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By Hans H.J. Labohm : BIO| 11 Sep 2020
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Skeptical voices in the international global warming debate are predominantly Anglo-Saxon, with occasional smatterings of Nordic, Russian, Italian and Dutch. But the French are conspicuously absent. How come? French intellectuals are reputed for their independence and dissenting views on any conceivable subject. Consequently, the French have a tradition of a very lively political debate -- yes, even of passionate polemics on just about any issue. But one topic has been conspicuously absent from the debate so far: global warming. Or has it?

Not exactly. But because of the language barrier, French climate skepticism has hardly been noticed outside the francophone world, while it has generally been ignored by politicians and the established climate community in France itself.

One of the most prominent French climate skeptics, Marcel Leroux, has recently published a magnum opus (more than 500 pages) on the subject: Global Warming: Myth or Reality? The Erring Ways of Climatology. The author is no stranger in climate Jerusalem. He is professor of climatology at the University J. Moulin and director of the Laboratoire de Climatologie, Risques, Environnement, both in Lyon. He has already been criticizing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for some 20 years. He believes that temperatures are the result of the dynamics of weather systems in the context of the various distinct aerological spaces in the world, not of the hypothetical equations of climate models.

Leroux started to write his book in order to comment on the sad state into which climatology has drifted during the last 20 years, since its entering into the political arena, and to show that climatology is also itself to blame for this drift.

"Hardly a week goes by without some new 'scoop' ... filling our screens and the pages of our newspapers," he writes. "'Global warming' caused by the 'greenhouse effect' is our fault, just like everything else, and the message/slogan/ misinformation becomes even more simplistic, ever cruder! It could not be simpler: if the rain falls or draught strikes; if the wind blows a gale or there is none at all; whether it's heat or hard frost; it's all because of the 'greenhouse effect', and we are to blame. An easy argument, but stupid!"

"The Fourth Report of the IPCC might just as well decree the suppression of all climatology textbooks, and replace them in our schools with press communiqués. ... Day after day, the same mantra -- that 'the Earth is warming up' -- is churned out in all its forms. As 'the ice melts' and 'sea level rises' the Apocalypse looms ever nearer! Without realizing it, or perhaps without wishing to, the average citizen in bamboozled, lobotomized' lulled into mindless acceptance. ... Non-believers in the greenhouse scenario are in the position of those long ago who doubted the existence of God ... fortunately for them, the Inquisition is no longer with us!"

In his book he also meticulously analyzes the development of climate science, focusing on the successive reports of the IPCC, which appeared in 1990, 1995, and 2001. According to Leroux, the first report already contains the core ideas of what is known as "global warming", but its tone is moderate and it makes no mention of human responsibility for it. The second report contributes nothing new from a scientific point of view, but suddenly and surprisingly, the human race is held responsible for global warming.

How was this turnaround achieved? New scientific insights? No, it was the result of a veritable scientific coup by sleight of hand. The scandal was brought to light by various people involved, including Frederick Seitz, president emeritus of Rockefeller University and chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute (Washington). In his letter to the Wall Street Journal, on June 12, 1996, he wrote:

"[But] this [IPCC] report is not what it appears to be -- it is not the version that was approved by the contributing scientists listed on the title page. In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including service as president of both the National Academy of Sciences 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.

A comparison between the report approved by the contributing scientists and the published version reveals that key changes were made after the scientists had met and accepted what they thought was the final peer-reviewed version. ... Few of these changes were merely cosmetic; nearly all worked to remove hints of the skepticism with which many scientists regard claims that human activities are having a major impact on climate in general and on global warming in particular.

The following passages are examples of those included in the approved report but deleted from the supposedly peer-reviewed published version:

- 'None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed [climate] changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases.'

- 'No study to date has positively attributed all or part [of the climate change observed to date] to anthropogenic [man-made] causes.'

- 'Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced."

Instead, the following text was inserted: "The balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on global climate." In spite of the way this view was imposed, and all the subsequent controversy, the idea was never retracted.

The third report brought a second scientific coup. It increased the value of the predicted rise in temperature, and clinched the argument with the hockey stick diagram -- more recently exposed as a hoax -- stating that temperatures in recent times are higher than they have been for a thousand years. Moreover, the spectrum of the consequences of the greenhouse effect was considerably broadened, to the extent that it included every meteorological phenomenon.

Leroux also draws attention to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, of which article 6 on education and training, obliges participants to sensitize the public, at a national level, to climate change and its effects. States signatories to the Convention are thus bound to adopt the concept of "global warming" at the highest institutional level, to impose it as an incontrovertible dogma (i.e., a sort of state religion impervious to debate). In France, Leroux adds, the "servants" of the state -- and in their name, both audio-visual media and institutes -- feel bound to propagate the official dogma, just like a certain press agency in the East in its heyday; echoing the triumph of Lysenkoism, they shape public opinion in favor of the official theses.

In his treatment of the relative contributions of various greenhouse gases, including the most important one, water vapor, which represents 95 percent of the total greenhouse effect, he calculates that human activities account for only 0.28 percent, which is less than exciting. Consequently, he argues that we must shake off our unfounded obsession with the anthropogenic greenhouse effect, and reconsider the problem of climate change in a different way, re-establishing the proper hierarchy of phenomena and giving the "water effect" the major climatic importance it deserves.

All in all, Leroux believes that climatology has gradually become distanced from the treatment of real facts, the dynamics of weather and climate, especially under the growing influence of modeling. It has been in a conceptual deadlock for more than 50 years. "We can't really know what the weather will be like more than two or three days ahead," he writes, "but now all this has been erased in a trice! Now it is unhesitatingly claimed, we can predict weather and climate (which is the sum of weather) as far ahead as the year 2100. ... Astrology or science?"

Hans Labohm, co-author of Man-Made Global Warming: Unravelling a Dogma, recently became an expert reviewer of the IPCC.

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