The thesis of this post is stark: there’s no point debating climate further until Fact 13 has been established.
What is Fact 13? The $1.5 trillion a year the ‘climate change industry’ was reported to have become by August 2015. Was that number even remotely right? What’s the correct one going to be in August 2020? And in August 2025? And how can we be sure, allowing a suitable lag, that we have a decent idea of the answer?
The *Big* Climate Audit
Here’s an email from the second Climategate tranche, written by a mysterious character called Alan Kendall to Phil Jones in March 2007:
Phil, I can assure you that Dave Palmer did not know about the particular threadline that I drew his attention to because, during my telephone conversation with him, his voice expressed surprise (and perhaps resignation?) as he opened up the website and because he thanked me for drawing the information to his attention.
I repeat, I am not primarily interested in the dispute between yourself and ClimateAudit and will keep my opinions to myself. However when I read that people are suggested methods of legal redress against the University for not supplying research data, I felt that I needed to act. I could not contact you by telephone, so resorted to informing Dave Palmer. I would do exactly the same if similar circumstances arose again.
Jones had emailed Kendall three days before, including these damning words about Steve McIntyre and his merry band of bloggers, two and half years into Climate Audit’s existence: “Also, these people are self-appointed auditors.” Well, not any more, if I get my way. I’m hereby proposing an official, comprehensive, global audit of everything that can be considered the “climate change business”. Including fossil fuel subsidies, by the way. Though that would I assume come under a different heading.
(May I take this opportunity to wish Alan, one of Cliscep’s most appreciated commenters, the very best for a full recovery of his health. I’m sure we’ll hear more on that soon.)
Does an audit, even a very good one, give rise to facts? The official phrase is that having reviewed a company’s accounts the auditors must be able to declare them to be a “true and fair view” of the situation. That will do me but I expect, indeed welcome, criticism from John Ridgway and others on this point.
Why ‘Fact 13’?
A year ago today I posted a response to the flagship BBC documentary called Climate Change – The Facts which had first been shown on 18th April 2019. Mine was called Climate Change – the Missing Facts and claimed to state twelve facts that the presenter David Attenborough and his band of experts had chosen not to mention. And nobody has in the last year debunked even one of the facts so stated.
But, in drafting that article, I had been careful, some would even say crafty. I didn’t claim that the $1.5 trillion a year was a fact. Instead the first fact began like this:
There was no mention of trade-offs in the programme, by Attenborough or anyone else, but it is a fact that they abound in the science, engineering and economics of energy, as we seek to make sense of, and respond to, what we are learning about climate change.
Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science who trained as a geologist, was quoted as follows:
There are many reasons we haven’t acted on climate change. Science is definitely part of the story. The science is complicated.
We agree that the science is complicated. We strongly disagree that “we haven’t acted”. $1.5 trillion a year is a lot of money. The issue is whether the actions taken since man-made global warming came to prominence as an idea, in 1988, have made sense. That depends on whether we’ve been smart enough to make the right trade-offs, based on all the available facts. The following sections give some food for thought on that.
I wasn’t willing to be challenged on this number as a fact, not least because of questions about its provenance. I felt sure such knockdown point-scoring would only detract from the overall message.
But a year later I’ve found myself wondering “Why isn’t this a known fact? It has to be foundational for all other climate debate by now. Surely policy wonks fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, at such extreme expense, would now agree, as would Michael Moore and the millions of viewers of his very detailed film on the many current abuses within the enormously well-funded ‘green energy’ movement.”
Why the embryo?
The embryo is 13 weeks old, just as the BBC show that began this train of thought is now in its 13th month. But the embryo is also me. I’m very aware that I’m inadequate, a nobody, to propose such a thing. But I am now at least able to suck my thumb, showing both that I’m thinking about it and that I need to comfort myself. Please be gentle with me but, more importantly, allow the idea itself to grow.