LESS than a month before the Climate Conference in Copenhagen there is fierce competition to see who can produce the most absurd global warming scare. Hence the hysterical warnings of disappearing ice caps and temperatures rising 2°C. The winner must be President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, who held a cabinet meeting underwater to warn about rising sea levels.
In reality, the Maldive Islands are not threatened. Dr Nils-Axel Mörner, a world expert, points out that sea levels there are now lower than they were in 1970. Like other climate horror stories, it is nonsense.
From about 1850 to now, carbon dioxide (CO² ) in the air has risen from about 280ppm (parts per million) to 390ppm. Global temperatures have also risen modestly — about 0,6°C in the 20th century. This is the flimsy basis of the scare that rising CO² is causing harmful global warming. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows it is not.
CO² is not a pollutant. It is a harmless, life- giving gas on which green plants depend. Over the past half-billion years, CO² levels have averaged more than 2000ppm. Present levels are low, way below optimum for green plants. CO² has never been seen to affect temperatures (although they affect it, as cooling oceans dissolve more of it). It is a feeble greenhouse gas (by far the most important is water vapour) and its only significant absorption band is already saturated.
The climate is always changing. From about 900 to 1200 was the worldwide Mediaeval Warm Period, when temperatures were rather higher than now. This is confirmed by hundreds of scientific studies and historical record. It saw booming agriculture, good health and great advances in Europe, and a doubling of the Chinese population. The Vikings colonised Greenland and grew crops, where it is now too cold.
Then temperatures dropped to the Little Ice Age from about 1400 to 1850. The Thames used to freeze over. The Vikings abandoned Greenland. It was a time of crop failures and ill health. In the bitter cold of Shakespeare’s time, malaria (known as the ague) decimated the European population.
Since about 1850, temperatures have been rising in a natural recovery from the Little Ice Age. They peaked in 1998. All the years of the 21st century have been cooler.
What causes these ups and downs? Certainly not CO² . . Mounting evidence points to the sun. There are variations in the sun’s emission of charged particles, known as “the solar wind”. Sunspots give a measure of this. There was high solar activity in the Mediaeval Warm Period and the 20th century, and low activity in the Little Ice Age. In the coldest period, or Maunder Minimum (1645- 1715), there were no sunspots at all.
Clouds are the most important determinant of the climate on earth, especially low clouds (cumulus), which cause cooling by reflecting away sunlight. A theory, developed by physicist Henrik Svensmark, is that cosmic rays from outside our solar system induce clouds by providing sites for droplet condensation. The solar wind wards off the cosmic rays. The more active the sun, the fewer cosmic rays, the fewer low clouds, and the warmer the earth.
Science says that the present climate change is natural. But a great international clamour, from politicians, activists, journalists and academics, cries out that it is caused by wicked mankind. Why? There are two reasons: ideology and money.
Climate alarm is the new religion of the rich. In the climate religion, the sin is industrialisation and damnation is the over- heating of the planet. Redemption lies in forsaking fossil fuels and returning to a simpler, purer life.
Climate alarm is also an international multibillion-dollar business, providing jobs, careers, funding, travel and conferences to a multitude. Any questioning of the alarm threatens their livelihoods. The more alarm, the more funding they get and the more secure their jobs.
The high church of global warming is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is funded by governments to promote the belief that mankind is changing the climate dangerously. Its “technical summaries” select evidence for global warming and reject counter-evidence. Its “summaries for policy makers”, couched in scientific language, are expressions of dogma, telling the faithful what to believe.
In 2001, the IPCC was guilty of one of the worst travesties of science. The Mediaeval Warm Period was a huge embarrassment for the warmers. So they set out to eliminate it. In its third assessment report of 2001, the IPCC brandished before the world the infamous Hockey Stick curve. This graph showed temperatures in the northern hemisphere steady from 1000 to 1900 (like the handle of a hockey stick) and then suddenly shooting up to unparalleled highs (like the blade), so that the end of the 20th century was the warmest period of the past thousand years. The hateful Mediaeval Warm Period had been abolished.
After facing much prevarication and obstruction, two mathematical experts, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, finally managed to get hold of the data and methods on which the Hockey Stick was based, and swiftly showed it was nonsense. It relied on bad data, wrong selection and contrived statistical methods. Using proper data and methods, the Hockey Stick disappeared and the Mediaeval Warm Period reappeared.
Still trying to rewrite climate history, an IPCC insider group produced new Hockey Stick curves, which depended on the work of British scientist Keith Briffa. McIntyre asked to see Briffa’s data. Briffa refused, and scientific journals in which his papers were published backed his refusal. Such is the perversion of science under climate change. A few months ago, McIntyre got the data, and found the same nonsense.
Current computer climate models are useless for prediction. This is because we do not understand many climate mechanisms and modellers deliberately use assumptions to get the result they want: global warming.
An example is climate feedback. Standard methods of radiant heat transfer give you a temperature rise of 1°C as a direct result of CO² doubling. However, there will be “feedback”. The modellers assume “positive feedback”, which amplifies change.
But all the evidence is for “negative feedback”, which counters the change (for example, by more evaporation and more cooling clouds). Prof Richard Lindzen of MIT reckons negative feedback makes CO² insignificant. Predictions of temperatures rising 2°C or more have no scientific basis. The only consequence of rising CO² will be that crops and forests grow better.
The sun became ominously quiet recently. Global temperatures have been falling since about 2004 (contrary to climate model predictions). The Antarctic has been getting colder and its ice growing since 1978, when satellite measurements began. The Arctic is now colder than it was in 1940; in recent years its ice extent decreased until 2007, and is now increasing again. All of this information, including satellite measurements, the most accurate we have, is freely available.
Politicians and activists will converge on Copenhagen next month looking for more control over our lives and more money. They will urge governments to damage their economies by restricting the use of fossil fuels. The greater their failure, the better it will be for the world.
- Kenny is a consulting engineer with degrees in physics and mechanical engineering.