We need leaders who dare to question the climate ‘consensus’

Are we in the midst of a climate crisis? Broadly speaking, there are three answers to this question.

Yes and we must decarbonize immediately. King Charles III delivered the keynote speech at the COP28 international climate conference organized by the United Nations last December. A confident and persuasive public speaker, Charles called for a “zero-carbon future” and said that a global climate catastrophe is imminent.

How imminent is “imminent”? UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell told a conference recently that “we have two years to save the world”. That was on April 10, so there are only 718 days left. The clock is ticking.

Yes but sensibly so that we don’t return to the Stone Age. To the consternation of participants, UAE Sultan Al Jaber, the president of COP28, stated: “There’s no science out there that says that the phase out of fossil fuels is what is going to achieve 1.5 []. 1.5 is my North Star.”

No and we shouldn’t decarbonize. Many scientists believe that there is no climate crisis and that an increase in CO2 would actually be beneficial. The CO2 Coalition website is loaded with scientific facts at odds with the IPCC view. These are not guys wearing tinfoil hats.  

Since the IPCC is widely regarded as authoritative, it's worth having a closer look at the claims in its latest publication. This is called the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). Three working groups have produced three reports – one on the physical science behind climate change, one on impact and adaptation, and one on mitigation. I will be examining Climate Change 2021 The Physical Science Basis (CC 2021).

The UN General Assembly created the IPCC in 1988. The IPCC doesn’t conduct its own scientific research on climate; it compiles research done by scientists from around the world. So far, it has published six rounds of assessment reports, each one taking 5 to 8 years to complete. (The latest reports can be viewed here.)

Let’s look at a few key points in the IPCC’s narrative.

Is climate science really science?

CC 2021 states: “United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has stated that ‘the evidence is irrefutable’ and ‘we see the warning signs in every continent and region’.”

Rhetoric like this is seriously misleading. The great philosopher of science, Karl Popper, said: “It is easy to obtain confirmations, or verifications, for nearly every theory — if we look for confirmations.” But science is not about confirming theories: it is about falsifying theories.

For instance, Popper was very sceptical of Marx, Freud, and Adler, the authors of some of the grand narratives of the early 20th century. His criticism might apply to some of the IPCC’s conclusions:

“I felt that these other three theories, though posing as science, had in fact more in common with primitive myths than with science; that they resembled astrology rather than astronomy …  These theories appear to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred. … Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirmed instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it.”

Mr Guterres’s statement is a clear example of science as confirmation, not science as falsification. You can see this fallacy at work every day in the media. If there is a hurricane in Florida, global warming is at work. If there is a drought in California, global warming is at work. If there are Arctic temperatures in Texas, global warming is at work.

Feedback loops

At the core of King Charles’s concern about climate catastrophe is the notion of “dangerous feedback loops.” “Feedback” has a prominent role in CC 2021 The 2,391-page document uses the word 2,440 times.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, positive feedback makes Earth warmer and negative feedback makes it cooler.

A good example of a feedback loop is clouds. About two-thirds of Earth is covered by clouds at any time. CC 2021 states that clouds have positive feedback. So increases in temperature cause changes to clouds that in turn warm the Earth, the IPCC believes.

But not all climate scientists agree. In 2001 Dr Richard Lindzen and colleagues published an article “Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris? Their research showed that as air temperature increased, high wispy cirrus clouds dissipated, allowing more thermal energy to escape to space, and thereby cooling the planet. That is negative feedback.

It's not unusual to have contradictory views among scientists, but I was taken aback by what I learned next.

On page 94, under “Earth System Feedbacks”, CC 2021 says that the net feedback is positive: “The combined effect of all climate feedback processes is to amplify the climate response to forcing (virtually certain).” (Forcing is net thermal energy directed downwards to Earth). Well, there’s not much doubt in that statement is there?

And yet, just two pages later, Figure TS.17 shows that the sum of all climate feedback is negative. That is completely the opposite.

I initially thought that I had misunderstood something. Is this kind of contradiction even possible given the document’s hundreds of authors and reviewers, and its editorial team of 19 highly qualified individuals? I asked Dr Richard Lindzen about this. In his opinion, the working group which produced CC 2021 “has never been totally coherent”. However, there is a political need for positive feedback. “This leads, he said sardonically, “to increasing disagreement with observations.”  


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Anthropogenic climate change is not a done deal

CC 2021 declares that recent climate change is “overwhelmingly due to human influence”. But not all climate scientists agree. An international team of 37 scientists published a paper in 2023 that stated, “the scientific community is not yet in a position to confidently establish whether the warming since 1850 is mostly human-caused, mostly natural, or some combination.” They re-iterated this in a follow-up paper.

