increasing by twice the level of inflation over the last decade, with further huge rises to fund renewable energy to come.”
What no one seems willing to describe, or even admit, are the direct and indirect consequences of policymakers relying on uncertain science. Take for example aluminum production. “Most of the UK smelters have closed down – helping us reduce UK emissions, but also exporting jobs,” Kelly writes. “We now import that aluminum from China, leading to CO2 emissions from shipping it here. Worse, most electricity in China is produced by coal, not gas, as in the UK. We are exacerbating the original global problem of global CO2 emissions, yet also pointing fingers at the Chinese. We really are leading the world in climate change hypocrisy.”
According to Kelly, politicians make decisions after gathering and reviewing all the evidence, both the pros and the cons, strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
“Those who fail to provide balance are not giving advice, but lobbying.” Kelly writes. “It is with the deepest regret that I must now state that this is the role which has been adopted by the Royal Society. And when scientists abandon neutral inquiry for lobbying, they jeopardize their purpose and integrity.”
Professor Michael Kelly is the Prince Philip Professor of Technology at Cambridge University and a Fellow of the Royal Society. According to Wikipedia, there are roughly 1,450 Fellows of the Royal Society.