Bias in Science

I just watched the Freddie Sayers UNHERD interview with Prof. Jay Bhattacharya from Stanford. The Great Barrington Declaration, also signed by Prof. Gupta from Oxford, proposed an alternative  policy to lockdowns while protecting the vulnerable. This was almost immediately ridiculed by mainstream epidemiologists and especially SAGE scientists as being dangerous nonsense. The signatories consequentially suffered professional damage as a result.  Today though as we learn that vaccines cannot fully stop the spread of COVID, so their approach begins to look more reasonable because we will most likely have to learn to live with COVID becoming an endemic disease. All the  various lockdowns, consequent economic carnage, and related non-COVID health damage (cancer, mental health etc.)  may turn out to have just been delaying the inevitable. The Barrington signatories were pilloried and ostracised by their peers at the time, so too was Anders Tegnell in Sweden. However they may well yet prove to have been right all along.

The conclusion I found most interesting in this interview was the proposal that scientific advice can simply depend on your politics rather than the “science”.  Since most academic scientists are inherently left wing so they tend to support top down social justice interventions. The consensus opinion against the Barrington scientists may simply have been because they were viewed as being too libertarian by opposing their government advice to impose NPIs.  Similarly they rubbished Tegel’s policy in Sweden for the same  reason. The left tend to be far more likely to support imposing widespread controls on social “justice”  whereas the right are more likely to oppose big government control over private lives. This advice for authoritarian control of society has then been  accentuated by the fear of COVID whipped up by the press. People become willing  to accept such draconian limitations on their freedom once they believe that otherwise their lives will put in imminent  danger.

There is almost an exact analogy here with the situation in Climate Science. The climate “experts” also tend to come from left leaning science academia and likewise they too are proposing stringent top down controls on society and our private lives in order to save the planet from climate change. The emergence of an explicitly left political protest group XR, hell bent on imposing a technological “lockdown” by force is no surprise since it has the implicit support of most climate scientists. The temperature data indeed seem to get more alarming and the language ever more strident. The difference though is that “dangerous” climate change, if it can even be defined,  is still projected to occur many decades into the future when most of us will be dead anyway. The other point that is completely overlooked is exactly how the whole world can realistically cut all CO2 emissions and who will police it. If it  was easy and cheap then it would already have happened.

So just how political has climate science become? Can we really trust the existing temperature data and its  projected rise into the future by ever more sensitive models? What would a 3C warmer world actually look like and why can’t we simply adapt to it?  How possibly could the world achieve Net Zero ? Who should act first? How much would it cost  and how would you then do you police other countries emissions ? These are all questions studiously avoided by climate scientists. It is someone else’s problem, not theirs.

AR5 was a good report but it had one flaw which many climate scientists hated. It showed a temperature “hiatus” – or essentially no warming at all between 1998 and 2012

AR5 Comparison of global temperature anomalies with CMIP5 models

Since then a huge effort has gone into expanding the station data, “homogenising” (adjusting nearby data station data) and extrapolating the results into sparsely populated regions especially the Arctic ( I have been doing the same !). This has resulted in vanishing the famous AR5 hiatus. A steady increase in temperatures is now the consensus, although even then the  trend still lies in the lower half of model projections (low sensitivity)

Updated Figure 2020 ( maintained by Ed Hawkins)

However some of the updates for example those in HadCRUT4 show that the underlying temperature data have been altered. The figure below shows a comparison of the final HadCRUT3 dataset and the latest HadCRUT4 series both calculated using just the  HADCRUT3 only station numbers.

Comparison of HadCRUT3 temperatures and HADCRUT4.6 temperatures restricted to H3 stations only. ‘New’ uses only the CRUTEM4 versions of the CRUTEM3 stations

This change enabled 2010 to just exceed the 1998 temperature breaking the Hiatus, although I discovered that they also relocated some stations using the same station number.