Temperature Targets of 1.5℃ and 2℃

The goal of limiting a temperature increase to 2℃, 1.5℃ ideally, relative to 1850-1900 was introduced at COP16 in 2010. AR5 Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis was the latest climate science available to the delegates at COP21 in 2015 that produced The Paris Agreement.  AR5 referred to only one scientific paperpublished in 2011 dealing with 1.5℃ warming. AR6 referred to 20 scientific papers on warming of 1.5℃, mostly published in 2018. Oddly, the paper published in 2011 found in AR5 doesn’t even appear in AR6.

None of this proves anything conclusively, but it does fuel the suspicion that some scientists are producing reports to fit the political narrative to obtain funding. That in turn raises questions about the reliability of their research.

Hockey stick graphs

Al Gore made famous Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph in his Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth (2006). CC 2021 has its own versions, (p.6 and p.46). These are impressive diagrams.

There’s a problem, though, according to Steve McIntyre, a citizen scientist. He demonstrates via analysis of temperature proxy data from tree rings, ice cores, etc. that we don’t have accurate temperature data for the past 2000 years. This undermines the credibility of these hockey stick graphs. (For detailed references, please contact the author at https://climateaudit.org/)

It may be tempting to dismiss a citizen scientist, but his work on temperature proxy data is thorough, rigorous, published in peer-reviewed literature, uncontested in US federal court and was confirmed by the National Academy of Sciences.

CO2 saturation

In my opinion, the most troubling discovery I made consists of two sentences on pp. 1006-1007: “These started as early as Angstrom (1900) criticizing the results of Arrhenius (1896) arguing that the atmosphere was already saturated in infrared absorption such that adding more CO2 would not lead to warming. The assertion of Angstrom was understood half a century later to be incorrect."

What does this mean? The IPCC is claiming that (1) CO2 doesn’t get saturated and therefore there would be no upper limit to heating caused by additional CO2 in the atmosphere, and (2) we have known about this since about 1950.

However, we’ve known since 1971 that CO2 does get saturated and its effects as a greenhouse gas diminish as it increases. In other words, CO2 is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

If this is true, efforts to reach Net Zero are useless and incredibly wasteful after a certain point. 

* * * * *

All IPCC documents rely upon the science in Climate Change 2021 The Physical Science Basis. The vast majority of those who attended COP28 probably have accepted them as reliable and are now using them to shape climate policies in their home countries. This is a big problem.

If the IPCC is correct, and we don’t decarbonize, much of the world will be destroyed. If they are incorrect, decarbonization (i.e. Net Zero), will needlessly inflict much hardship upon the world. There will be widespread starvation.

Few world leaders have dared to express scepticism about the substantial conflicting science around climate, e.g. climate feedback, the impact of CO2 vs natural climate variability, etc. Sultan Jaber came close, but not close enough.

We need a new kind of leader to emerge, someone with courage and integrity who can organize and execute an honest and fully transparent review of the basic science of Earth’s climate. Nothing else will do, because the stakes are so high. We must get this right.

Is scepticism about anthropogenic global warming warranted? Tell us in the comments.   

Fabiano Micoli has a B.Eng. (mechanical), MBA, and B.Ed. (math and physics). He writes from Toronto.

Image credit: Bigstock 



Showing 12 reactions

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  • Fabiano Micoli
    published this page in The Latest 2024-05-11 11:19:52 +1000
  • mrscracker
    Trotsky Lives! ,
    Exactly. Things change & those who can adapt survive.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-04-25 20:48:53 +1000
    Yes, we do need “leaders who dare to question the climate ‘consensus’”

    Because things are getting bad faster than the “climate consensus” thinks

    If you believe your God created the universe then physical laws are as much God’s laws as anything in your bible or koran or whatever holy text you think is definitive.

    And physical laws say adding CO2 to the atmosphere will cause a warmi9ng trend.

    Lo and behold we observe a warming trend.

    And anyone who looks at the data and is not terrified by what we observe is either in denial or does not understand the issues.

    As I said, things seem to be getting bad faster than anyone predicted.

    Here is an example:

    ‘We were in disbelief’: Antarctica is behaving in a way we’ve never seen before. Can it recover?


    The melting of the Antarctic see ice is one of the positive feedback loops scientists have identified that accelerate the effects of adding CO2 to the atmosphere.

    Another is more water vapor. Water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas so when you cause more evaporation you make the atmosphere even more opaque to infrared.

    So you are welcome to live in your self-righteous bubble in which you feel superior to the actual scientists who are doing the hard work. But we are wrecking our habitat.

    And, to repeat, it seems to be getting bad faster than we thought.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-04-25 09:55:04 +1000
    No, John. Carbon dioxide doesn’t always lead to more plant growth. And any increases in growth are going to be negated by the increase in temperatures and lower nutrients that we’re doomed to have. That’s what happens when we don’t leave soil fallow so it can recover.


