Met Office data show only a tiny change in world temperatures
Readers of this column do not need to be reminded why it is so important for us to know whether the world is truly in the grip of runaway global warming, or whether this belief has all been based on a colossal misreading of the scientific evidence. One reason why it is so vital for us to understand this, of course, has been all those devastating political responses to this fear, which promise to change our way of life out of recognition.
Just in Britain alone, paying for our Climate Change Act is officially due to cost us up to £18 billion a year. It is now driving our entire national energy policy, threatening us with ever more crippling bills, power blackouts, and the sight of our countryside being covered in ever more giant wind factories. In convincing the world that we must make such a dramatic response to man-made climate change, nothing has been more persuasive than those graphs that purport to show global temperature soaring to dangerous levels.
That iconic “hockey stick” graph, showing temperatures recently shooting up into the stratosphere, may now have been discredited. But just as important have been all those graphs showing how temperatures have changed in recent decades. These have the effect of greatly exaggerating those changes, by narrowly focusing just on what are called temperature “anomalies”, showing how they have risen and fallen round their average level in the past 30-odd years.
Scientists have been studying solar influences on the climate for more than 5000 years.Chinese imperial astronomers kept detailed sunspot records, and noticed that more sunspots meant warmer weather. In 1801, celebrated astronomer William Herschel, the first to observe Uranus, noted that when there were fewer spots the price of wheat soared. He surmised that less “light and heat” from the sun resulted in reduced harvests.
It is therefore perhaps surprising that Professor Richard Muller (University of California, Berkeley) recently claimed that “no component that matches solar activity” could be identified in his newly reconstructed BEST global land temperature record. Instead, Professor Muller said, carbon dioxide controls our changing temperature.
Can it really be true that solar radiation, which supplies Earth with the energy that drives our weather and climate – and which, when it varied in the past, is known to have caused major climate shifts – is no longer the principal influence on climate change?
Consider the charts that accompany this article. In locations as widely separated as US, the Arctic and China, they show a strong and direct relationship between temperature and incoming solar radiation -- the data for the US coming directly from Professor Muller’s own BEST data! That such a tight relationship between temperature and solar radiation holds for many disparate geographical areas indicates that the US result cannot be dismissed as just a local aberration.
A strong sun-climate relationship requires mechanisms to exist whereby our sun can both cool and warm the Earth. One such mechanism is fluctuations in the total amount of incoming solar energy, but measurements suggest that this is not a dominant effect. Another cause, and probably a more substantial one, is modulation of the amount of solar radiation that reaches earth’s surface by changes in total cloud cover.
There could be no better symbol of the madness of Britain’s energy policy than what is happening at the giant Drax power station in Yorkshire, easily the largest in Britain.
Indeed, it is one of the biggest and most efficiently run coal-fired power stations in the world. Its almost 1,000ft-tall flue chimney is the highest in the country, and its 12 monster cooling towers (each taller than St Paul’s Cathedral) dominate the flat countryside of eastern Yorkshire for miles around.
Every day, Drax burns 36,000 tons of coal, brought to its vast site by 140 coal trains every week — and it supplies seven per cent of all the electricity used in Britain. That’s enough to light up a good many of our major cities.
But as a result of a change in Government policy, triggered by EU rules, Drax is about to undergo a major change that would have astonished those who built it in the Seventies and Eighties right next to Selby coalfield, which was then highly productive but has since closed.
In 1988, the year global warming made its entrance into politics, Margaret Thatcher declared that mankind had unwittingly been carrying out a massive experiment with the planet, in which the burning of fossil fuels would produce greenhouse gases, leading to higher global temperatures. The results of this experiment remain an open question. As Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, acknowledged last month, there has been a 17-year pause in the rise of average global temperatures.
Of more immediate consequence to British families is that the UK has embarked on perhaps the most aggressive political experiment attempted in peacetime – gradually outlawing the use of fossil fuels, which we have relied on since the Industrial Revolution, as our principal source of energy. The results are already evident. Two weeks ago, Alistair Buchanan, chief executive of Ofgem, warned of rising energy bills, and questioned whether Britain would be able to keep the lights on. When there is a glut of natural gas in the US and coal prices are plunging in Europe, this country faces a green energy crunch as it attempts to decarbonise its economy.