Figure 2. The black curve is based on “modern” CRUTEM3 stations combined with HADSST3 and the Yellow curve is CRUTEM3 stations with HADSST2.  Neither reproduces the Hiatus seen in  HadCRUT3

AR6 WG1 “summary for policymakers” is now available and he language is more strident and the graphics more slick. Humans have caused a net warming of about 1.1C since pre-industrial times.

Change in global surface temperature (decadal average) as reconstructed (1-2000) and observed (1850-2020)

The comparison is against the last 2000 years but if instead you use Marcott instead then the warmest period during the Holocene was 6000 years ago and was about 0.5C warmer than 1850. However current temperatures are still 0.6C warmer than then. The Eemian interglacial was yet warmer again reaching about 5C warmer than 1850. Here is my spiral showing EPICA Ice core derived temperatures over the last ~200,000 years.

So the earth has been warmer than now 125,000 years ago and far colder 24,000 year ago. Most human development has occurred during the holocene interglacial. Industrialisation since 1800 has improved the life of  billions of people, but the price to be paid for this is an unforeseen rise in CO2 levels leading to a ~1C rise in average annual temperatures. This rise will continue until CO2 levels stabilise. However the idea that you can blame an oil company for localised flooding or forest fires though is daft nonsense. The impact of an ever increasing population and the loss of natural environments are probably just as important.

Everyone agrees that we must eventually stop burning fossil fuels to avoid excessive temperatures in the next 80 years. The question is how to achieve that goal without destroying the wellbeing of everyone. For some reason political pressure groups push governments to deploy “renewable energy” and close all fossil fuel power plants. The trouble is none of them do the sums. David Mackay did them for us but most activists have conveniently forgotten his results.

If we electrify road transport & heating we will need more than twice the current peak power delivery. That roughly translates to 90GW power delivery for the UK at 6pm.  Quite often all UK Wind turbines combined produce <1GW for 24h. Sometimes they produce quite a lot (up to 18GW) and sometimes they produce nothing at all. A modern society cannot function with blackouts so renewable energy should never form the core of any electricity supply system. That has to be nuclear energy. Nothing else works and we have to stop listening to Greenpeace and XR nonsense.

Another fact that is conveniently ignored: A world based on renewable energy must also generate enough energy to renew itself – mine & refine copper, steel, rare earths, aluminium, fibreglass etc. Then transport them all to site, demolish the old plant, clear the site and erect the new plant, all without using any diesel.

So beware of simplistic solutions based on political ideology which simply don’t work.

About Clive Best

PhD High Energy Physics Worked at CERN, Rutherford Lab, JET, JRC, OSVision
This entry was posted in AGW, Climate Change, Covid-19, Public Health. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Bias in Science

  1. RichardLH says:

    “A modern society cannot function with blackouts so renewable energy should never form the core electricity supply system”

    Energy storage will mitigate some of the unevenness so it not quite as bad as you have painted.

    • Some? A tiny amount would be more axcurate

    • Clive Best says:

      Do the sums. Let’s assume we need an average of 30GW over a 24h period without wind. The energy storage requirement is 720GWh which is equivalent to 620 Ktons of TNT.
      You would not want to be anywhere near such an energy store as it is equivalent to 40 Hiroshima bombs. The only feasible energy store is pumped Hydro but you need large mountains and low population. Norway may be able to do it, but only paid for by exporting North Sea oil and gas to UK and Europe.

  2. Jerry says:

    Is wearing a mask a “draconian limitation” on freedom?

    • Clive Best says:

      If you have been doubly vaccinated you don’t really need to wear one. Is the mask to protect yourself or to protect others from you?

      Your breath escapes out the sides of the mask so the virus too escapes and diffuses. So good ventilation is far more important than wearing masks.