    “Scientists have observed the CO2 fertilization effect in natural ecosystems, including in a series of trials conducted over the past couple decades in outdoor forest plots. In those experiments artificially doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels increased trees’ productivity by around 23 percent,according to Norby, who was involved in the trials. For one of the experiments, however, that effect significantly diminished over time due to a nitrogen limitation. That suggests “we cannot assume the CO2 fertilization effect will persist indefinitely,” Norby says.

    In addition to ignoring the long-term outlook, he says, many skeptics also fail to mention the potentially most harmful outcome of rising atmospheric CO2 on vegetation: climate change itself. Its negative consequences—such as drought andheat stress—would likely overwhelm any direct benefits that rising CO2 might offer plant life. “It’s not appropriate to look at the CO2 fertilization effect in isolation,” he says. “You can have positive and negative things going at once, and it’s the net balance that matters.” So although there is a basic truth to skeptics’ claim, he says, “what’s missing from that argument is that it’s not the whole picture.”

    Scientists have also looked specifically at the effects of rising CO2 on agricultural plants and found a fertilization effect. “For a lot of crops, [more CO2] is like having extra material in the atmosphere that they can use to grow,” says Frances Moore, an assistant professor of environmental science and policyat the University of California, Davis. She and other experts note there is an exception for certain types of plants such as corn, which access CO2 for photosynthesis in a unique way. But for most of the other plants humans eat—including wheat, rice and soybeans—“having higher CO2 will help them directly,” Moore says. Doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels, she adds, does boost the productivity of crops like wheat by some 11.5 percent and of those such as corn by around 8.4 percent.

    A lack of nitrogen or other nutrients does not affect agricultural plants as much as wild ones, thanks to fertilizer. Still, research shows plants “get some benefits early on from higher CO2, but that [benefit] starts to saturate” after the gas reaches a certain level, Moore says—adding, “The more CO2 you have, the less and less benefit you get.” And while rising carbon dioxide might seem like a boon for agriculture, Moore also emphasizes any potential positive effects cannot be considered in isolation, and will likely be outweighed by many drawbacks. “Even with the benefit of CO2 fertilization, when you start getting up to 1 to 2 degrees of warming, you see negative effects,” she says. “There are a lot of different pathways by which temperature can negatively affect crop yield: soil moisture deficit [or] heat directly damaging the plants and interfering with their reproductive process.” On top of all that, Moore points out increased CO2 also benefits weeds that compete with farm plants."
  • John Joseph
    commented 2024-04-25 09:44:37 +1000
    Paul Bunyon wrote – “No, John. Not all plants do better in environments with more carbon dioxide.”

    Sorry to have to break it to you Paul, but that statement is false!

    Here’s a quote directly from the University of Columbia -

    “Rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere drive an increase in plant photosynthesis—an effect known as the carbon fertilization effect. New research has found that between 1982 and 2020, global plant photosynthesis grew 12 percent, tracking CO2 levels in the atmosphere as they rose 17 percent. The vast majority of this increase in photosynthesis was due to carbon dioxide fertilization.”

    However, there are in fact some plants that do not increase growth rates in CO2 enriched environments. They are called C4 plants and they have evolved to utilise more CO2 ALL BY THEMSELVES and they do it by suppressing photorespiration and carrying out CO2 fixation twice! Maize, Sorghum and Sugarcane are three well known examples of C4 plants. Rice is not a C4 plant, it’s a C3 plant, but the bioengineers are working on it!!

    Here’s some more easy reading for you, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce…

    The headline is “Study: Global plant growth surging alongside carbon dioxide”

  • Trotsky Lives!
    commented 2024-04-24 14:26:12 +1000
    @paulbunyan — well, seeing Miami underwater will be distressing for everyone who owns a house there. However, to quote myself, “stuff happens”. Parts of Iceland, for instance, are in danger of becoming inhabitable because of lava flows and to the best of my knowledge, this has not high to do with global warming. Icelanders will adapt. Some 12,000 years ago Doggerland was a fertile and hospitable area between Britain and the Netherlands. Climate change (the non-anthropogenic kind) happened. The sea rushed in. And people adapted. We cannot build our future around stasis.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-04-24 13:43:46 +1000
    No, John. Not all plants do better in environments with more carbon dioxide.


