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The Conversation’s ‘An Orwellian Climate’

A new Australian site, claiming more than 200,000 readers monthly, combines scientific and journalistic principles to improve public understanding of science, including climate science. This is the first Yale Forum re-posting from The Conversation, which strives for ‘academic rigour, journalistic flair.’ 


The climate change “debate” bears the stains of Orwellian interference.

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts” — Senator Daniel Moynihan

Science is a systematic, evidence-based, testable and self-correcting way of investigating the world. This is done through empirical observation, by experimentation and mathematics.

Ideologically dominated or totalitarian societies — such as George Orwell’s famous “1984″ Ingsoc — are marked by:

  • attempts to alter reality (“2 + 2 = 5 if the party says so”)
  • elimination of history (“He who controls the past, controls the future”)
  • rewriting collective memory (“Oceania is at war with Eurasia; therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia”)
  • The corruption of logic through aleration and elimination of language “Newspeak”
  • mind control (“thought crime”).
Reposted with Permission from ‘The Conversation’

But even science fiction writers such as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley or Doris Lessing did not envisage a civilisation that would knowingly, against the best scientific evidence, devastate its own atmosphere and ocean system as comprehensively as has been and continues to be done through anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change.

The bulk of the peer-reviewed science, premier research organisations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are in agreement: carbon emissions are causing a shift in the state of the atmosphere-ocean system.

But as a spate of extreme weather events around the world, related to rising temperatures, is intensifying, so has a chorus of pro-carbon advocacy. Advocates will tell you “it is the sun”, or “the Earth is cooling”, or “coal is clean”. It must be true if the conservative think tanks say so!

Other tactics aimed at “altering reality” include:

1) Questioning the role of greenhouse gases as drivers of climate, in contrast to the basic laws of physics and chemistry (such as Planck’s law, Steffan-Bolzmann’s law, Kirchhof’s law).

2) Invoking a plethora of unsupported alternative mechanisms such as solar radiation, cosmic rays, water vapour, Mars and Venus warming, volcanic emissions and geothermal heating, to name but a few.

3) Negating empirical scientific measurements by misciting the literature and propagating unreferenced plots from unknown sources. An example is the exaggeration of the Medieval Warm Period, which reached less than 25% of 21st century warming.

4) Avoiding, misrepresenting or attacking the bulk of the peer-reviewed literature (only a very small minority of papers question anthropogenic global warming).

5) Claiming scientists are working together in some imagined climate change conspiracy.

According to Vaclav Klaus, former president of the Czech Republic: “Today’s debate about global warming is essentially a debate about freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind each and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.”

6) Employing a plethora of websites containing recycled, long-discarded arguments.

Even Orwell couldn’t predict the climate debate.

The debate would have remained academic in nature had the issue not concerned the future of the atmosphere and ocean system — the lungs of the planet — and its inhabitants, including us.

Given the daunting consequences of current climate trajectories, climate scientists wish they were wrong and that the spectre of climate change would go away.

By contrast, pro-carbon lobbyists do not appear to express too many doubts, nor appear to understand the consequences should their version of reality prove wrong.

But never mind those who deny the science, when those who have been elected on a climate change platform are giving-up or delaying critical EPS legislation.

In Australia those elected under the banner of “the greatest moral challenge of our generation” state “the coal industry is safe“. Governments fail to directly inform the population of the realities and consequences of dangerous climate change.

Here is a summary of some of these realities:

1) Global temperature has already exceeded the upper target of a +2°C relative to pre-industrial levels set by the international community at both Copenhagen and Cancun.

Thus, atmospheric greenhouse gas-forced energy rise (solar heat trapped in the atmosphere) has now reached levels equivalent of +2.3°C.

This figure is masked only by a short-lived -1.1°C cooling effect, caused mainly by industrially emitted sulphur dioxide stratospheric aerosols — particles, which partly block sunlight from reaching the surface and warming the earth.

Incredibly the +2°C target is still discussed in political and economic reports as if it hasn’t been reached.

2) The connection between the spate of extreme weather events around the globe and climate change (see figure below) is still largely ignored by governments and most of the media, which either overlook extreme weather events, or dismiss such events as once-in-a-century event.

Arguably people would only be motivated to seriously tackle climate change if and when they understand the connection between the rising spate of cyclones, floods, heat waves and fires and the rise in temperatures over continents and ocean.

3) Despite political pre-election promises, development continues on infrastructure for extracting economic carbon from coal, oil (including from the Arctic Sea), coal seam gas, oil shale and tar sands.

These developments can only lead to the further release of hundreds of gigatons of carbon into an atmosphere already at 393 parts-per-million of CO₂.

