This article appeared in Britain's largest-selling quality newspaper, The Telegraph …
The deceit behind global warming
No one can deny that in recent years the need to "save the planet" from global warming has become one of the most pervasive issues of our time. As Tony Blair's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, claimed in 2004, it poses "a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism", warning that by the end of this century the only habitable continent left will be Antarctica.
Inevitably, many people have been bemused by this somewhat one-sided debate, imagining that if so many experts are agreed, then there must be something in it. But if we set the story of how this fear was promoted in the context of other scares before it, the parallels which emerge might leave any honest believer in global warming feeling uncomfortable.
The story of how the panic over climate change was pushed to the top of the international agenda falls into five main stages. Stage one came in the 1970s when many scientists expressed alarm over what they saw as a disastrous change in the earth's climate. Their fear was not of warming but global cooling, of "a new Ice Age".
For three decades, after a sharp rise in the interwar years up to 1940, global temperatures had been falling. The one thing certain about climate is that it is always changing. Since we began to emerge from the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago, temperatures have been through significant swings several times. The hottest period occurred around 8,000 years ago and was followed by a long cooling. Then came what is known as the "Roman Warming", coinciding with the Roman empire. Three centuries of cooling in the Dark Ages were followed by the "Mediaeval Warming", when the evidence agrees the world was hotter than today.
Around 1300 began "the Little Ice Age", that did not end until 200 years ago, when we entered what is known as the "Modern Warming". But even this has been chequered by colder periods, such as the "Little Cooling" between 1940 and 1975. Then, in the late 1970s, the world began warming again.
A scare is often set off - as we show in our book with other examples - when two things are observed together and scientists suggest one must have been caused by the other. In this case, thanks to readings commissioned by Dr Roger Revelle, a distinguished American oceanographer, it was observed that since the late 1950s levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere had been rising. Perhaps it was this increase that was causing the new warming in the 1980s?
Stage two of the story began in 1988 when, with remarkable speed, the global warming story was elevated into a ruling orthodoxy, partly due to hearings in Washington chaired by a youngish senator, Al Gore, who had studied under Dr Revelle in the 1960s.
But more importantly global warming hit centre stage because in 1988 the UN set up its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC). Through a series of reports, the IPCC was to advance its cause in a rather unusual fashion. First it would commission as many as 1,500 experts to produce a huge scientific report, which might include all sorts of doubts and reservations. But this was to be prefaced by a Summary for Policymakers, drafted in consultation with governments and officials - essentially a political document - in which most of the caveats contained in the experts' report would not appear.
This contradiction was obvious in the first report in 1991, which led to the Rio conference on climate change in 1992. The second report in 1996 gave particular prominence to a study by an obscure US government scientist claiming that the evidence for a connection between global warming and rising CO2 levels was now firmly established. This study came under heavy fire from various leading climate experts for the way it manipulated the evidence. But this was not allowed to stand in the way of the claim that there was now complete scientific consensus behind the CO2 thesis, and the Summary for Policy-makers, heavily influenced from behind the scenes by Al Gore, by this time US Vice-President, paved the way in 1997 for the famous Kyoto Protocol.
Kyoto initiated stage three of the story, by formally committing governments to drastic reductions in their CO2 emissions. But the treaty still had to be ratified and this seemed a good way off, not least thanks to its rejection in 1997 by the US Senate, despite the best attempts of Mr Gore.
Not the least of his efforts was his bid to suppress an article co-authored by Dr Revelle just before his death. Gore didn't want it to be known that his guru had urged that the global warming thesis should be viewed with more caution.
One of the greatest problems Gore and his allies faced at this time was the mass of evidence showing that in the past, global temperatures had been higher than in the late 20th century. In 1998 came the answer they were looking for: a new temperature chart, devised by a young American physicist, Michael Mann. This became known as the "hockey stick" because it showed historic temperatures running in an almost flat line over the past 1,000 years, then suddenly flicking up at the end to record levels.
Mann's hockey stick was just what the IPCC wanted. When its 2001 report came out it was given pride of place at the top of page 1. The Mediaeval Warming, the Little Ice Age, the 20th century Little Cooling, when CO2 had already been rising, all had been wiped away.
