We don’t hear so much anymore about global warming, in part because it is not so clear how much warming is in fact occurring around the globe. And some scientists are even now warning again of a coming cooling. But talk about climate change continues, although that too has been a bit muted lately, with the global financial crisis taking the spotlight.
And if there is actual manmade climate change taking place – something which is still very much a matter of debate – then the proposed remedies will be very costly indeed, especially for average citizens in Western nations. In the light of the financial meltdown, the thought of becoming even poorer to help fund what may be something of an environmental goose chase is not so appealing.
So the discussion is a bit quiet at the moment. Thus it is a good time to take a more level-headed approach to these issues, instead of allowing knee-jerk reactions based on fear-mongering to rule the day. Many sober heads have noted the very weak case for AGW (anthropogenic global warming). A very good piece about this recently appeared in Quadrant magazine by William Kininmonth.
He is well-credentialed to provide the scientific arguments against AGW. He is the former head of Australia’s National Climate Centre, and was an Australian representative and consultant to the World Meteorological Organization on climate issues. In his article, “Illusions of Climate Science” he provides a wealth of detailed information on why the scientific community is not united on such issues, and argues that rash actions should be resisted, as they may cause more harm than good.
I urge readers to examine his whole argument, but his concluding paragraphs are worth reprinting here:
“Australians are now being bombarded by an intense government-funded propaganda campaign to encourage people to accept the reality of dangerous human-caused climate change and support early action for ‘carbon pollution’ reduction. The scaremongering about dangerous climate change is based on the erroneous computer model projections and the unsubstantiated extrapolations of a range of climate impacts that are only realistic if no adaptive or mitigating measures are taken.”
“In the absence of computer models there would be little credence given to the view that the relatively small warming of the second half of the twentieth century was due to carbon dioxide emissions; there would certainly be no credence given to the possibility of irreversible runaway global warming over the coming century. Cool heads would note that most of the earth’s surface is either ocean or freely transpiring vegetation and that surface evaporation will continue to constrain surface temperature rise, as it always has done.”
“The likely magnitude of human-caused global warming is so low that it will not be discernible against the background of natural variability in the climate record. Thus national or internationally co-ordinated efforts to impose carbon dioxide emission reduction for the purpose of preventing climate change will be a tremendous waste of resources. The real danger is that government-instigated measures to drastically downsize a wide range of fossil-fuel-dependent industries in order to achieve emission reduction targets will actually be effective. Such success will destroy jobs and will limit future development opportunities, with no discernible impact on climate. Then the government will realise that it is much easier to change the economy than to change the climate, and it will also find that the direction and impacts of change will be equally unpredictable.”
The scientific case he makes against Green alarmism is nicely complemented by another article in Quadrant, “The Futile Quest for Climate Control” by Robert Carter. In it he seeks to “explain the need for a proper national climate change policy that relates to real rather than imaginary risk, a policy position that neither the previous nor the present Australian government has achieved. Instead – in response to strong pressure from lobby groups whose main commonality is financial or other self-interest, and a baying media – our present national climate policy is to try to prevent human-caused global warming. This will be a costly, ineffectual and hence futile exercise.”
A few quotes from this article are also of value here. For example, he speaks about the agendas and unscientific means often used by those agitating for instant action:
“It is part of the traffic of discussion about global warming that some of the participants are corrupt. Routinely, climate scientists employed at even the most prestigious institutions are accused of having their alarmist views bought by a need to maintain research funding. Equally, self-righteous critics make desperate attempts to link climate sceptics with what are claimed to be the vested interests of the coal and oil and gas industries. It is also obvious that commercial interests – including alternative energy providers such as wind turbine manufacturers, big utility companies such as Enron, big financiers, and emerging emissions and carbon indulgences traders – have strong potential to become involved in corrupt dealings in the traditional meaning of the term. To varying degrees all of these accusations are true, but probably the strongest alarmist influence of all on the climate policy debate is the rather more subtle phenomenon of noble cause corruption.”
“In his book Science and Public Policy, Professor Aynsley Kellow explores the problem of noble cause corruption in public life in some depth. Such corruption arises from the belief of a vested interest, or powerful person or group, in the moral righteousness of their cause. For example, a police officer may apprehend a person committing a crime and, stuck with a lack of incriminating evidence, proceed to manufacture it. For many social mores, of which ‘stopping global warming’ and ‘saving the Great Barrier Reef’ are two iconic Australian examples, it has become a common practice for evidence to be manipulated in dishonest ways, under the justification of helping to achieve a worthy end. After all, who wouldn’t want to help to ‘save the Great Barrier Reef’?”
He also notes the vast power, influence and resources of the environmental lobby – just about getting up there on a par with those nasty corporations: “Most readers will be aware of the activities of high-profile environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace, the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Australian Conservation Foundation. However, relatively few persons appreciate the size, scope, co-ordination and colossal financial resources that are now involved in environmental lobbying around the world. For example, at the centre of many climate policy debates is to be found the Climate Action Network – a twenty-year-old umbrella organisation with seven regional nodes which co-ordinates the advocacy of more than 280 separate environmental NGOs.”
He continues, “Driven by their addiction to alarmism, and a false belief that the causes of climate change are understood, environmentalists worldwide urge the adoption of the precautionary principle to solve the ‘global warming problem’. The reality that you can’t take precautions against a future that is unknown (and may encompass either warming or cooling, or both) is ignored in favour of irrational feel-goodery, the aim being to move the world to a ‘post-carbon’ economy by drastic curtailment of the carbon dioxide emissions that are alleged to be causing warming.”
“Environmental campaigners for the reduction of human greenhouse emissions remain blind to inconvenient facts such as: that no amount of precaution is going to stop natural climate change; that there is a 100 per cent risk of damage from natural climate events, which happen every day; that we cannot measure, much less isolate, any presumed human climate signal globally; that extra atmospheric carbon dioxide causes mild warming at best, and overall is at least as likely to be beneficial as harmful; and that the causes of climate change are many, various and very incompletely understood.”
Much of the mainstream media is to blame as well for all the hype and gloom and doomism: “The media serve to convey to the public the facts and hypotheses of climate change as provided by individual scientists, government and international research agencies and NGO lobby groups. With very few exceptions, press reporters commenting on global warming are either ignorant of the science matters involved, or wilfully determined to propagate warming hysteria because that fits their personal worldview, or are under editorial direction to focus the story around the alarmist headline grab; and often all three.”
“In general, therefore, the media propagate the alarmist cause for global warming, and they have certainly failed to convey to the public both the degree of uncertainty that characterises climate science and many of the essential facts that are relevant to human causation of climate change. It is a rare day now that any metropolitan newspaper fails to carry one or more alarmist stories on climate change, not least because media proprietors learned long ago that sensational or alarmist news sells best.”
Carter looks at other factors involved in the debate, and then concludes with these words: “In 1990 the IPCC’s first Assessment Report concluded that no human influence on climate was discernible. Despite the huge expenditure of research effort and money since that time, the boundary arguments to the debate have scarcely moved. We now have copiously more data and more powerful computers, have spent upwards of $50 billion on climate research, and are the beneficiaries of twenty years of hard thinking by some of the world’s most accomplished scientists. Yet the protagonists in the debate remain in the same bunkers they occupied in the early 1990s, and a clear human-caused climate signal continues to elude us.”
Concern for the environment is vital, but it is also vital that the science is right and the facts are clear. Too much of this debate has thus far been driven by emotion and rhetoric, not by sound science and clear thinking. These two articles help us to avoid the former while achieving the latter.