In my recent article “The Climate Religion”, I argued that “climate change”, the widespread belief that atmospheric CO2 controls climate and climate events, satisfies the defining criteria of a state religion. Professor Paul Brown responded to my article in his article entitled “The Religion of Climate Change Denial”. This is my reply to Professor Brown.
Professor Brown is silent on my argument that climate change science and policy serve global financiers and US-dominated geopolitics. He prefers a sanitized argument essentially limited to a pronouncement that “most scientists…”. Fine, let us examine the scientific question.
An elementary rule of scientific theorizing, which all (100%) of scientists admit, is that one cannot prove a theory. One can only disprove a theory. Therefore, it is scientific to “deny”, and it is unscientific to assert validity of a theory on the basis that most scientists do not expressly oppose the said theory.
This is especially true when agreement with the said theory relies on non-conclusive statistical evidence, correlation rather than causal demonstration, and model predictions that are contradicted by observations.
Not only are the mean-global-surface-temperature predictions of more than one hundred state-of-the-art general circulation models (GCMs) contradicted by the accepted data1, but the models themselves have been shown to be intrinsically invalid irrespective of values of their adjustable parameters.2
What non-scientists like Professor Brown need to understand is that a single contradiction is sufficient to invalidate a theory, and that no amount of agreement can salvage a thus invalidated theory. It does not matter how many grant-receiving practitioners like the model.
Professor Brown concludes “We know how these changes affect heat waves, droughts, floods, ice melting, and sea level rise.” Actually, “we” don’t know. Scientists have not established a causal relation between CO2 and climate events, or sea level rise. That is why many scientists are publicly averse to such suggestions.3
Professor Brown did not actually read the scientific literature. Otherwise, he would have noted that, at this stage, believing that CO2 is responsible for climate disasters is logically equivalent to believing that the Devil is responsible for evil deeds.
Let us take droughts for example. Which newspaper editor would not be comfortable with a headline announcing that “global warming will bring more droughts”? Well, the authors of the most advanced model simulations, concerned with real data rather than “predictions”, show that forcing cannot reproduce known droughts and conclude that all the numerous and clustered mega-droughts of the last 1000 years were the result of natural variability.4
Let us take forest fires as another example. This is another climate-event category where some scientists have over-extended themselves. The methodological and bias errors should be embarrassing. There is not even a measured correlation between forest fire extent or intensity and CO2, let alone a plausible causal mechanism.5
Planetary-scale phenomena such as polar glacier melting and growth, and sea-level rise, are exceedingly complex, both to measure and to understand. These phenomena have not been causally linked to CO2. GCMs can’t even get their most reliable predictions of simple average quantities right, never mind complex spatiotemporal changes related to precipitation and ice.
Professor Brown also allows himself to infer many things about my character and motives. I can answer those ancillary suggestions in the following way. I am a member in good standing of the Green Party of Canada and, as such, following publication of my “climate religion” article, my membership was publicly questioned. Here is how that went. (The discussion is relevant to Professor Brown’s many points and omissions about me.)
<start of exchange> [This portion of article is not edited – DV Ed.]
Brian: It’s more than a bit distressing to find out that one of the more vocal posters here in favour of the BDS resolution (Denis Rancourt) is also a very vocal climate change denier.
Brian: So why did Denis Rancourt join the Green Party? It doesn’t seem like the natural home of somebody who argues hard against taking action on climate change.
Erin: Brian, not everyone agrees with EVERYTHING !!! it’s about values, and aligning the most with the party. I find your post unacceptable.
Brian: No Erin, we don’t agree on everything, but this is a person who is openly attacking the leadership of the party AND has publicly and repeatedly described climate science as ‘religion’. It IS about values, and clearly one of his most fervent beliefs is completely contrary to those of the Green Party.
Grant: Ban him for posting positions diametrically opposed to the Green program.
