The South African public does not realise how badly it is being misled over climate change, and how truly awful is the “science” behind climate alarm. The dismal understanding of climate science by so many South African commentators and activists is well illustrated by recent attacks on me in the Daily Maverick by Dirk de Vos (“Never mind the political ideologies around climate science, let science lead us”, 2 Dec 2015) and by Fakir, Naude and Reeler (“The non-debates about non-science – what the climate sceptics tell and do not tell”, 7 Dec 2015).
I had written an article on climate change for the SA Institute of Race Relations, giving the scientific reasons why mankind is not changing the climate in a dangerous way. Climate change is natural, driven mainly by changes in the sun, with carbon dioxide (CO2) having little effect. My article was basic, well-known, unoriginal, mainstream science, supported by leading climate scientists around the world (not surprising since I had just copied them) and backed by a mountain of evidence. There was a furious reaction from the climate alarmists. It comprised of two elements. First, there were jeers, threats, personal insults, slurs about my qualifications and motives, accusations of “pseudo-science” and “cherry-picking”, expressions of rage and fury, and cries of “denialist””. Second, there were abysmal attempts at scientific rebuttal of some of my points, while ignoring the most important ones. This ranged from bad science to astonishing nonsense. I recommend you read my article and their responses, and indeed this response to them. I don’t matter. What matters is the arguments of the proper climate scientists I have tried to summarise.
My main concern here is the science, but I first shall deal briefly with my qualifications and motives, and with the powerful vested interests behind climate alarm. Whenever I present climate science, I am constantly questioned about my qualifications for doing so. This is odd since most commentators making public arguments about almost any topic are never questioned about their qualifications. The important thing is the weight of the argument, not the qualifications of its author, which are a secondary consideration.
However, I shall now make a true confession about my qualifications. Climate science is essentially applied physics, and especially the study of thermodynamics, heat transfer and fluid mechanics. I confess that in my degrees in physics and engineering I only spent six years studying these subjects, so I should not dream of calling myself a climate scientist. But I can’t help noticing that most commentators making loud public statements about climate alarm have even fewer of these qualifications than I, and many none at all. What are the qualifications in applied physics of De Vos and Fakir et al?
The climate alarmists shout about the funding of the sceptics but are rather shy about their own funding. I have never received a cent from any oil or coal company. Nor have most sceptic climate scientists. The money that oil companies give to independent climate science is a drop in the ocean compared with the tsunami of money that governments (tax-payers) give to promote climate alarm. The funding and salaries of many climate alarmists is dependent on maintaining alarm.
Climate alarm has become a ruling ideology. It is like a return to a past age of superstition, somewhat similar to the Witch Mania of the 17th Century where witches were blamed for extreme weather events that caused crop failures. It is also highly lucrative, providing funding and jobs for a vast international army of activists, politicians, bureaucrats and embedded scientists. This can be seen clearly at the ludicrous but extremely expensive COP21 conference in Paris now. “Last chance to save the world!” would better be “Yet another chance to give us lots of money!”
The iron law of climate finance is this: “More alarm = more money.”
Now the science. The Earth’s climate is immensely complicated, far beyond our understanding now, and probably forever, but the science showing that mankind is not changing the climate in a dangerous way is simple.
Mankind, mainly by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), has increased CO2 in the air from about 280 ppm (parts per million) in the 19th Century to about 400 ppm now. Over the same period, global temperatures have risen about 0.8°C.
Did the rise in CO2 cause the rise in temperatures?
During the Mediaeval Warm Period (MWP), about 900 to 1200 AD, temperatures all around the world – I must emphasise “all around the world”, on every continent – were rather higher than now while CO2 was lower than now. This is confirmed by scientific studies and historical record. If you go to www.co2science.org and then “Data” and then “MWP Projects”, you will see over a thousand scientific studies on it. The MWP was not exceptional. Over the last 8,000 years, there have has been a series of natural warmings, such as the Roman Warming, all reaching higher temperatures than now, all during lower CO2 levels than now. There is therefore no reason to believe that the slight warming of the 20th Century was any different. Perhaps CO2 contributed to some of it but there is no evidence for this.
In the last 18 years or so, while CO2 has risen steeply, there has been no global warming. This is confirmed by the most accurate, reliable, comprehensive temperature measurements – from satellites. This is quite contrary to the predictions of the computer climate models. The reason is obvious: the modellers, relying for funding on climate alarm, assumed that CO2 increases temperatures significantly. It does not.
The lack of warming has caused panic among the alarmists. They deal with it in two ways. First, they try to deny it by resorting to unreliable surface temperature measurements, which have a very patchy coverage, are prone to the Urban Heat Island effect and are notoriously susceptible to manipulation. Second, they have come up with at least 60 excuses to explain “the pause”. One of them, known popularly as “The Oceans Ate My Warming!”, is cited by Fakir et al. Everyone knows that the oceans contain far more heat than the atmosphere, but this was never an objection to air temperature measurement in the past since air temperatures and ocean temperatures are coupled. When air temperatures were rising, until about 1996, there was never any argument that this was not significant because the oceans were more important. But then when they stopped rising, all of a sudden the oceans become all important. In fact, ocean temperatures have shown little significant rise either.
