Manufacturing consensus

Andrew L. Urban

Just out, the first book to be published by the US based Global Warming Foundation is by the Australian writer/researcher Bernie Lewin, a detailed – and damning – historical deconstruction of the origins of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), titled Searching For The Catastrophe Signal. Acclaimed climate scientist Dr Judith Curry calls it an “important new book” and goes on to provide targeted commentary “in context of the theme of ‘detection and attribution’, ‘policy cart in front of the scientific horse’ and ‘manufacturing consensus’.

Dr Curry begins by noting that “In a connection that I hadn’t previously made, Lewin provides historical context for the focus on CO2 research in the 1970s, motivated by the ‘oil crisis’ and concerns about energy security. There was an important debate surrounding whether coal or nuclear power should be the replacement for oil.”

As she points out, this seeded what became the focus on carbon dioxide, but the focus was not driven by atmospheric scientists. This point helps us understand how things went so horribly wrong as the science and the politics mixed to become a stinking cocktail – and CO2 became its evil emission.

Lewin, a Melbourne based writer, blogger and an environment activist since the early 1980s, was amazed at how the global warming scare had come to overwhelm all other environmental campaigns. In 2008 he started to investigate how there came to be such a widespread belief that it had a firm foundation in the authority of science.

His book provides ample detail of the (sorry) history of the IPCC and the policies that were based on its reports – world over. In chapter 8, he identifies just how things worked in this pseudo-scientific world. Comments Dr Curry: “The key scientific issue at the time (mid 1990s) was detection and attribution.”

“In 1995, the IPCC was stuck between its science and its politics. The only way it could save itself from the real danger of political oblivion would be if its scientific diagnosis could shift in a positive direction and bring it into alignment with policy action.  

The writing of Chapter 8 (the chapter concerned with detection and attribution) got off to a delayed start due to the late assignment of its coordinating lead author. It was not until April that someone agreed to take on the role. This was Ben Santer, a young climate modeller at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

The chapter that Santer began to draft was greatly influenced by a paper principally written by Tim Barnett, but it also listed Santer as an author. It was this paper that held, in a nutshell, all the troubles for the ‘detection’ quest. It was a new attempt to get beyond the old stumbling block of ‘first detection’ research: to properly establish the ‘yardstick’ of natural climate variability. The paper describes how this project failed to do so, and fabulously so. 

The detection chapter that Santer drafted for the IPCC makes many references to this study. More than anything else cited in Chapter 8, it is the spoiler of all attribution claims, whether from pattern studies, or from the analysis of the global mean. It is the principal basis for the Chapter 8 conclusion that . . . .no study to date has both detected a significant climate change and positively attributed all or part of that change to anthropogenic causes.”

But by the time the draft report had gone through the process, “a final version of a ‘bottom line’ detection claim was decided: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”

Frederick Seitz was furious and wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal: “In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including service as president of both the NAS and the American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report.”


In the comments thread on Dr Curry’s Climate Etc website where she discusses this book, David L. Hagen makes an interesting contribution (Jan. 3, 2018):

Was Margaret Thatcher the first climate sceptic? Margaret Thatcher was the first leader to warn of global warming – but also the first to see the flaws in the climate change orthodoxy.

Climate Alarmist Thatcher

Mrs Thatcher was the first world leader to voice alarm over global warming, back in 1988, With her scientific background, she had fallen under the spell of Sir Crispin Tickell, then our man at the UN. In the 1970s, he had written a book warning that the world was cooling, but he had since become an ardent convert to the belief that it was warming, Under his influence, as she recorded in her memoirs, she made a series of speeches, in Britain and to world bodies, calling for urgent international action, and citing evidence given to the US Senate by the arch-alarmist Jim Hansen, head of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
She found equally persuasive the views of a third prominent convert to the cause, Dr John Houghton, then head of the UK Met Office. She backed him in the setting up of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, and promised the Met Office lavish funding for its Hadley Centre, which she opened in 1990, as a world authority on “human-induced climate change”.
Hadley then linked up with East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to become custodians of the most prestigious of the world’s surface temperature records (alongside another compiled by Dr Hansen). This became the central nexus of influence driving a worldwide scare over global warming; and so it remains to this day – not least thanks to the key role of Houghton (now Sir John) in shaping the first three mammoth reports which established the IPCC’s unequalled authority on the subject.

Climate Skeptic Thatcher

In 2003, towards the end of her last book, Statecraft, in a passage headed “Hot Air and Global Warming”, she issued what amounts to an almost complete recantation of her earlier views.
She mocked Al Gore and the futility of “costly and economically damaging” schemes to reduce CO2 emissions. She cited the 2.5C rise in temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period as having had almost entirely beneficial effects. She pointed out that the dangers of a world getting colder are far worse than those of a CO2-enriched world growing warmer. She recognised how distortions of the science had been used to mask an anti-capitalist, Left-wing political agenda which posed a serious threat to the progress and prosperity of mankind.


Searching for the Catastrophe Signal: The Origins of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, available in paperback and Kindle




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