  3. marcus says:

    “Today though as we learn that vaccines cannot fully stop the spread of COVID, so their approach begins to look more reasonable because we will most likely have to learn to live with COVID becoming an endemic disease”

    Hmm. Vaccines cannot fully stop the spread of COVID, so why did we wait? Oh, I know! Because mortality _with_ vaccines is much lower than mortality _without_ vaccines. The various lockdowns likely saved many millions of lives.

    (also, if we had actually locked down competently, it is possible we would have been able to follow the example of Australia, NZ, various Asian countries, etc., and basically keep zero COVID until getting full vaccination)

    • Clive Best says:

      Yes I agree.

      I think the argument is that we didn’t need such stringent lockdowns while vaccines were being rolled out as fast as possible.
      Australia and NZ were not vaccinating hardly anyone as they strived for zero COVID. Australia have millions of unused Astra Zeneca which are probably safer than Pfizer. They could have by now vaccinated nearly everyone.

  4. Paul says:

    Hello Clive ,

    thanks for the post . Government are like oil tankers , they take time to turn around .

    As a student of history and energy resources I did a little back of the fag packet calculation that when like this ;-

    according to one web source ( yes I know) we migh have a bit of a race here as theres 42 years of oil left , Nat gas about 157 years at current rates (that the rates will change is given).

    if we take 42 years as max and as oil is needed for coal extraction then I get

    for oil 82ppm
    for gas 157/42= 3.74. 60/3.74= 16ppm
    for coal 237/42= 5.64. 237/5.64 42ppm

    ( once oil is gone there is still nat gas and coal to burn , I know oil will not carry on in a straight line and will follow a decline curve but for the sake of a rough estimate I have ignored that)

    emitted CO2 140ppm x 0.56 ocean absorbtion factor = 78.4ppm added

    415ppm + 78.4ppm = 493ppm by 2063 * a do nothing scenario *

    ( the ocean absorbtion factor again is not changed for the lenght of time , I know it could do so )

    I then get a temp gain 0.46C above today’s 0.69C would make that roughly 1.15C by 2063.

    Of course if we use coal to make oil it would be much worse.



    PS : ppm figures were calculated from 1 part per million of atmospheric CO2 is equivalent to 2.13 Gigatonnes Carbon and then using the reserve BoE of oil,gas and coal and converting that to CO2 when burnt. Thw ocean factor was calculated on figures showing that about 56% of emitted CO2 gets absorbed , leaving 44% in the atmosphere.

  5. Clive Best says:

    Yes so if we calculate net temperature rise since pre-industrial times we get a net warming of 1.8C. This would continue to rise as the oceans reached energy balance with the atmosphere (ECS) but this is counteracted by the continued absorption of CO2 by the Oceans. My guess is we end up with 2C warming which is not disastrous. CO2 levels and temperatures will continue to fall over millennia until we enter another Ice Age.

  6. Tor Ole Klemsdal says:

    Thank you for a brilliant and balanced comment! Regarding the warming since 1850 I would add that we still cannot exclude that changes in solar activity and cloud cover may have played a significant (albeit minor) part. After all, according to for instance Jevrajeva et al 2014 sea level began to rise around 1850,

    while net forcing from greenhouse gases minus cooling aerosols were close to zero until 1890.

  7. Dan Pangburn says:

    “Everyone agrees that we must eventually stop burning fossil fuels to avoid excessive temperatures in the next 80 years.” ? Perhaps except for those who are aware of the average global water vapor increase above that resulting from just average global temperature increase.

    • Snape says:

      “Perhaps except for those who are aware of the average global water vapor increase above that resulting from just average global temperature increase.”

      If water vapor was increasing faster than what you’d expect from an increase in temperature, wouldn’t you expect an increase in relative humidity?

      But according to this article, just the opposite has been observed:

      • Dan Pangburn says:

        Whoever wrote “According to the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, the air can generally hold around 7% more moisture for every 1C of temperature rise.” apparently does not understand the CC equation very well and is not aware that it only applies at saturation.

