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Friday, 31 July 2015

Been Thinking about Global Warming Hysteria – Again

The Earth is about 4 billion years old. A lot has happened. Continents have slid around. Mountain ranges have emerged. Sheets of ice miles thick have periodically covered vast areas and then retreated. The atmosphere has fluctuated: sometimes more carbon dioxide, sometimes less. Whole phyla of animals have emerged. Many species of plants and animals have appeared and disappeared. It has been a turbulent 4 billion years. Every change has had a cause. Some causes can be guessed at. When it comes to long past events, we can speculate. We do have evidence of cyclical variations of temperature and atmosphere. Sometimes high concentrations of CO2 have coincided with high temperatures, sometimes with ice ages. The rest of the solar system affects our earth. The moon drags the oceans around and gives us tides. The activity of the sun (in the form of sun spots) correlates with weather, crop yields and stock market prices. Lots of things change. One change affects other phenomenon.

A series of causes (about which we can speculate) rendered the Earth in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries relatively colder than it had been. This was BAD news for people at the time. Food was harder to grow and fuel to maintain life became more expensive. History tells us that during the ‘Roman Warm Period’ and the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ European civilisation flourished. Food was relatively plentiful. Winters were lethal to relatively few.

A few decades ago some scientists speculated that we were due for another cold period. This was, indeed, a cause for some alarm. The prospect of ice fairs on the Thames did not compensate for the prospect of rising food prices. Fears of another ice age were credible – ice ages had happened before.

All of a sudden two things happened. We observed that the average temperature of the Earth had risen since the eighteenth century by a fraction of a degree Centigrade – what a relief. We also remembered that scientists had told us that certain elements of the atmosphere (most notably water vapour) had the effect of trapping heat. One of these elements was CO2, a tiny proportion of our atmosphere (0.04%). It was/is true that human beings contribute to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, perhaps as much as 3% – the rest comes from volcanoes and other natural causes.

A third thing happened. Governments around the world took it into their heads that because human beings contribute some carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and that there had been some warming since the Little Ice Age of the eighteenth century, we were frying the Earth. This conclusion is unwarranted. The Earth would eventually resemble Venus, whose atmospheric temperature is more than 100o C. In the meantime oceans would rise and engulf low lying regions.

Al Gore’s absurd movie, An Inconvenient Truth, contained a graphic demonstrating a correlation between CO2 and temperature. It exists but the graphic also demonstrated that increases in temperature characteristically preceded rises in CO2.

In view of the fact that weather is so fantastically complex that forecasts about winds and rain and sunshine and temperature more than a few days in the future are impossible, the policy recommendations of these politicians were reckless in the extreme. We were to cut back on the exploitation of hydrocarbons, whose cheapness and abundance had enabled the western world to achieve unprecedented levels of prosperity and wellbeing, and to deny these benefits to the underdeveloped nations.

We may compare the alarmist ‘scientists’ with an astronomer whose preferred tool is a microscope.

If it were the case that temperatures were rising dramatically and that the effects in terms of sea levels were causing havoc and loss of life, we would have serious reasons for investigating the causes and for contemplating policies (if any were available) to mitigate the problem. The fact is that the increase has been on the order of 0.6o C over the past century or so – an increase which would have been regarded as benign (if niggardly) by those alive in the eighteenth century. In the real world, climate changes as a result of the sun’s behaviour, about which we can do nothing. When, as is virtually certain, the global average temperature takes another dip, we want our economies to be as robust as possible, to facilitate adaptation. Shutting down industrial civilisation is the very last thing we should be doing – suicidal, in fact.