CO2 is NOT a pollutant. It is a wonderful, natural, clean, life-giving gas. All modern life depends on it. Since modern life forms began about 550 million years ago, CO2 has averaged over 2,000 ppm. (I must thank Fakir et al for reproducing the Berner graph I gave to show this.) During the Cambrian Period, which saw the most glorious proliferation of life forms, CO2 was over 4,000 ppm. Over the last 50 million years it fell (perhaps because of carbon sequestration in the shells of marine organisms), and about five million years ago sank to dangerously low levels, putting plants under stress. A frightening low of 180 ppm was reached in recent ice ages. Mankind, purely by accident, has done the planet a huge favour by increasing it to 400 ppm. Plants are responding gratefully, and the arid areas of the Earth, notably the Sahel, are “greening”.
CO2 is a greenhouse gas – one which traps radiant heat leaving the Earth – but it is weak one. Its only significant absorption band, at 15 micron, is already saturated at its peak. Basic physics shows it can never have a strong effect on global temperatures. Observation confirms this. Over the last half a billion years, while CO2 has varied between 7,000 ppm and 180 ppm, it has never been seen to drive temperatures. But of course temperatures can drive CO2, for the simple reason that warming oceans release it and cooling ones absorb it. This can be seen clearly during the ice ages.
By far the most important greenhouse gas is water vapour, contributing 90% or more to the greenhouse effect. (Methane and CFCs are strong greenhouse gases but exist in miniscule concentrations.) Fakir et al acknowledge this but then go on to make some bizarre arguments about water vapour. They speak about its “residence time” in the atmosphere. What does that matter? If there are always, at any time, enormous amounts of water vapour in the air, what does it matter how long any individual water molecule has been there?
They make a wrong but much more important argument about feedback from water vapour. “Negative feedback”, which is nearly always good, means that when change occurs the system counters the change. “Positive feedback”, which is nearly always bad, means that when change occurs the system amplifies the change. Fakir et al say that rising temperatures will cause more evaporation, more water vapour in the air and therefore more warming. This would feed on itself until temperatures rocketed and the oceans boiled dry. But this has never happened in the history of the Earth. There has never been runaway warming. So we are 100% certain that there is negative feedback in the climate system. The obvious agent is clouds. Water vapour in the air turns to clouds, which reflect away more heat than they absorb or reflect down. Clouds cause cooling. Any temperature rise is countered by cooling from clouds. CO2 has little if any effect on the climate, and there is nothing to fear from its rising. Talk of its causing an increase in temperature of 2°C or more is nonsense. So, if CO2 was not responsible for any of the repeated warmings over the last 7,000 years, including the recent one, what was? This brings me to the worst jaw-dropping nonsense of the alarmists. Fakir et al write: “When we total the effect of all non-human causes of warming (including those often cited by climate deniers), they do not have any significant warming impact.”
Have they not noticed the elephant in the middle of Solar System? Only 150 million kilometres away is a Generation 2 star we call “The Sun”. She is our great mother. She provides most of our energy. She keeps us alive. Changes in the Earth’s climate are overwhelmingly driven by changes in the Sun. The Sun was responsible for the Roman Warming and the Mediaeval Warming and the 20th Century warming. Fakir et al write “the sun has gradually been getting hotter throughout history”. This is true, and helps make my point. “Hotter” means radiating more energy. The Sun has variations both in her total emission of energy and in her emissions of charged particles, the latter of which have profound effects on the Earth’s climate. Sunspots give a rough measure of charged emissions. This explains an apparent mystery. In the early days of our solar system, the Sun emitted less energy than now. Yet global temperatures on earth were generally the same then as now, except for periodic cool periods, shown on the Berner graph. The explanation is that in the early days, the sun emitted far more charged particles than now. These reduced cloud cover on Earth, and so caused warming. As the sun emitted more energy but fewer charged particles, the two effects cancelled each other and temperatures remained the same.
In the Mediaeval Warm Period, temperatures were at least as high as now, while CO2 was lower than now and the Sun was very active. In the dreadful “Little Ice Age”, which sank to its nadir in the 17th Century, CO2 was lower than now and the sun was inactive. In the 20th Century temperatures rose while the sun was very active and CO2 rose. There is no other conclusion than that CO2 does not matter for our climate, and the sun does. Recent history emphasizes this. From 1910 to 1940, there was strong solar activity and global warming. From 1940 to 1975, a period of massive industrialisation and huge emissions of CO2, there was little solar activity and global cooling – leading to fears that we were entering a nice ice age. From 1975 to 1996, there was strong solar activity and global warming. Throughout this period CO2 was rising. Temperatures correlated well with solar activity, and badly with CO2.