But then a growing number of academics began to raise doubts about Mann and his graph. This culminated in 2003 with a devastating study by two Canadians showing how Mann had not only ignored most of the evidence before him but had used an algorithm that would produce a hockey stick graph whatever evidence was fed into the computer. When this was removed, the graph re-emerged just as it had looked before, showing the Middle Ages as hotter than today.
It is hard to recall any scientific thesis ever being so comprehensively discredited as the "hockey stick". Yet the global warming juggernaut rolled on regardless, now led by the European Union. In 2004, thanks to a highly dubious deal between the EU and Putin's Russia, stage four of the story began when the Kyoto treaty was finally ratified.
In the past three years, we have seen the EU announcing every kind of measure geared to fighting climate change, from building ever more highly-subsidised wind turbines, to a commitment that by 2050 it will have reduced carbon emissions by 60 per cent. This is a pledge that could only be met by such a massive reduction in living standards that it is impossible to see the peoples of Europe accepting it.
All this frenzy has rested on the assumption that global temperatures will continue to rise in tandem with CO2 and that, unless mankind takes drastic action, our planet is faced with the apocalypse so vividly described by Al Gore in his Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth.
Yet recently, stage five of the story has seen all sorts of question marks being raised over Gore's alleged consensus. For instance, he claimed that by the end of this century world sea levels will have risen by 20 ft when even the IPCC in its latest report only predicts a rise of between four and 17 inches. There is also of course the harsh reality that, wholly unaffected by Kyoto, the economies of China and India are now expanding at nearly 10 per cent a year, with China likely to be emitting more CO2 than the US within two years.
More serious, however, has been all the evidence accumulating to show that, despite the continuing rise in CO2 levels, global temperatures in the years since 1998 have no longer been rising and may soon even be falling.
It was a telling moment when, in August, Gore's closest scientific ally, James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was forced to revise his influential record of US surface temperatures showing that the past decade has seen the hottest years on record. His graph now concedes that the hottest year of the 20th century was not 1998 but 1934, and that four of the 10 warmest years in the past 100 were in the 1930s.
Furthermore, scientists and academics have recently been queuing up to point out that fluctuations in global temperatures correlate more consistently with patterns of radiation from the sun than with any rise in CO2 levels, and that after a century of high solar activity, the sun's effect is now weakening, presaging a likely drop in temperatures.
If global warming does turn out to have been a scare like all the others, it will certainly represent as great a collective flight from reality as history has ever recorded. The evidence of the next 10 years will be very interesting.
The book referred to is "Scared to Death: from BSE to Global Warming - How Scares Are Costing Us The Earth" by Christopher Booker and Richard North.
… while the Times carried this from scientist David Bellamy …
Am I worried about man-made global warming? The answer is "no" and "yes".
No, because the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction has come up against an "inconvenient truth". Its research shows that since 1998 the average temperature of the planet has not risen, even though the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has continued to increase.
Yes, because the self-proclaimed consensus among scientists has detached itself from the questioning rigours of hard science and become a political cause. Those of us who dare to question the dogma of the global-warming doomsters who claim that C not only stands for carbon but also for climate catastrophe are vilified as heretics or worse as deniers.
I am happy to be branded a heretic because throughout history heretics have stood up against dogma based on the bigotry of vested interests. But I don't like being smeared as a denier because deniers don't believe in facts. The truth is that there are no facts that link the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide with imminent catastrophic global warming. Instead of facts, the advocates of man-made climate change trade in future scenarios based on complex and often unreliable computer models.
Name-calling may be acceptable in politics but it should have no place in science; indeed, what is happening smacks of McCarthyism, witch-hunts and all. Scientific understanding, however, is advanced by robust, reasoned argument based on well-researched data. So I turn to simple sets of data that are already in the public domain.
The last peak global temperatures were in 1998 and 1934 and the troughs of low temperature were around 1910 and 1970. The second dip caused pop science and the media to cry wolf about an impending, devastating Ice Age. Our end was nigh!
Then, when temperatures took an upward swing in the 1980s, the scaremongers changed their tune. Global warming was the new imminent catastrophe.
But the computer model - called "hockey stick" - that predicted the catastrophe of a frying planet proved to be so bent that it "disappeared" from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's armoury of argument in 2007. It was bent because the historical data it used to predict the future dated from only the 1850s, when the world was emerging from the Little Ice Age. Little wonder that temperatures showed an upward trend.
