Martin Cohen

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Martin Cohen is one of a small number of philosophers (Simon Blackburn is another [1]) who object to the Global Warming theory on both evidential and methodological grounds. In his popular and influential book, 101 Philosophy Problems (1999, 2002, 2007 and widely translated), Cohen accuses Global Warming theorists of fallacious reasoning [2]. Firstly, he points out that climate is a complex and not a linear system, [3]so that (for example) an increase in temperatures could cause a change in ocean currents which would then cause a change in precipitation and cloud cover, and a decrease in temperatures. Climate, he points out, is 'chaotic', it is simply not amenable to the imposition of the kinds of simple linear relationship the Global Warming theorists require.

He argues that there are many unknown factors in climate -- the behavior of algae in the sea, the effects of sunspot activity -- so that supposed models are completely arbitrary. Similarly, data is being cherry-picked to support the theory -- so that a fall in temperatures in one region is also taken as evidence of global warming. [4]

Cohen argues that much of the 'evidence' for the theory is opportunistic [5]. As an environmental campaigner of long standing himself, he had experience of this, when in the 1990s. Cohen and other environmentalists were objecting to the threat to fish species in Yorkshire rivers after the privatised company, Yorkshire Water, imposed drought restrictions, in this traditionally very wet county in the north of England.

Call for a "rational debate"

In a front page feature article entitled Beyond Debate?, in Times Higher Education (the 10 December 2009 issue) he argues that climate change lobbyists such as Al Gore are:

  • Using images, such as the polar bears supposedly trapped on a melting iceberg, ships in a dried up sea as crude propaganda to appeal to people's fears rather than their reason.
  • Presenting irrelevant "data'," such as unusual weather events of high summertime temperatures, as though these were connected to the main climate change hypotheses, of carbon dioxide trapping heat, even though this theory in fact only concerns night-time temperatures.

He points out that the supposed causal link between carbon dioxide levels and temperatures has no historical basis, and relies instead on computer models that have been shown to be unreliable and misleading. It says that if, for those at the Copenhagen summit, the idea of man-made global warming is incontrovertible, the consensus is less a triumph of science and rationality than of public relations and fear- mongering.

Example of an environmental group attempting to use "Global Warming" for opportunistic political aims

Cohen and his group pointed out that in fact there was substantial rainfall in Yorkshire, but the company had invested inadequately in reservoirs and pipelines. The environmental group Friends of the Earth in London, however, wanted to use the affair to illustrate the exceptional changes Global Warming supposedly hearalded, and so instructed all campaigners -- even as the rain continued to pour in Yorkshire! -- to use the water shortage as evidence of global warming. This was a decision taken contrary to the evidence, and, they claimed, reflected a political rather than a scientific calculation. The Ilkley local group (which Martin Cohen co-ordinated) was one told to cease campaigning against Yorkshire Water for poor management practices -- or to disaffiliate. Ilkley chose to publicize the scientific evidence and disaffiliated. Who was right? The rain has scarcely ceased to fall in Yorkshire. In due course, the head of Yorkshire Water resigned after these was shown to be responsible for the water shortages. [6]

Example of professional environmentalists putting dogma ahead of the environment

Not so long ago, milk and other drinks came in wax-coated cardboard cartons. With full backing from green lobbyists, there has been a shift to drinks (milk, juices) being sold in plastic bottles. These are supposed to be "recyclable," unlike the cardboard, which would have been landfilled. However, the cardboard was a renewable, sustainable resource, from farmed wood. The manufacture of plastic is an energy-intensive process, which has limited recycling potential. At best, it will be recycled once, for example into garden furniture, or simply more packaging. What though, happens to that in time? It will be landfilled. In addition, the evidence is that most plastic packaging is NOT collected and NOT recycled. (The UK environmental charity Waste Watch estimates just 7% of plastic packaging is recycled.) [7] Even when they are, again research has indicated that the energy involved in recycling is more wasteful than any supposed saving. The supposed lesson is that environmental groups prefer to win a campaign and thus increase their political influence, than to follow either the science or the ethics.[citation needed]

In general, Cohen, claims that scientists are following a kind of collective herd instinct [8] where it has now become career-death to oppose the theory. When climatologists speak out, they are accused by ill-informed media commentators and those wielding accusations of displaying "unprofessional behavior." One example is George Monbiot. In such circumstances, a consensus soon occurs -- just as there was in the 1970s on the danger of a new "ice age," the so-called "White Earth Theory").[citation needed]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch resources

External resources

External articles

  • "Water Critics Run Out Winners", by Clare Walker, Yorkshire Post, 9 September 1996
  • Martin Cohen, 101 Philosophy Problems, Routledge (London and New York) 2007
  • Martin Cohen, Learn Your Water Tables, The New Statesman (London) September 9 1994, pp 28-9
  •, Web site, accessed 1 November 2007
  • 'Beyond Debate' Times Higher front page feature on Climate Change [1] accessed 10 December 2009


  2. Martin Cohen, 101 Philosophy Problems, Routledge (London and New York) 2007, page 163
  3. Martin Cohen, Learn Your Water Tables, The New Statesman (London) September 9 1994, pp 28-9
  4. Martin Cohen, 101 Philosophy Problems, Routledge (London and New York) 2007, page 163
  5. accessed 1 November 2007
  6. "Water Critics Run Out Winners", by Clare Walker, Yorkshire Post, 9 September 1996
  8. Martin Cohen, 101 Thought Experiments, Routledge (London and New York) 2008