Global Warming: a debate re-visited.

I have posted a near final draft of what became chapter 9 of my book Risk, published in 1995. The process of writing it transformed me from a firm believer in man-made global warming into a climate change agnostic – a position to which I still adhere. In 1995 it seemed  to me that most of the explanations being offered for what was happening to the climate were extraordinarily crude and simplistic relative to the complexity of  the system that the participants in the debate  purported to understand. I choose to call myself an “agnostic” rather than a “sceptic” because this appears to me to still be the case. The sceptics cast doubt on the “fact” of warming – I simply don’t know.

However my sympathies have shifted in favour of the sceptics in response to the disgraceful treatment of Professor Lennart Bengtsson after he recently proclaimed his scepticism and joined the Global Warming Policy Foundation. It is difficult to imagine a scientist more honoured and qualified to comment on this issue. The vicious personal response to his expressions of scepticism to me speaks volumes for their lack of confidence in the strength of their case.

I intend soon to post a review of these almost 20 year old thoughts – after deciding which ones I still agree with.  But meanwhile …


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  1. Rob Schneider says:

    Looking forward to seeing what you think.

  2. AV says:

    These are my sentiments on the issue, filmed in 2009

  3. Matthew Squair says:

    I must confess to a somewhat parochial view of climate change as I live in a country that of all the developed countries will be hit hardest by increasing temperature, and in fact is being affected by rising temperatures right now, so this is not an academic debate for me.

    I did however start out as a skeptic, as I was aware of all the “New Ice Age” hype of the 1970s, and as you say you need to look at multi-decade trends. Definitely a degree of bandwagon jumping going on, but then anyone can propose a theory its the facts that will dispatch it.

    However the state of the science, and the data, has moved along considerably since then so I now come down on the ‘good enough proof to action it’ side. Multiple convergent and supporting lines of evidence are convincing in summary.

    In contrast I find none of the proposed alternative theories as to global warming put forward to be at all convincing. There is no Galileo moment to be had amongst the skeptics, just a lot of ad-hoc defenses and muddying of the water to ensure that what they propose can never be put to the test in the Popperian sense. In the absence of a robust disprovable alternative theory I decline to advance them the courtesy of deeming their efforts worthy of a scientific debate.

    I’ll look forward to seeing what you think. The politics of course are fascinating like watching an aircraft crash in slow motion.

  4. Mark Miller says:


    I am looking forward to the update! I tried to download the draft- no such luck. I’ll check back in a few days to see if I can download the updated chapter 9.

  5. Dermot says:

    Hello John,

    Are you still going to “post a review of these almost 20 year old thoughts”? I would be interested to see in more detail what your misgivings are.

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