Denis (me): The Constitution does not mention “climate change”. It is about environmental protection/values. I have been a strong environmental advocate for a long time. This 2007 interview starts to explain my position, which is based on my research:::
Brian: Why would somebody with your views on climate change join the Green Party?
Denis: I just explained it. Read it.
Brian: Are you trying to sabotage this party?
Denis: That is your reading. You do not like my arguments for the BDS resolution.
Denis: If there is a process to expel me, I will answer. Otherwise, drop it please, Mr. Brian.
Brian: Are you intentionally trying to harm the party?
Denis: No. And I firmly believe that BDS would strengthen the party, and that the instant internal battle on BDS is an occasion for significant maturation and deepening of Green principles.
Denis: I also believe that a Green party with a BDS policy has much more to offer Canadian society than a Green party that waters itself down to a lower common denominator on the important question of Palestine, which is vital to Canada because of Canada’s support of US foreign policy of the Middle East, which in turn is centrally based in Israel.
Denis: “More recently, I will be continuing that discussion [at the upcoming conference: “Pseudo-Science & Academic Freedom”, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada]”
Stefan: I was wondering where I had heard of Dennis before, being a former UOttawa student myself. He is actually not the first person of such a view I have noticed within the party. Certainly the fact that such people are to be found in our party demonstrates the diversity of our membership.. We need not stigmatize Dennis over his anti-science nonsense – anti-scientific nonsense is nothing new to the many members of our party who whip up anti-agricultural biotechnology hysteria.
Brian: If he’s actively trying to do harm to the Green Party, sorry, but I have a problem with that.
Erin: Brian get over it…. sorry but I find this disrespectful. we all have differing views on many things…
Erin: Brian No one said we had to accept and believe ALL things about the party we support. I know of a Liberal MP – a really good one who I know has one value that opposes a very LIBERAL policy – so what… it doesn’t make them out to destroy the party. I also think Stefan’s description of Anti-science nonsense is not indicative of true GREEN values… not everyone is going to agree, let’s stop dissing those that have differing or opposing views and let’s work together.
Stefan: Let’s worry if he tries to run for an elected position within the party or starts drafting resolutions in line with his views. In the meantime, let us amuse ourselves with his peculiar mix of beliefs and content ourselves with the donations he is now making to the party, as well as the success of the BDS policy in drawing support from the most unexpected quarters.
Erin: I do believe GREEN Party attracts critical thinkers, and intelligence that allows for discussion. So let’s discuss, debate and we’ll all learn a thing or two.
Brian: On the other hand, somebody who is openly antithetical to taking action on climate change might be looking for a good way to divide us, to throw us into disrepute.
Erin: Brian and maybe not… imo, that’s projection… we don’t whip people, and I’m not to side with or bully someone to silence. you’ve brought this out… now let it go. imo you’re the one doing the damage here… let’s focus on what this group is about.
Brian: But really, why would a person who writes the following join the Green Party? Addressing climate change is at the absolute core of what we are working for in this party, but to Denis climate change it is a ‘state religion’: “Climate “science” certainly fulfills the criteria for acceptance as the new state religion. There is no lack of public funding for climate researchers in all areas, from policy to economics to biology to medicine to even climatology, who devise ways for society to avoid “climate liability”. This army of protectors of humanity are the (now proverbial) “97%”, who don’t expressly denounce the climate change god.”
Brian: If you were looking for a way to sow discord and disunity in the party, it seems that the BDS resolution would be a good way to do it.
Matthew: Actually, Brian, I can’t help feeling that you are trying to discredit Denis Rancourt in order to avoid answering tough questions about the unconstitutionality of the SGM.
But so we can get back to the real issue at hand, I will indulge your diversion for a moment.
First off, it should be noted that all the core values of Global Green movement were developed long before anthropogenic climate change was a predominant concern of the environmental movement.
While I do NOT agree with Denis’s thesis that climate change is not real. Not only does the preponderance of scientific opinion hold that it is real but we are starting to see climate-related phenomena which suggests the predictions such as global mean temperature rise, polar ice melts-offs, sea level rise and acidification, species migration.