        The important factor to global warming is the increase in average global water vapor (WV). According to NASA/RSS, WV trend has increased about 6% since they started accurately measuring it worldwide in Jan, 1988. The Total Precipitable Water (TPW) data are at

        A study, presented in Sect 6 of indicates about 90% of the human contribution to WV is from irrigation, 8.5% from elec power cooling towers and only 1.5% from everything else. The TPW data are graphed at Fig 5.

        • So embarrassing to go on about a single measure (which is a single DoF) and try to convince people that you can model it.

        • Bob Peckham says:

          I find this paper on water vapour v CO2 fascinating, potentially very important, and wonder if it is going to be published in any refereed journal ? Seems convincing to me. As an aside the recently aired TV Programme “H2O the Molecule That Made Us” (BBC4 Wed 1st Sept, 9pm) showed the massive amounts of groundwater that have been extracted from underground acquifers in recent decades, in some cases completely exhausting the acquifers, as well as graphic illustrations of dams all over the planet.

          • Clive Best says:

            It clearly is the case that liquid oceans covering 66% of the earth’s surface must stabilise temperature extremes over 100s of millions of years. Liquid water has been present on earth as far back as 3.8 billion years ago when the sun was fainter than today. Humans have temporarily interfered with localised water cycle on land as well as CO2 levels in the atmosphere, but we have had little effect on ocean dynamics. Here is something I wrote a few years ago.


  8. According to this you completely dismiss the idea that CO2 acts as a non-condensing GHG that is able to catalyze the condensing GHG of H2O into a positive feedback warming mode and therefore prevent the Earth from turning into a snowball.

    That is the artifice that all of GHG theory rests on — see the CO2 control knob paper's_Temperature

  9. Dan Pangburn says:

    Here is a peer reviewed paper that corroborates what I have been asserting for years: That water vapor controls the climate and CO2 has no significant influence. The sun matters because it provides the energy to drive the water vapor into the atmosphere
    Statements therein include:
    “Carbon dioxide and the other non-condensing greenhouse gases (GHGs) as in Figure 3 are small, passive, and have no effect on the Earth’s temperature.”

    A recent update of my work which focuses on the observation that WV controls climate because it has been increasing faster than possible from just planet warming is at

    • Bob Peckham says:

      Thanks for pointing out the corroborative paper. You are probably already aware, but maybe not all readers are, that this very recent paper in the International Journal for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences comes to very similar conclusions:

      • You two ding-dongs apparently don’t understand how catalysis works, as you’re probably not engineers. From section 3.5 of that paper you linked to titled “Water Vapor Feedback”, it says

        “This results in the infinites series ?n(j·k)n converging to a value of 1.183, which becomes an amplification factor due to H2O for any change in temperature in Kelvin, for any reason.”

        This is so laughable.

        • Bob Peckham says:

          You guessed right , I am not an engineer. But it looks like at least two of the authors of the paper are engineers. If you find that section of the paper laughable, will you inform the authors and help them to correct it ?

      • Clive Best says:

        Clearly the presence of liquid oceans covering 2/3 of the the earth’s surface has a huge effect on climate. Water vapour dampens the lapse rate and raises the troposphere in the tropics. Low clouds cool the surface as we all know trying to keep warm on beaches in the UK. High altitude Cirrus clouds can increase greenhouse. So it is complicated. The net feedback effect of H2O is still not clear but the presence of liquid oceans for over 4 billion years implies that there is a long term stabilising effect on the earth’s temperature and life itself may be involved in this.

  10. Dan Pangburn says:

    Only about 25% of the recent (since before 1860) increase in CO2 was from human activity according to Dr Ed Berry’s preprint 3 at . That means the human contribution to climate change is from something other than CO2. The something other is apparently the increase in water vapor which has been increasing about 1.49% per decade. The WV increase trend is about 31% faster than calculated in the GCMs. The WV increase is mostly (about 90%) from increasing irrigation.

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