The latest institutional retreat from uncritical support of the AGW hypothesis is one that will chill warmists to the core: the Royal Society has announced it is to review its public statements on climate change. The Society now believes that its previous communications did not properly distinguish between what was widely agreed on climate science and what is not fully understood. It has appointed a panel to review its statements, assisted by two critical sub-groups, including a number of Fellows who have doubts about the received view on the risks of increasing CO2 levels.
In fact this review has been forced on the Society by 43 of its Fellows who demanded last January that the pamphlet Climate Change Controversies, produced in 2007 and published on its website, should be rewritten to take a less aggressive stance in support of AGW and respect climate change “agnostics”. In such partisan activities the Royal Society has form: in 2005 it published “A guide to facts and fictions about climate change”, which denounced 12 “misleading arguments” which today, post Climategate and the subsequent emboldening of sceptical scientists to speak out, look far from misleading.
This development does not, of course, mean that the Royal Society is embracing climate scepticism. On the contrary, it is very reluctantly modifying its stance to accommodate some of its Fellows who take the very scientific position that a degree of agnosticism is good practice when hypotheses remain unproven. Yet this retreat from absolutist global warming orthodoxy will deeply dismay the AGW lobby. For years, there was no fiercer proponent of the AGW theory than the Royal Society. Its previous president Lord May notoriously stated: “The debate on climate change is over.”
That was about as unscientific a statement as you could get: even the theories of iconic pioneers such as Einstein are routinely revisited by scientists. Yet Lord May intolerantly declared: “On one hand, you have the entire scientific community and on the other you have a handful of people, half of them crackpots.” Most major scientific advances have been achieved by a handful of people. That kind of dogmatic assertiveness brought great joy and comfort to the Al Gore cultists; to sceptics it was a reminder that the Royal Society’s founding members dabbled in alchemy – was the Society returning to its roots? Is carbon capture the new Philosopher’s Stone?