    “Experiments in which scientists piped extra CO2 into plant-growing chambers have proven this basic science: the additional carbon makes plants grow faster if you maintain other factors, such as soil nutrient and water availability.1 Yet things may not be so simple for the planet at large, Des Marais says. Additional experiments have tracked plants growing in free air carbon enrichment (FACE) sites, where the researchers added CO2 not to enclosed chambers but to open environments such as agricultural fields that more closely simulate reality. Although the added carbon sped up plant growth in these places, it did not accelerate nearly as quickly as for plants in closed, CO2-rich chambers.2

    Although plants need carbon dioxide to grow, their success in very high-carbon environments is not guaranteed. Not all plants like extra carbon equally. And for those carbon aficionados in the plant kingdom, CO2 is not the only factor that controls growth. As any aspiring green thumb knows, plants need the right balance of water and soil nutrients to translate extra carbon dioxide into growth.

    This is a problem, given the way our climate is trending. Climate change, driven by excessive CO2 in the atmosphere, deepens droughts in places like the American West. That reduces the water supply for plants there while simultaneously increasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires. In other places, plants will have to cope with more frequent disasters like flooding and heat stress, exposure to saltwater from rising seas, and an increase in pests that enjoy warmer winters."
  • John Joseph
    commented 2024-04-24 13:36:33 +1000
    Paul Bunyon, the article you linked to is merely a list of variables that affect agriculture which could have been compiled by any farmer a hundred years ago. Despite the doom and gloom about global warming, now called climate change, that has been foisted upon us for the last forty years, global food production has continued to increase. To quote from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) “As a global trend, national per capita food supplies from both plant and animal sources consistently increased over the past 50 y for all variables, with animal foods becoming increasingly important in contribution to protein and oil crops dominating fat food supplies”. Or better still, if you are so inclined, go forth and talk to some farmers. I am one.
    The article you linked to states " Some laboratory experiments suggest that elevated CO2 levels can increase plant growth." What a ludicrous statement. Farmers have known for hundreds of years that ALL plants grow better with increased levels of CO2. In fact, it is one of the reasons we have so many greenhouses dotted around our landscapes and in which some producers elevate CO2 levels to be as high as 1100 ppm (Meanwhile, you and others are scared witless because global CO2 is now at 400 ppm.), because it has been known for nearly 100 years that CO2 enrichment improves plant growth. Are you familiar with the formula for photosynthesis? Without photosynthesis all life on earth would be extinct. CO2 is absolutely vital for the photosynthetic process to occur, and the well-known benefits of CO2 enrichment prove that there is nothing to panic over. The history of greenhouses can be traced back to imperial Rome, as food producers have tried to figure out how to overcome the millstones of climate variability, such as droughts, floods, extreme heat, extreme cold etc that can make a farmer’s life misery. They are climatic variables that have plagued farmers for millennia and not signs of a climate Armageddon as you are led to believe.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-04-24 13:30:12 +1000
    There can be no “adaptation” to half of Florida disappearing underwater. There will only be more climate refugees and destroyed farmland.
  • Trotsky Lives!
    commented 2024-04-24 11:57:16 +1000
    This particular objection to the article won’t fly. You are complaining that climate change will ruin fruit crops. OK. Stuff happens. There will always be climate change, sometimes bringing severe weather events or lasting changes in the weather patterns. The answer is adaptation. This is the theme of Bjorn Lomborg’s critique of climate alarmism.
    He is worth reading. He is not a climate change “denier”:
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-04-24 09:41:01 +1000
    Precisely, Paul Bunyan.

    You’ve summarised the situation beautifully.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-04-24 09:31:29 +1000
    This article could have been written by the tobacco industry. For decades they denied the link between smoking and lung cancer. Then they cast doubt upon the studies for as long as possible.

    The same thing is happening now with climate change. We’ve now shifted into the “global warming is good” spin doctoring cycle.

    This is, of course, nonsense. Not all plants benefit from higher concentrations of CO2 or higher temperatures. And not all animals (crucially, this includes domesticated animals raised for food) can survive higher temperatures. The expected warming in a few decades will wreak havoc on crop yields.


    “Higher CO2 levels can affect crop yields. Some laboratory experiments suggest that elevated CO2 levels can increase plant growth. However, other factors, such as changing temperatures, ozone, and water and nutrient constraints, may counteract these potential increases in yield. For example, if temperature exceeds a crop’s optimal level, if sufficient water and nutrients are not available, yield increases may be reduced or reversed. Elevated CO2 has been associated with reduced protein and nitrogen content in alfalfa and soybean plants, resulting in a loss of quality. Reduced grain and forage quality can reduce the ability of pasture and rangeland to support grazing livestock.
    More extreme temperature and precipitation can prevent crops from growing. Extreme events, especially floods and droughts, can harm crops and reduce yields. For example, in 2010 and 2012, high nighttime temperatures affected corn yields across the U.S. Corn Belt, and premature budding due to a warm winter caused $220 million in losses of Michigan cherries in 2012.”

    And let’s not forget that carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas we have to worry about. Attempting to muddy the waters and ignore the big picture doesn’t help anyone.