Since satellite measurements began in 1979, the Antarctic ice has increased dramatically. The Arctic ice has decreased but unexceptionally. Sea levels are rising about 3 mm a year, which presents no danger and which is probably a natural recovery from the cold of the past. There has been no recent increase in extreme weather events, such as cyclones, droughts, flood and heatwaves, which happen all the time down the ages. They seem to have been worse in the ghastly cold of the 17th Century. There is nothing to fear.
Climate alarm is based on bad science, of which both de Vos and Fakir give examples with apparent approval. De Vos quotes James Hansen, the founding father of the alarm. In a famous testimony in 1988, Hansen gave model predictions of future temperatures under rising CO2. They have proved spectacularly wrong, with temperatures rising nowhere near as high as he predicted. De Vos quotes him as saying “exceeding 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere would likely have catastrophic effects”. This is nonsense. Life on Earth has evolved in CO2 levels way above 1,000 ppm and flourishes on them. Again, please look at the Berner graph.
De Vos refers to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is a government-funded propaganda body promoting climate alarm. It gathers the work of scientists around the world, some very good, and then filters and manipulates it into a message of alarm. It is utterly discredited. It has been rocked by scandals and it has corrupted science for political ends. In 2001 it gave huge prominence to the notorious “Hockey Stick” graph that made the Mediaeval Warm Period vanish like magic and showed an unparalleled increase in temperatures in the 20th Century. It was pure quackery, based on bad data and wrong statistical methods. For a good account of this scandal, google “What is the ‘Hockey Stick’ Debate About? By Ross McKitrick.”
Both de Vos and Fakir cite the absurd claim from the IPCC that we are now “95% certain” that most of the recent warming was caused by man. This comes from the “Summary for Policy Makers” of the IPCC’s 2014 report. It is complete nonsense. As I have shown above, the recent warming was no different from previous warmings that were entirely natural. IPCC does not even attempt to offer any substantiation for this silliness.
Another preposterous claim was that “97% of scientists” support climate alarm. This was based on a survey of 12,000 scientific papers. Actually only 65 of them supported climate alarm. So 99.3% of scientists did not support it. But the lie of the 97% gets repeated over and over again. It was tweeted by US President Barack Obama.
Our planet faces serious environmental threats. The oceans are being over-fished. Africa’s magnificent wild animals are being annihilated. Mass poverty is ravaging large parts of our world. But manmade climate change is not a threat at all. We should divert the enormous funds and resources we are wasting on this false threat, and use them on the real threats. Please, can we use science not propaganda to protect our precious planet? DM
Notes and Further Reading
I have masses of sources for everything I have written above. Here are some:
1. The graph below (where times goes from right to left) shows some of the warming periods in the Holocene. As you can see the present warming is unexceptional.
2. Graphs of CO2 and temps since Cambria below.
3. Many studies on the greening effect of rising CO2, including Daily Science, “The Green, A Desert in Bloom”, 7 October 2008, & Owen, James, “Sahara Desert Greening Due to Climate Change?”, National Geographic, 31 July 2009.
4. Graph bellows shows temps and CO2 during recent ice ages. CO2 follows temps with a lag of a century or more. What causes the temp changes isn’t understood but it almost certainly has to do with variations in the Earth’s orbit.
5. Latest temperature graph from the RSS satellites below. The satellites provide accurate, objective, comprehensive, untainted data. The land temperature measurements are patchy, highly tainted (both by the heat island effect and by deliberate tampering) and often reliant on bad and inaccurate instruments. Yet the alarmists only quote the land temps. This allows them to make false claims about recent years being hotter than 1998 (admittedly by tiny margins). The recent warming is because of El Nino.
6. The graph below shows Hansen’s predictions in 1988 compared with what actually happened. In “Scenario A” he assumed that CO2 would keep rising as it was doing then. In fact it rose more. But temperatures rose very little, and since about 1996 haven’t risen at all.
7. A good, detailed account of the corruption and bad science of the IPCC is given in the book with the unfortunate title: “The Delinquent Teenager” by Donna Laframboise. It makes shocking reading.
8. Prof Richard Lindzen (MIT) is perhaps the world’s leading climate scientist. Speaking of the IPCC’s claim of “95% certainty, he wrote: “I think that the latest IPCC report has truly sunk to levels of hilarious incoherence. They are proclaiming increased confidence in their models as the discrepancies between their models and observations increase.
9. The most likely explanation for the Sun’s effect on clouds is this. Beside temperature, pressure and humidity, another factor for cloud formation is nucleation sites, around which the cloud droplets condense. Cosmic radiation (from outside the Solar System) penetrates the Earth’s atmosphere and by a series of nuclear and chemical reactions makes nucleation sites. The more cosmic rays, the more clouds. The Sun’s emission of charged particles (protons, electrons etc) deflects the cosmic rays and prevents their reach the atmosphere. So the higher the solar activity, the fewer cosmic rays reaching us, the fewer clouds and the hotter it gets.
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The originator of the Big Bang Theory was a Catholic priest.