Environmentalism has taken the Marxist concept of the alienation of the working class and applied it to the rich man’s alienation from nature. “By losing sight of our relationship with Nature… ,” the Prince of Wales wrote in 2009, “we have engendered a profoundly dangerous alienation.” In one respect, environmentalism is even more radical than Marxism. Whereas Marxism aimed to change the relations of the working class to the means of production, environmentalism is about changing the means of production themselves. Ironically, Marxism was a flop in the West, whereas environmentalism has triumphed.
One reason Britain has gone so far down the green path is that politicians have not been honest about its economic implications. During the passage of the Climate Change Act in 2008, which commits Britain to cutting net carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, the energy minister Phil Woolas rejected his own department’s estimate that the costs could exceed the benefits by £95 billion. The House of Commons never debated the costs and the Bill was passed, with only five MPs voting against.
NASA says that something unexpected is happening on the Sun. This year, 2013, is supposed to be the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle—the year of Solar Max. Yet solar activity is well below the expected level. Out somnolent star refuses to behave according to the predictions of Sun watching scientists, leading some observers to wonder if forecasters missed the mark. The botched solar forecast not only has implication for our understanding of the physical processes inside the Sun, it has possible links to future climate change here on Earth. Scientists admit that no one knows for sure what the Sun will do next.
The 11 year solar cycle—the waxing and waning of activity on the Sun—is well known, if not well understood. The solar cycle is the periodic change in the Sun's activity, including changes in levels of solar radiation and the ejection of solar material. Solar cycles have been observed for hundreds of years by earthbound observers noting changes in the sun's appearance. Generations of scientists have kept detailed records of changes in the number of sunspots, flares, and other visible manifestations. Changes in solar activity affects space weather, which can be important when launching satellites. It can also impact conditions here on Earth, adversely affecting communications, radio broadcasts and power grids. For these reasons, forecasting the solar cycle is not just an idle pursuit for Sun gazing scientists.
Something unexpected is happening on the sun. 2013 is supposed to be the year of Solar Max, but solar activity is much lower than expected. At least one leading forecaster expects the sun to rebound with a double-peaked maximum later this year.
Sir Paul Nurse
The Royal Society
6-9 Carlton House Terrace
London SW1Y 5AG
February 25, 2013
Dear Sir Paul
My attention has been drawn to a speech you gave last month at Melbourne University, in which you chose to criticise me by name in terms which bear no relation to the truth. In the interests of accuracy, I have obtained a full transcript. I recognise that, as a distinguished geneticist, you are not a climate scientist, and may therefore feel ill at ease discussing the complex issue of climate policy. But that is no excuse for wanton misrepresentation both of the issues involved and of my own position.
So far as the latter is concerned, you claim that I “would choose two points and say ‘look, no warming’s taking place’, knowing that all the other points that you chose in the 20 years around it would not support his case”. That is a lie. I have always made clear that there was a modest degree of recorded global warming during the 20th century (see, for example, my book An Appeal to Reason, which you have clearly not taken the trouble to read). However, so far from choosing any arbitrary ‘two points’, I was drawing attention to the fact that this warming trend appears to have ceased, since – contrary to the predictions of what you describe as “consensus scientific opinion” – there has been no further recorded global warming at all for at least the past 15 years, as even the IPCC Chairman, Dr Pachauri, has now conceded. Whatever the precise reason for this, it cannot simply be dismissed or denied.
Like all MPs, Tim Yeo is paid £65,000 a year. But he never has to make do with just that. Last year alone, three ‘green’ companies paid the Conservative MP for South Suffolk £135,970.
For this, he usually did just a few hours’ work a month. Yet he may be the firms’ most valuable asset, as Mr Yeo is chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, and so plays a key role in shaping the green economy in which his sometime employers – AFC Energy, Eco City Vehicles and TMO Renewables – operate.
And he may be about to perform his most valuable service yet.
Mr Yeo has moved an extraordinary amendment to the Energy Bill that would set a crippling and binding target for the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by generating power in 2030. It would transform the electricity industry and bring huge benefits to the business sector, which has so generously rewarded Mr Yeo.
For the rest of us, however, the effects will be very different. It will cause already high energy bills to soar further and could lead to more power cuts. The effect on business is likely to be even more dramatic.
Yet despite the considerable drawbacks, the amendment is likely to be passed into law. Following intense campaigning by an alliance of dozens of green pressure groups and renewable-energy firms, the move has won the support of Labour, many backbench Liberal Democrats and some Tories, which may be enough to push it through Parliament.