As established by multiple studies of the history of the atmosphere, a concentration of 500+/-50 parts-per-million CO₂ in the atmosphere leads to the breakup of the Antarctic ice sheet.

But paradoxically, as the evidence for dangerous climate change has been strengthening, those who do not accept the scientific evidence appear to exert increasing influence over public opinion.

Inertia prevails. The current success of pro-carbon lobby is, at least in part, attributable to the “good news”, even though false, they and their media mouthpieces appear to project, using alternate “reality”, language and terms increasingly akin to Orwellian “Newspeak”.

Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleo-climate scientist at Australian National University. This article was originally published at The Conversation. See the original article.

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10 Responses to The Conversation’s ‘An Orwellian Climate’

  1. Erl Happ says:

    “Science is a systematic, evidence-based, testable and self-correcting way of investigating the world. This is done through empirical observation, by experimentation and mathematics.”

    Good, then tell me why the warming has been hemispheric, seasonal, intermittent and now appears to have stopped and how does that relate to your proposed mode of causation.

    But first lets establish that this Earth would not be a better place if it were not a couple of degrees warmer.

  2. Michael Ioffe says:

    My problems with science of climate change:
    1. I never read that Newton, Faraday, Einstein laws support 98% of scientists.
    2. I never read in Physics, Chemistry slogan like this “if 98% of scientists support…debate is over.”
    3. Debate are always welcome, especially right now about speed of light and law’s of Einstein

    The most strange things about climate change statement: “Carbon dioxide is GHG, because of that it trapped infra red radiation. In result temperature increased. In hotter air is more water vapor, which also GHG. It work as positive feedback for global warming”

    It is really “An Orwellian climate” science.
    We forget about all properties of water-evaporation, condensation, role of these properties in convection forces, in bringing energy of evaporation to upper troposphere, together with energy of other gases-it is10 km closer to space.

    This is really science, which could support comedians and mass media.

    Honest answer on question “How today science of climate change treat properties of water?” will destroy any peer reviewed scientific model, which used in climate science.
    I can’t imagine, how so many smart people still believe in this kind of science.
    Only suppression of opinion, which different from opinion of 98%, censorship in mass media, absent of grant in Universities to anyone, who want to study climate change from other position, could make from science problem political nonsense, with comedian style support.

  3. Nullius in Verba says:

    “Global temperature has already exceeded the upper target of a +2°C relative to pre-industrial levels”

    Heh. I do like that.

    A +2 C temperature rise is predicted, everybody looks around and fails to see it, but it turns out now it is actually here, it is just invisible, because of aerosols covering it up! Invisible warming is here to stay, and it is shocking, shocking!!! that there are people who doubt that invisible warming has happened! They think you can tell the temperature by going out and measuring it!

    The reality of temperature is not determined by observation. Reality is defined by publication in reputable scientific journals. And if reputable scientific journals agree that invisible warming has already increased temperature by 2 C, then that is the reality. Determining actual temperature by observation rather than by means of a consensus of approved experts is positively Orwellian!

    Oh yes, and “weather is climate” – until the weather turns cold of course, when the slogan becomes “weather is not climate and we’ve always said so”. Very Eastasia. Or was it Eurasia?

    This is so funny! Thanks for re-posting.

  4. “We’ve doubled the world’s food production several times before in history, and now we have to do it one more time,” said Jonathan A. Foley, a researcher at the University of Minnesota. “The last doubling is the hardest. It is possible, but it’s not going to be easy.”

    Please consider the following questions about the statements just above of my facebook friend.

    What do you think John means by the words, “The last doubling”? If “last” means the last in a succession of doublings, then how many more doublings of world food production do you believe the Earth can sustain? Or does his deployment of the word “last” mean the final doubling of world food production because he recognizes already that a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth cannot reasonably and sensibly be expected to sustain any more doublings? When John reports, “The last doubling…is…not going to be easy.”, does he express doubt about the Earth’s capacity to sustain even the doubling he believes is possible? What is the probability the Earth cannot sustain the doubling John believes is possible?

    What is the probability that the effort made to “double the world’s food production\” beginning now will lead to the radical dissipation of Earth’s finite resources and irreversible degradation of Earth’s ecology to the extent that our planetary home will be made unfit for all children to inhabit?

    How is Earth to be protected from the consequences of doubling the world’s food production: from outrageous per capita overconsumption and excessive individual hoarding of natural resources; from soon to become unsustainable overproduction leading to suffocating pollution and uncontrollable climate destabilization; and from unbridled overpopulation activities. All of which are adamantly advocated and recklessly pursued on our watch by many too many ”movers and shakers” (aka, One Percenters, masters of the universe, little kings in pin-striped suits proclaiming they do God’s work)?

