Re: The psychology of climate change
Flannery on defensive over leaked emails
Former Australian of the year and Copenhagen Climate Council chairman Tim Flannery says leaked emails from a British university’s climate research unit should not encourage scepticism on global warming.
A few days ago computer hackers stole private emails and research documents from the University of East Anglia.
In one of the leaked emails, respected US climatologist Kevin Trenberth admits that scientists cannot account for the lack of global warming to date.
“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t… Our observing system is inadequate,” the email says.
Climate change sceptics are hailing the emails as proof the research data has been skewed and suppressed.
But Dr Flannery says the scientific community knows enough to say greenhouse gases cause global warming, and that humans are responsible.
“The thing is we deal with an incomplete understanding of the way the Earth’s system works, we know enough to say as the IPCC said that greenhouse gases cause warming,” he said.
“They are 90 per cent-plus sure that it’s caused by humans, we can go that far.
“In the last few years, where there hasn’t been a continuation of that warming trend, we don’t understand all of the factors that creates Earth’s climate, so there are some things we don’t understand, that’s what the scientists were emailing about.”
Dr Flannery says scientists are working to find out how the whole system works.
“These people (scientists) work with models, computer modelling. When the computer modelling and the real world data disagrees you have a problem. That’s when science gets engaged.
“What Kevin Trenberth, one of the most respected climate scientist in the world, is saying is, ‘We have to get on our horses and find out what we don’t know about the system, we have to understand why the cooling is occurring, because the current modelling doesn’t reflect it’.
“And that’s the way science progresses, we can’t pretend to have perfect knowledge, we don’t.”
He says science works through a robust interchange and testing of ideas that can look messy when you are in the middle of it.
“Really what’s happened here is that some criminals have hacked their way into a university database, taken these emails, for all we know selectively distributed ones that look incriminating or look like they put the scientists in a bad light just two or three weeks before Copenhagen,” he said.
The university agrees, saying the emails have been taken out of context and cannot be used to engage with the issue responsibly.
No global treaty
A few months ago, Dr Flannery was pessimistic about the possibilities of a global treaty at Copenhagen.
He now says it is clear no global treaty will be reached.
“The conventional process, the UNFCCC process, has really come to a dead end,” he said.
“Instead we are seeing is something new and interesting, which is global leaders engaging.
“I suspect we’ll get a deal … a political deal, just the headlines of what people agree to which will be quite effective in my view.
“I’m optimistic about the outcome of Copenhagen and about the probability of overcoming this problem.”
Dr Flannery says he believes a political deal will emerge between China and the United States, and that it is central to the outcome of Copenhagen.
“The announcement made a few days ago between [Mr] Obama, and [President] Hu Jintao in China, that joint declaration, that has very deep roots,” he said.
“The Chinese scientists and the US science people have been working for years on this, even before [Mr] Obama came to power.
“There’s a lot of detail laid into that. It’s great to see that coming to fruition now.”