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By George Monbiot, AlterNet. Posted May 14, 2005.

Climate change denial, as David Bellamy's claims 
show, is based on pure hocus pocus.


For the past three weeks, a set of figures has 
been working a hole in my mind.  On April 16, New 
Scientist published a letter from the famous 
botanist David Bellamy. Many of the world's 
glaciers, he claimed, "are not shrinking but in 
fact are growing. ... 555 of all the 625 glaciers 
under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring 
Service in Zurich, Switzerland, have been growing 
since 1980."

His letter was instantly taken up by climate 
change deniers.  And it began to worry me.  What 
if Bellamy was right?

He is a scientist, formerly a senior lecturer at 
the University of Durham.  He knows, in other 
words, that you cannot credibly cite data unless 
it is well-sourced.  Could it be that one of the 
main lines of evidence of the impacts of global 
warming -- the retreat of the world's glaciers -- 
was wrong?

The question could scarcely be more important. 
If man-made climate change is happening, as the 
great majority of the world's climatologists 
claim, it could destroy the conditions which 
allow human beings to remain on the planet.  The 
effort to cut greenhouse gases must come before 
everything else.  This won't happen unless we can 
be confident that the science is right.  Because 
Bellamy is president of the Conservation 
Foundation, the Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife 
International and the British Naturalists' 
Association, his statements carry a great deal of 
weight.  When, for example, I challenged the 
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders over 
climate change, its spokesman cited Bellamy's 
position as a reason for remaining sceptical.

So last week I telephoned the World Glacier 
Monitoring Service and read out Bellamy's letter. 
I don't think the response would have been 
published in Nature, but it had the scientific 
virtue of clarity: "This is complete bullshit." 
A few hours later, they sent me an e-mail.

"Despite his scientific reputation, he makes all 
the mistakes that are possible."  He had cited 
data which was simply false, failed to provide 
references, completely misunderstood the 
scientific context and neglected current 
scientific literature.  The latest studies show 
unequivocally that most of the world's glaciers 
are retreating.

But I still couldn't put the question out of my 
mind.  The figures Bellamy cited must have come 
from somewhere. I e-mailed him to ask for his 
source.  After several requests, he replied to me 
at the end of last week.  The data, he said, came 
from a web site called www.iceagenow.com.

Iceagenow.com was constructed by a man called 
Robert W. Felix to promote his self-published 
book about "the coming ice age".  It claims that 
sea levels are falling, not rising; that the 
Asian tsunami was caused by the "ice age cycle"; 
and that "underwater volcanic activity -- not 
human activity -- is heating the seas."

Is Felix a climatologist, a vulcanologist, or an 
oceanographer?  Er, none of the above.  His 
biography describes him as a "former architect." 
His web site is so bonkers that I thought at 
first it was a spoof. Sadly, he appears to 
believe what he says.  But there indeed was all 
the material Bellamy cited in his letter, 
including the figures -- or something resembling 
the figures -- he quoted. "Since 1980, there has 
been an advance of more than 55 percent of the 
625 mountain glaciers under observation by the 
World Glacier Monitoring group in Zurich." The 
source, which Bellamy also cited in his e-mail to 
me, was given as "the latest issue of 21st 
Century Science and Technology."

21st Century Science and Technology? It sounds 
impressive, until you discover that it is 
published by Lyndon LaRouche.  Lyndon LaRouche is 
the American demagogue who in 1989 received a 
15-year sentence for conspiracy, mail fraud and 
tax code violations.  He has claimed that the 
British royal family is running an international 
drugs syndicate, that Henry Kissinger is a 
communist agent, that the British government is 
controlled by Jewish bankers, and that modern 
science is a conspiracy against human potential.

It wasn't hard to find out that this is one of 
his vehicles: Larouche is named on the front page 
of the magazine's web site, and the edition 
Bellamy cites contains an article beginning with 
the words "We in LaRouche's Youth Movement find 
ourselves in combat with an old enemy that 
destroys human beings ... it is empiricism."

	[ LaRouche's NZ agent is, or anyhow has 
been, rtd coal scientist Peter Toynbee of 
Wellington  -  who of course gets in the NZ 
Horrid readily  -  RM ]

Oh well, at least there is a source for Bellamy's 
figures.  But where did 21st Century Science and 
Technology get them from?  It doesn't say.  But I 
think we can make an informed guess, for the same 
data can be found all over the internet.  They 
were first published online by Professor Fred 
Singer, one of the very few climate change 
deniers who has a vaguely relevant qualification 
(he is, or was, an environmental scientist).  He 
posted them on his web site www.sepp.org, and 
they were then reproduced by the appropriately 
named junkscience.com, by the Cooler Heads 
Coalition, the National Center for Public Policy 
Research and countless others.  They have even 
found their way into The Washington Post.  They 
are constantly quoted as evidence that manmade 
climate change is not happening.  But where did 
they come from? Singer cites half a source: "a 
paper published in Science in 1989." Well, the 
paper might be 16 years old, but at least, and at 
last, there is one. Surely?

I went through every edition of Science published 
in 1989, both manually and electronically.  Not 
only did it contain nothing resembling those 
figures; throughout that year there was no paper 
published in this journal about glacial advance 
or retreat.

So it wasn't looking too good for Bellamy, or 
Singer, or any of the deniers who have cited 
these figures. But there was still one mystery to 
clear up.  While Bellamy's source claimed that 55 
percent of 625 glaciers are advancing, Bellamy 
claimed that 555 of them -- or 89 percent  are 
advancing.  This figure appears to exist nowhere 
else. But on the standard English keyboard, 5 and 
% occupy the same key.  If you try to hit %, but 
fail to press shift, you get 555, instead of 55%. 
This is the only explanation I can produce for 
his figure.  When I challenged him, he admitted 
that there had been "a glitch of the electronics."

So, in Bellamy's poor typing, we have the basis 
for a whole new front in the war against climate 
science.  The 555 figure is now being cited as 
definitive evidence that global warming is a 
"fraud," a "scam," a "lie." I phoned New 
Scientist to ask if he had requested a 
correction.  He had not been in touch.

It is hard to convey just how selective you have 
to be to dismiss the evidence for climate change. 
You must climb over a mountain of evidence to 
pick up a crumb: a crumb which then disintegrates 
in your palm. You must ignore an entire canon of 
science, the statements of the world's most 
eminent scientific institutions, and thousands of 
papers published in the foremost scientific 
journals. You must, if you are David Bellamy, 
embrace instead the claims of an eccentric former 
architect, which are based on what appears to be 
a non-existent data set. And you must do all this 
while calling yourself a scientist.


George Monbiot is the author of Poisoned Arrows 
and No Man's Land (Green Books).  Read more of 
his writings at Monbiot.com.