In the Sixties I used to discuss climate change with my undergraduates at Durham University. I would point to the plethora of published scientific evidence that showed the cyclical nature of change - and how, for instance, the latest of a string of ice ages had affected the climate, sea levels and tree lines around the world. Thank goodness the latest crop of glaciers and ice sheets began to wane in earnest about 12,000 years ago; this gave Britain a window of opportunity to lead the industrial revolution.
The Romans grew grapes in York and during the worldwide medieval warm period - when civilizations blossomed across the world - Nordic settlers farmed lowland Greenland (hence its name) and then got wiped out by the Little Ice Age that lasted roughly from the 16th century until about 1850.
There is no escaping the fact that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising for 150 years - and very uniformly since the 1950s. Yet the temperature has not increased in step with CO2. Not only have there been long periods of little change in temperature, but also the year-to-year oscillations are totally unrelated to CO2 change. What is more, the trend lines of glacial shortening and rise in sea level have shown no marked change since the big increase in the use of fossil fuels since 1950.
How can this be explained unless there are other factors at work overriding the greenhouse effect of CO2? There are, of course, many to be found in the peer-reviewed literature: solar cycles, cosmic rays, cloud control and those little rascals, such as El Niño and La Niña, all of which are played down or even ignored by the global-warming brigade.
Let's turn to Al Gore's doom-laden Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. First, what is the point of scaring the families of the world with tales that polar bears are heading for extinction? Last year Mitchell Taylor, of the US National Biological Service, stated that "of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present."
Why create alarm about a potential increase in the spread of malaria thanks to rising temperatures when this mosquito-borne disease was a major killer of people in Britain and northern Russia throughout the Little Ice Age?
Despite the $50 billion spent on greenwashing propaganda, the sceptics and their inconvenient questions are beginning to make their presence felt.
A recent survey of Klaus-Martin Schulte, of Kings College Hospital, of all papers on the subject of climate change that were published between 2004 and February of 2007 found that only 7 per cent explicitly endorsed a "so-called consensus" position that man-made carbon dioxide is causing catastrophic global warming. What is more, James Lovelock, the author and green guru, has changed his mind: he recently stated that neither Earth nor the human race is doomed.
Yes, melting sea ice around Greenland has recently opened up the fabled North West passage. And, yes, the years 2006 and 2007 have seen massive flooding in Europe. However, a quick dip into the records of the Royal Society - which ranked alongside Dr Lovelock as arch doomsters, before his change of mind - shows that dramatic fluctuations happened long before the infernal combustion engine began spewing out carbon dioxide.
The year 1816 went down in history as the "year without a summer", thanks to the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia that veiled much of the world with dust, screening out the Sun. Yet in 1817, while still in the grip of the Little Ice Age, the Royal Society was so worried that 2,000 square leagues of sea ice around Greenland had disappeared within two years, and massive flooding was taking place in Germany, that its president wrote to the Admiralty advising of the necessity of an expedition to find out what was the source of this new heat.
Perhaps, when similar things are happening 190 years later, the Royal Society should accept that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is unlikely to be the main - or only - driver of "global warming".
… while the Guardian had this article by John Vidal …
Ministers are planning a U-turn on Britain's pledges to combat climate change that "effectively abolishes" its targets to rapidly expand the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
Leaked documents seen by the Guardian show that Gordon Brown will be advised today that the target Tony Blair signed up to this year for 20% of all European energy to come from renewable sources by 2020 is expensive and faces "severe practical difficulties".
According to the papers, John Hutton, the secretary of state for business, will tell Mr Brown that Britain should work with Poland and other governments sceptical about climate change to "help persuade" German chancellor Angela Merkel and others to set lower renewable targets, before binding commitments are framed in December.
It admits that allowing member states to fall short of their renewable targets will be "very hard to negotiate ... and will be very controversial". "The commission, some member states and the European parliament will not want the target to be diluted, though others may be allies for a change," says a draft copy of Mr Hutton's Energy Policy Presentation to the Prime Minister, marked "restricted - policy".
The revelations came as scientists announced that carbon emissions were accumulating in the atmosphere far more quickly than predicted. The sharp increase found by the Global Carbon Project is attributed mainly to Chinese coal-burning and a weakening of the ability of oceans and forests to soak up carbon dioxide.
