Name: John Carr
What is your background?
I have followed a fairly typical academic career path, following a PhD in experimental physics at Imperial College, London in 1974. I held a number of academic positions around the world before settling in France in 1990 with a CNRS ‘Directeur de Recherche’ position. My research has concerned Particle Physics and later Astroparticle Physics. Initially I worked on accelerator-based experiments at laboratories in the UK (Rutherford Appleton), Canada (TRIUMF), USA (Fermilab, SLAC) and Switzerland (CERN). Later, I worked on Astroparticle Physics experiments located around the world (ANTARES, KM3NeT, H.E.S.S., CTA). The particle physics experiments aim to understand the subatomic particle composition of matter and the astroparticle experiments apply particle physics ideas to the study of the large-scale universe. My personal involvement in these experiments started with tasks to build various components of the experiments, from high-field magnets to particle detectors, as well as extensive data analysis. As my career progressed, I held various scientific management positions. My most important scientific management responsibility was on the ANTARES Neutrino Telescope which was operational at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea near Toulon from 2006-2021. For the ANTARES project, I was spokesperson during the construction phase from 1999-2008 and had overall responsibility for scientific and technical decisions as well as financial responsibility. After this responsibility, I was appointed Project Manager of the CTA Observatory from 2010-2013. This project is working towards the construction of a large gamma ray telescope observatory with sites in Chile and the Canary Islands. During my career, I have served on multiple committees evaluating and advising on research projects in France, Switzerland, Canada and USA. In this career I have had contact with several technical issues related to instruments and the environment which are relevant to the climate change debate.
Since when and why are you interested in climate change?
I first became aware of climate change research in 1985 when I moved into a house in Boulder (Colorado), where the neighbour was employed at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which we could see from the street. This person described to me the work he was doing on climate simulations, including his scepticism and unhappiness with his activities. Following this, I intermittently followed the subject until around 2008, when I attended an oceanographic conference in Marseille where I heard a talk by Richard Somerville concerning the effects of carbon dioxide in oceans. The evidence for the dramatic statements Somerville made, was very weak and I was prompted to start reading about climate change in detail, starting with Somerville’s own book. Soon afterwards I purchased a hardcopy of the ARS4 WG1 report and started studying in detail. I read several books on the subject. I found that sceptics wrote better books while some of the books written by climate heroes were boring and some had elementary mistakes. About a year ago, following the media hysteria and the incendiary plots published after the ARS6 reports appearance, I started myself to download and analyse the temperature and CO2 data because I found looking in detail at the data was the only way at present to find the reality in the massive exaggerations.
How did your views on climate change evolve?
I have described this in the previous section. I had doubts about climate change research from the moment I first became aware of it. Likely the 2008 presentation by Richard Somerville was the aha moment. I have been much influenced by books from Bjorn Lomberg, Richard Muller, Michael Schellenberger, Steven Koonin, Antonello Provenzale and Judith Curry. I also found the book from Marcel Crok and Andy May very useful and revealing.
Is climate change a big issue in your country and how do you notice this?
The assessment of this has to be subjective based on my contacts and experience. I would say that energy generation and conservation are big issues in France but fear of ‘The Climate Emergency’ is not dominant in politics. The Green Party (EELV) in France has become ultra left-wing and it is not clear that they have any positive policies, they are just against everything the government is doing. The Macron government is now pushing to expand the nuclear power fleet after a long period where it has been under attack from Greens. The government has many policies and subsidies for energy conservation. Likely the reality is that France has among the best policies in the EU for the environment and climate change, but it seems not to be recognised either internally or externally.
What would climate policy ideally look like in your view?
I believe that CO2 levels in the atmosphere cause some part of the observed GMST temperature increase but the details of how much and what this does to extreme weather events are uncertain. So, as a precautionary principle, I think reducing emissions in a sensible way should be done. To do this, I believe electricity generation by fossil fuel should be replaced with generation by nuclear reactors. Because wind and solar generation, in the absence of massive storage, requires fossil fuel back-up, these generation technologies should be replaced with nuclear. Actions to develop technologies to reduce CO2 emission in steel production, concrete production and other industrial processes should be continued. Actions for energy savings in housing such as insulation and application of heat pumps should be pushed as much as possible. Electric vehicles should be supported but without any impossible target to ban ICE vehicles at a specific date. Policies involving carbon capture and storage will never be economically acceptable and so should be abandoned. Policies to use hydrogen should be very carefully evaluated and not be based on desires to satisfy public opinion for ‘Green’ policies.
What is your motivation to sign the CLINTEL World Climate Declaration?
After reading about climate change, and to some extent working on related issues, for over 15 years, I believe I have enough knowledge of the subject to form an informed scientific opinion. This opinion coincides with the views expressed in the WCD. Recently, I became increasingly conscious that serious exaggerations are being made in the media. These exaggerations amount to dangerous propaganda which is affecting general public beliefs and government policy making, in a very negative way. I strongly support actions to convince everybody that ‘There is no Climate Emergency’ so sensible actions can be taken to improve global human prosperity.
What question did we forget?
I suggest: What should CLINTEL do to improve the communication of the ‘There is no Climate Emergency’ message ? Many personalities, such as the authors of the books I mention above, express the no-emergency view, in particular Judith Curry with her ‘Climate Uncertainty and Risk’ book and in interviews such as: David Staples: The thinking women’s guide to climate change (Edmonton Journal).
None of these people seem to have signed the WCD, although I imagine they have been invited to. I think it would be helpful for you to publish on the website the reasons why not. I think books are the only way to get the proper information across to a wide audience, nothing less than a book can do it, because of the complexity. My recommendation is to use these books and interview to publicize the WCD position. The general public unfortunately seems to like the concept of a democratic approach to science, e.g. 97% of scientists believe in Global Warming, although I hate it myself. Beyond the particular academic paper which makes such claims, nobody really knows in detail what this means, even though it is repeated a lot. The WCD petition in some way counters this but invites many objections, e.g. how can anyone believe somebody who does not have a peer reviewed publication on climate change? There are 10.000 climate scientists in the world and only 1600 signatories of the petition, only 10 of whom are climate scientists. Although painful, your website would do well to pre-empt such arguments by quoting the history and facts about climate science. The IPCC is the biggest contributor to the dangerous propaganda. It is difficult to see how the world could advance without UN structures, but the IPCC should be reformed. I do not know enough to make concrete proposals myself but I think it would be useful if CLINTEL could propose a new mandate for the IPCC and lobby for IPCC reform.