    • Nullius in Verba says:

      By last, he means that no more will be necessary because fecundity decreases with prosperity. The birth rate is already declining as the developing world achieves prosperity, and is projected to stabilise around 2050.

      As for how many further doublings the Earth could sustain, that’s subject to some controversy. Some have calculated it to be around 7 with current technology, but I really wouldn’t like to guess.

      I would disagree though about the last doubling being the hardest. I would say that while it is still not easy, it’s easier than all the others. Technology does have that advantage.

  5. Jack Hughes says:

    devastate its own atmosphere and ocean system

    What is an ocean system ? Where is the “devastation” ? Some people need to get out more…

  6. Eli Rabett says:

    The denial is strong here. Clinton had it absolutely right:

    If you are an American the best thing you could do is make it unacceptable to engage in denial. i mean we look like a joke, right, you can’t win the nomination of one of the major parties in our country if you admit that the scientists are right.

    It’s really tragic because we need a debate in America and every country between people who are a little bit to the right and people who are a little bit to the left about what is the best way is to reducing greenhouse emissions. What is the most economical way to do it. What will get more done quicker,. There are all these things that in any other country would occupy a lot of space on the ideological spectrum from right to left and we can’t have this conversation because you got to deny it?

  7. Nullius in Verba says:

    Hi Eli,

    “and we can’t have this conversation because you got to deny it?”

    We can of course have a conversation. It is still possible for people who disagree to converse. We just have to accept from the start that the other person disagrees, they’re not likely to change their mind, and it can still be productive so long as we seek different goals than “winning” the debate. Take it as read at the start that we’re not going to accept arguments founded on the authority of scientists, and that you’re not going to acknowledge that there’s any problem with relying on corrupted or hidden data and flaky computer models (or however you would rather put it) and we can talk about what you want to talk about, hypothetically where required. We can explore ideas, seek understanding, without commitment.

    “we need a debate [...] about what is the best way is to reducing greenhouse emissions.”

    Certainly. The only technology I see as having any real potential at the moment is fast-breeder fission reactors for the current generation, possibly followed by solar for the next generation in 40 years time – although it is a fools game trying to predict which way future technology will go. For the time being, use France as your model – only you need to scale up, modernise, and do it with fast breeders (to ensure fuel supply can be scaled up too).

    That’s the engineering solution. The obstacles are politics and economics – with the economic problems being largely due to politics too. Finding a political solution to starting the rapid build of several hundred nuclear reactors close to population centres while clearing away all the planning enquiries, regulations, super-expensive safety engineering, accidents, mistakes and foul-ups, protesters, angry residents, special interest groups, populist politicians, lawyers and so on that will stand in the way is a problem I don’t have an answer to.

    Any suggestions?

  8. I didn’t notice the author until the very end. Hello Dr. Glikson, remember me from CCNet? Yes, Dr. Glikson and I have gone back and forth on several occasions. This article is extremely humorous as it takes each of the believer’s tactics and attributes them to the sceptics. Look at the early IPCC reports and see the chart of the Medieval Warm period and the Little Ice Age until Michael Mann came out with the Hockey Stick. Talk about changing history. Then the comment about upcoming cooling. Dr. Glikson, even the IPCC is admitting that natural variation will overtake “CARBON” for the next 20 or 30 years. That is just a ploy to keep up this charade for another 20 or 30 years while cashing grant checks. It might be funny if weren’t costing us our future. What evidence do the AGW believers have that the planet will warm to a bad end? Models. No observational data just models. In the words of Phil Jones head of the CRU at East Anglia, What’s wrong with the climate models, none of them work. and then he blames it on the handling of clouds. And yes, the Sun does control our climate and weather. Numerous weather events have been predicted on solar data to the day, months in advance. In October a UK forecaster predicted a storm of multiple feet of snow in the Northeast on Jan 11th-14th, 2012. I wouldn’t want my comments to be judged solely on one prediction but if it happens, that would be pretty incredible. Remember this comment and that date. You heard it here first.

  9. Mark Elsden says:

    This article is hilarious!

    Perhaps the author needs to have a closer read of George Orwell’s Novel “Animal Farm”.To summarize, it’s about how the ruling class (the pigs) manipulate reality and indoctrinate the other animals (using clever propoganda) in order to enslave them, steal their produce and live the high life on the gravy train.

    Many climate scientists, politicians, and journalists have become the hypocritical, self serving pigs that George Orwell warned about. I find it deeply ironic that the pigs had the lower animals build WINDMILLS.

    Andrew Glikson. You have joined the ranks of Orwell’s pigs.

    How many billions of dollars are being syphoned from us to “fight climate change”.