The leaked papers admit to "a potentially significant cost in terms of reduced climate change leadership" if Mr Brown is seen to be driving a plan to let European member states fall short of their renewables targets.
They also reveal different priorities across government departments about how to get renewables to 20% of the electricity mix. Although Germany has increased its renewable energy share to 9% in six years, Britain's share is only 2%, with its greenhouse gas emissions rising.
Last night campaigners expressed alarm at the new direction of government policy. "Gordon Brown is now in danger of surrendering any claim to international leadership on climate change and would rather support nuclear power and scupper the European renewable energy target," said John Sauven, director of Greenpeace.
Mr Hutton will tell Mr Brown that there are severe practical difficulties about meeting the 20% target. These include persuading the Ministry of Defence and the shipping industry to accept more offshore wind power, as well as increased research and development costs for marine and tidal power.
One of the main objections of government to meeting the renewables target set by Mr Blair is that it will undermine the role of the European emission trading scheme. This scheme was devised by the Treasury under Mr Brown and allows wealthy governments to pay others to reduce emissions. "[Meeting the 20% renewables target] crucially undermines the scheme's credibility ... and reduces the incentives to invest in other carbon technologies like nuclear power", say the papers.
The government is clearly worried about its ambition to introduce more nuclear power as soon as possible. Mr Hutton will tell Mr Brown that he expects a second legal challenge by Greenpeace. "[It is] most likely to be on the basis of pre-judgement, concerns about waste, a flawed consultation process or inaccuracies."
Analysis by Mr Hutton's department suggests it could cost the UK £4bn a year to achieve a 9% share of renewable energy by 2020.
The shift in stance is due to be discussed at full cabinet next week. Last night a spokesman for the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said: "We don't comment on ministerial meetings with the PM."
… and just to make things even clearer (not) …
A rapid cutback in greenhouse gas emissions could speed up global warming, the veteran environmental maverick James Lovelock will warn in a lecture today. Prof Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia theory that the planet behaves like a single organism, says this is because current global warming is offset by global dimming - the 2-3C of cooling cause by industrial pollution, known to scientists as aerosol particles, in the atmosphere.
His lecture will be delivered as Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, launches the results of a public consultation on the Government's proposed Climate Change Bill which is intended to cut Britain's greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. Prof Lovelock will say in a lecture to the Royal Society: "Any economic downturn or planned cutback in fossil fuel use, which lessened aerosol density, would intensify the heating. "If there were a 100 per cent cut in fossil fuel combustion it might get hotter not cooler. We live in a fool's climate. We are damned if we continue to burn fuel and damned if we stop too suddenly."
Prof Lovelock believes that even the gloomiest predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are underestimating the current severity of climate change because they do not go into the consequences of the current burden pollution in the atmosphere which will last for centuries. He argues that though the scientific language of the IPCC, which reported earlier this year, is "properly cautious" it gives the impression that the worst consequences of climate change are avoidable if we take action now....
According to Professor Lovelock's gloomy analysis, the IPCC's climate models fail to take account of the Earth as a living system where life in the oceans and land takes an active part in regulating the climate. He will argue that when a model includes the whole Earth system it shows that: "When the carbon dioxide in the air exceeds 500 parts per million the global temperature suddenly rises 6§C and becomes stable again despite further increases or decreases of atmospheric carbon dioxide. "This contrasts with the IPCC models that predict that temperature rises and falls smoothly with increasing or decreasing carbon dioxide."
He argues that we should cut greenhouse gas emissions, nonetheless, because it might help slow the pace of global heating. We also have to do our best to lessen our destruction of natural forests but this is unlikely to be enough and we will have to learn to adapt to the inevitable changes we will soon experience.
The pro-nuclear Prof Lovelock will say that we should think of the Earth as a live self-regulating system and devise ways to harness the natural processes that regulate the climate in the fight against global warming. This could involve paying indigenous peoples to protect their forests and develop ways to make the ocean absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere more efficiently.
Prof Lovelock intends to add: "We are not merely a disease; we are through our intelligence and communication the planetary equivalent of a nervous system. We should be the heart and mind of the Earth not its malady."
The GOS says: Clear as mud. The Sunday Times Colour Magazine had a major article today about some of the dafter ideas scientists have had to cope with climate change, and headed it "the argument is over …"
To which we can only reply that the argument may be many things, but "over" evidently isn't one of them.
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