However, I do see great merit in his critique of how the neoliberal and neoimperialist global economic order’s response to it serves a perverse agenda. We should be critical of his scientific claims but not dismissive, as it is indeed true that he is critical of exploitative resource extraction industries dominated by western nations. Th[is] is a policy dimension that the GPC’s policy portfolio is woefully lacking.
And whether or not Denis is correct about climate change, has no bearing on the arguments he has put forth here about the constitutionality of the SGM. If someone were to hire a lawyer and sue the GPC for fed council’s breach of its fiduciary duty, it would not matter what that lawyer or the judge deciding the case personally felt about climate change.
I suspect that I might have much to argue with Denis about but reading through his posts on his personal page it would seem he holds very comprehensively critical views regarding a variety of social and global justice issues that I very much do agree with and that he is no fan of resource extraction intensive industries, which makes his views on climate change atypical for a GPC member but still puts him effectively in alignment with GPC values.
Take for example this interview:
Interviewer: “But the goals of reducing consumption of fossil fuels would seem to be compatible with acting against exploitation and destruction, even if they aren’t the same thing. What makes you want to confront the basis for it, and directly undermine it?”
Denis Rancourt: “Truth and strong commitment to justice are a valid basis for a social movement, not compatible goals. Global warming or atmospheric planetary science is in its early developmental stages, with powerful computers, high-resolution field measurements, and satellite probing having just entered the scene, and at present at best provides tenuous suggestions. I have watched scientists study environmental degradation rather than denounce its most virulent forms for decades. In the 70s an army of government and university scientists tried to detect the relatively subtle effects of acid rain while deforestation, agriculture, mineral and energy extraction, over-fishing, and an exploding cottage industry transformed the boreal forest and its lakes. Most of the research had to be concentrated in a few pristine areas in national parks so that the subtle effects could be studied…
In pedagogy, one learns that the only way to get a student to accept a new paradigm is to enter into authentic discourse and to confront the student’s views that are incompatible with the more broadly based model. We are all both teachers and students.
We need to stop listening to scientists, who for societal reasons usually serve and at best do not threaten power, and start seeing what is obvious to inhabitants of the Third World: Finance-driven exploitation destroys and kills. Let us stop trying to manage the planet, stop believing that consumer choices could fix or even improve things in the present corporate marketing regime, and start thinking about how to correctly identify and effectively challenge the instruments of exploitation. The main relevant personal decision is how much risk one is prepared to take, not whether the coffee has a Fair Trade label. Life is risk. Let’s join the living.””
By all means question Denis’s position re climate change but I think you are out of line to try to dodge his perfectly valid arguments and questions by attempting to bury this thread in a pile of spurious accusations that he is somehow trying to wreck the GPC.
Matthew: Finally, as an admin for this group, I would ask you, Brian, to refrain from […]
<end of exchange>
- Fyfe, John C. et al. Making sense of the early-2000s warming slowdown. Nature Climate Change, vol. 6, March 2016, pages 224-228. [↩]
- Govindan, R.B. et al. Global climate models violate scaling of the observed atmospheric variability. Physical Review Letters, vol. 89(2), 8 July 2002, pages 028501-1 to 028501-4. [↩]
- List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming. Wikipedia. Accessed on 28 September 2016; William M. Connolley. Conservapedia. Accessed on 28 June 2016. [↩]
- Schiermeier, Quirin. “Climate models fail to ‘predict’ US droughts”. Nature, vol.496, 18 April 2013, page 284; Coats, Sloan et al. “Are simulated megadroughts in the North American Southwest forced?” Journal of Climate, vol. 28, 1 January 2015, pages 124-142. DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00071.1 [↩]
- Rancourt, Denis G. Anatomy of the false link between forest fires and anthropogenic CO2. Research Gate, 2016-05. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2059.6087 [and accepted in a peer-reviewed scientific journal] [↩]