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Mark the moment! The first renegade science conference

Apart from conferences organized by the Heartland Foundation I don’t recall a skeptic dominated professional conference or science association convention. Skeptics have spoken at many conferences before, but this time the skeptical speakers vastly outnumbered the fans of the IPCC, ten to one. This was an event where — by the sounds of it — it would have been uncool to be an unskeptical scientist (as indeed it ought to be). No prizes for guessing which branch of science could no longer be held down by political correctness.

It’s a sign of the times, the phase shift is coming.

Tom Harris gives a great summary in the Financial Post:

Climate Isn’t Up for Debate

Anyone not already familiar with the stance of geologists towards the global warming scare would have been shocked by the conference at the University of Ottawa at the end of May. In contrast to most environmental science meetings, climate skepticism was widespread among the thousand geoscientists from Canada, the United States and other countries who took part in GAC-MAC 2011 (the Joint Annual Meeting of the Geological Association of Canada, the Mineralogical Association of Canada, the Society of Economic Geologists and the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits).

Speakers included Bob Carter and Ian Plimer as well as Henrik Svensmark, along with many others who talked about water vapor, the role of the sun, satellite radiation measurements and many other approaches. One speaker spoke along lines that the IPCC would have been happy about, but none of the other IPCC supporters accepted the invitations.

Where were all the other scientist supporters of climate alarmism? Did they not know that climate was a major focus of this, the largest geologic conference in the country?

They knew. According to Miall, even though some were directly invited, they either refused to participate or ignored the invitation. “The people on the ­IPCC side generally will not debate,” explained Miall. “Anything that’s brought up that they disagree with, they say has been dealt with and is no longer considered important, or is a minor effect. This is often quite wrong.”

In the Q&A following the public lecture at last June’s Canadian Meteorological and Ocean Society (CMOS)/Canadian Geophysical Union Congress in Ottawa, the prospect of a public debate between the two sides was put to keynote speaker Warwick Vincent of Laval University. Vincent was supportive, as was a CMOS past president communicated with later. Yet, when I approached CMOS executives and directors about taking the steps necessary to arrange such a public event, the responses were negative to the point of abuse and nothing transpired.

This was perhaps not surprising. Proposals for a proper climate science debate have been opposed by CMOS leaders for a long time. As early as 1990, the chairman of the CMOS congress scientific committee, Tad Murty (then a senior research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Institute of Ocean Sciences) tried to arrange a global-warming debate. But it never happened. Murty cites a “lack of enthusiasm” from other committee members as the reason.

Geoscientists need to speak up

Miall maintains that the views of geoscientists are crucial for a proper understanding of climate.

“This should have been accepted practice all along, not because geoscientists are necessarily right, but because this should be the normal process of science,” said Miall. “The idea that any science is ‘finished’ violates all the norms of the science process, which should, by definition, be permanently open to new data and new ideas. The history of science is full of examples of so-called ‘normal science’ that is shown to be wrong on the basis of a single critical piece of data or a new idea. That’s all we were trying to do at the GAC meeting — keep our minds open.”

Uncomfortable though it may be for geoscientists, society needs them to speak out forcefully now. Otherwise, the climate alarm, its science failing but the movement still heavily funded, will stagger on, leading society into wasting billions of dollars more and destroying millions of jobs worldwide.

Financial Post
Tom Harris is the executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition.

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