The end of the world drew a step nearer yesterday when the Sunday Times reported
"Roastingly hot summers, monsoon-style winter rains, and flooding, plus the destruction of most of the nation's ecosystems and wildlife will make "our green and pleasant land" almost unrecognisable by 2100, Britain's biggest weather prediction experiment suggests.
"Sir David Attenborough will present the near-apocalyptic vision of Britain's future in a BBC documentary, Climate Change: Britain Under Threat, to be screened next Sunday on BBC1.
"The experiment began a year ago when a documentary invited viewers to use their computers to run climate prediction models. More than 54,000 responded around the world and together they became part of the largest climate prediction project ever undertaken.
"The experiment is still running and would-be participants can join in at www.climateprediction.net.
"The data generated was sent to Oxford University to be analysed and the result is the most detailed picture yet produced of Britain's likely future climate.
"Attenborough and co-presenter Kate Humble will reveal projected snapshots of Britain in 2020, 2050 and 2080. The overriding factor is a dramatic surge in average temperatures. By 2050 this will have risen by 2.5C. By 2080 it will have risen by 4C. Attenborough will explain that such rises may seem small but are as great as the rise that lifted Britain out of the Ice Age of 12,000 years ago and made it temperate.
"One consequence, according to a scientist featured in the programme, is that the average Victorian terrace or semi will become intolerably hot in summer.
"The warming will give Britain a climate ranging from semi-tropical in the south to Mediterranean in Scotland, accompanied by long droughts in summer and intense winter rainfall.
"There may also be an increase in storm surges, when a combination of strong winds, tides and atmospheric conditions sharply raise sea levels."
So, leaving aside the dreadful English (courtesy of Jonathan Leake, the Times' Environmental Editor. I suppose when you're an environmentalist and therefore right all the time, things like singular subjects with plural verbs aren't really important, are they?), the game's up.
We're all doomed. David Attenborough says it, so it must be true.
When you take the trouble, instead of sitting in front of the telly wringing your hands and admiring Kate Humble's incredible wisdom and her condescension in sharing it with you, to look at the website well, it's not quite so clear-cut.
Co-presenter Kate Humble. But just how seriously
can you take a woman with a moth on her nose?
You take part in the experiment by downloading a "climate model" from www.climateprediction.net. Your computer then runs the experiment quietly in the background whenever it's turned on, and when it's finished sends the results back to the originators over the internet. Their website suggests that one of their intentions is "To help make participation in ClimatePrediction.net more rewarding and fun". Fun? The end of the f*cking world, fun? But it also says that "The ClimatePrediction.net experiment should help to improve methods to quantify uncertainties of climate projections and scenarios, including long-term ensemble simulations using complex models", which makes you wonder just how conclusive they think it is themselves! Perhaps it really is just a bit of fun.
In the introduction to the experiment they say "'The flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas'. This famous quote sums up the fact that very small differences in what is going on in the world now can have huge effects on what happens in the future. As we cannot have perfect knowledge about what is going on now (down to the scale of individual butterflies) this means that, to produce a complete forecast of everything that might happen in the future, we need to take into account everything that might be happening now. To do this, we need to use a range of starting, or initial, conditions for our models when we start running them to make a climate forecast."
But there's no evidence that the butterfly thing IS a fact at all. Are we aware, for instance, whether there was any lasting damage to the world from Krakatoa or Hiroshima? For goodness' sake, we aren't certain whether it was an asteroid-strike or an ice-age that did for the dinosaurs. Since the 1970s scientists can't even agree whether the earth is cooling down or warming up. And these are damn great BIG things, so this faith in Brazilian butterflies seems a bit over-optimistic, to say the least.
Each climate model has three phases. In phase one the climate is assumed to be completely stable, and is deliberately kept so by making the temperature of the oceans constant. There has probably never been a time when the temperature of the oceans was completely constant. The dates 1810 - 1825 are assigned to this phase, despite the fact that there is no suggestion that the climate was actually stable in this period. Not terribly realistic so far, then.
The website does admit elsewhere that "There is a time issue particular to the ocean. The ocean's heat capacity is thousands of times greater than that of the atmosphere; therefore it takes the ocean much longer than the atmosphere to reach an equilibrium." They ignore, apparently, the fact that it will also take the ocean much longer to lose its equilibrium. This is presumably why they need to peg ocean temperatures in the first phase. It's just for convenience.
The second phase is based on pre-industrial CO2 levels and is assigned the dates 1825 - 1840. This ignores the fact that by 1840 a great many industries had been well established for many years, pouring out great clouds of emissions.
The third phase is called Double CO2 phase. "In this phase the levels of greenhouse gases are doubled and the model is run for a further 15 years. In a good model, the atmosphere should adjust to this change in forcing and eventually settle in a new stable, equilibrium state (which may be the same, warmer or cooler). The dates given to this phase are 2050-2065." This begs quite a few questions. One is that there is substantial scientific opinion that suggests that increases of atmospheric CO2 are not the cause of climate warming, but are an effect of climate warming. Historical records and ice-core analysis show that CO2 levels lag behind average temperatures by many years - centuries, in some cases.
Another is whether it is realistic to expect the climate to settle into a new equilibrium at all. Protagonists of global warming have so far been telling us that we are upsetting the equilibrium, not establishing a new one.
Another is the chosen dates, 2050 - 2065. If these dates have been assigned quite arbitrarily to this phase of the experiment, fair enough - they might just as easily have chosen 2045 - 2060, or 2083 - 2098. But in this case any claims about "this will happen by 2080 and this will happen by 2100" are pretty silly. I mean, if Kate Humble and David Attenborough are so bloody clever, they ought to have spotted this.
The website includes a page of examples of results so far. You notice that each piddling little diagram differs from the others, in some case by quite a long way. How they can use such varying results to produce the doom-laden prediction quoted in the Sunday Times is hard to see.
The website even includes a collection of press and media coverage of the experiment so far, quoting headlines like "Alarm at new climate warning", "11ēC warming, climate crisis in 10 years?", "Soaring global warming 'can't be ruled out'", "World Global warming 'to hit UK hard'", "Climate Modelers See Scorching Future as a Real Possibility", "Global warming 'twice as bad as feared'", and "Global warming could raise temperatures by 11 degrees".
Given climatologists' embarrassing track record so far, it seems a little foolish of the ClimatePrediction team to be taking the credit for such rubbish. After all, in 1970 we were warned "In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish". In 1971 they said "The continued rapid cooling" (my underlining) "of the earth since WW2 is in accord with the increase in global air pollution associated with industrialisation, mechanisation, urbanisation and exploding population". In 1975 it was "There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production - with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food production could begin quite soon" while in 1976 we had "This (cooling) trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century" and "This cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000".
The website is big, and there's plenty of scientific verbosity to wade through. To be honest we don't have either the knowledge or the patience to sift through all of it - we're just telling you the few inconsistencies we've noticed already. But we'll end with just one more.
On the page about climate science we find that they are still using the IPCC's old "hockey-stick" diagram to show how atmospheric CO2 has increased in the last century. This despite the fact that the diagram has now been thoroughly discredited, and that even the IPCC, hardly the most responsive or open-minded body in the world, have stopped using it themselves.
So no, the GOS won't be emigrating to Canada just yet. Nor has he noticed a rush of climate scientists doing the same, which makes him wonder if even they believe the tosh they talk.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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