Sunday, June 17th 2012, 1:05 AM EDT
They used to call it ‘Flaming June’. Nearer the mark today would be ‘Flaming ruddy awful June’.
We are on the cusp of the Summer Solstice (starting on Wednesday evening), in the wake of the wettest April on record and in the midst of what promises to be a June that is both record-breakingly damp and 1.4C cooler than average.
Out of our rain-streaked windows we spy leaden skies, louring clouds and oily puddles.
Of course, you are not supposed to ask yourselves: ‘Whatever happened to global warming?’
Not even if you say it particularly quietly, or as a joke. If you do, chances are you will be sharply reminded that ‘weather is not the same as climate’.
This is true. But it’s also a bit of a cop-out. After all, as most of us are now aware, there has been no ‘global warming’ since 1998, which is when the curve on the graph goes flat.
In the eternally moving battlefield of claim and counter-claim in the great climate change debate, even the fervently warmist Professor Phil Jones – of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit – concedes that there has been no ‘statistically significant warming’ since 1995.
In the simplest, human terms, therefore, no one younger than 14 years old has experienced global warming.
So why does our Government go on acting as if it’s a major problem? Why all these hugely expensive commitments to ‘decarbonisation’ and ‘renewable energy’? Why all the eco-taxes on our holiday flights and wind-farms – if the supposed threat they were designed to avert now turns out to be unsupported by real-world evidence?
It is not just ‘deniers’ who are asking these questions.
Last week, in London, the Global Warming Policy Foundation hosted a lecture by a leading German green – former activist and Hamburg state environment senator Prof Fritz Vahrenholt.
The evidence for man-made global warming is looking shakier by the day, Germany’s answer to Jonathon Porritt or George Monbiot admitted. Far more likely a culprit is the sun.
Vahrenholt isn’t the only green guru to recant.
Earlier this year, Prof James Lovelock graciously conceded his doomsday claims about climate change – for example his prediction that 80 per cent of all humans would be wiped out by 2100 – had been somewhat overdone.
‘The world has not warmed up very much since the Millennium,’ he said. ‘The problem is that we don’t know what climate is doing. We thought we did 20 years ago.’
Indeed we did.
But as a reminder of just how very much things have changed between then and now, we have the Rio +20 Summit opening in Brazil this week.
Staged by the United Nations to mark the 20th anniversary of the world’s first Earth Summit (also held in Rio), it is turning out to be a pale imitation of the original.
The 1992 Rio Earth Summit was the greatest political gathering the world had ever seen – attended by politicians from 172 countries, including no fewer than 108 presidents and prime ministers.
At the end of it, 154 nations signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) committing themselves to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth’s climate system’.
In fact, symbolically, it was rather humbling – an example of how humanity coalesced in the face of a common enemy.
Alas, two decades on, about the best Rio +20 can manage is Nick Clegg. President Obama is not going, nor is Angela Merkel, nor David Cameron.
Global warming no longer seems to be quite the urgent threat it was after a succession of bitingly cold winters and miserable summers.
Like the disastrous Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban summits before it, the Rio event looks set to be another damp squib, beset by bickering, achieving nothing other than a few vague, non-binding commitments to do something serious some time in the future.
How much simpler things were in the early Nineties. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had just produced its first Assessment Report in which the world’s most expert scientists all apparently agreed that the world was doomed to burn in hellfire unless man amended his wicked ways.
The three IPCC reports since then have confirmed this prognosis with increasingly shrill certainty.
But, unfortunately, no one outside the Government and the green movement takes them very seriously any more, because the real world has stubbornly refused to act in accordance with all the climate scientists’ scary predictions.
Sea levels have not risen dramatically. ‘Threatened’ regions such as Tuvalu, the Maldives and Bangladesh have not drowned.
Polar bear populations continue to thrive. Arctic sea ice is recovering while the Antarctic ice is expanding.
But, most damningly of all, global warming stopped at the end of the last century.
And if we’re to believe Fritz Vahrenholt in his bestselling book Die Kalte Sonne (The Cold Sun) it’s in no danger of starting any time soon.
Vahrenholt’s thesis – based on the observations of increasingly respected scientists such as the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark – is that the main agent of climate change is not CO2 but solar radiation.
Much of the mild global warming we’ve experienced in the past 150 years (a rise of about 0.8C) was, it would appear, the result of solar activity (detectable in the number of sun spots) which is now slowing down.
We are entering a period of ‘weak’ solar cycles, and this decline in activity is expected to continue until about 2040, by which time – according to some pessimistic predictions – global mean temperatures will have fallen by 2C.
For many of us, in other words, ‘global warming’ is something we will never experience again in our lifetime. From now on we can expect drabber, wetter summers and colder winters.
And as if that weren’t depressing enough, here are our political leaders regulating and carbon taxing our economies as if the non-existent global warming problem was still something to fear.
This is madness – and one day future historians will see it as such. They will gasp in astonishment that in 2011 the global carbon trading market climbed to a record $176 billion (£113 billion) – about the same as global wheat production.
They will ask how CO2 could be valued as highly as the essential foodstuff that supplies 20 per cent of the calories consumed by the seven billion people on the planet.
A good place for them to start would be the hysteria and optimism of that original Earth summit, in which a mix of panic and good intentions were allowed to override common sense. In short, blame it on Rio.
James Delingpole is the author of Watermelons – How Environmentalists Are Killing The Planet, Destroying The Economy And Stealing Your Children’s Future (Biteback).