Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of mindless abuse from climate change trolls on Twitter. “The fact that we have ignoramuses like Roger Helmer representing us in parliament is a f***ing outrage. It really is.” Or “Please resign. I don’t want a moron representing me in the European parliament.”
Hang on guys. You can disagree with me if you want – though you might be more credible if you could advance rational arguments in a courteous way. But the fact is that I had a good grammar school education, and I got a State Scholarship and a Cambridge maths degree. I think that’s good evidence against the “Moron and ignoramus” charges.
These people seem to think that blind adherence to the failing Warmist paradigm will (in the words of the Good Book) “be accounted unto them for righteousness”. Sorry, guys, but it doesn’t work like that. You don’t get too many Brownie Points for parroting what everyone else is saying.
They keep referring to ‘science’. So OK, let’s talk science. The classical scientific method involves postulating hypotheses, making predictions based on those hypotheses, and then testing predictions against observed data. Climate ‘science’ is largely based on highly complex computer models. But the starting point for these models is a series of hypotheses, or assumptions, about how climate responds to various forcing factors. And the outcome of the models is no more than a very sophisticated prediction, based on hypotheses and assumptions.
It is worth noting here that some of the assumptions underlying Warmism are implicit. Indeed some have probably not even been recognised as assumptions by members of what we may call “the Warmist community”. I return to one or two of those below.
But of course the Warmist trolls completely ignore the third stage of the scientific method – checking predictions and outcomes against observed data. And when we look at the real data, we find that observed temperature trends fall far below the general run of alarmist predictions. And we find satellite data showing no further warming for nearly two decades.
Self-respecting scientists will look at these data and conclude that there may well be problems with the hypotheses. And frankly anyone who thinks that the primary determinant of global climate is an invisible, non-toxic trace gas which amounts to no more than 0.04% of the atmosphere, needs to think again.
Let’s look at those implicit assumptions:
Assumption #1: Human activity is causing the rise in atmospheric CO2. Yes, atmospheric CO2 has risen from around 250 ppm to a current figure of 400 ppm over the last hundred years or so, at a time when the industrial revolution has gathered pace, and fossil fuel use has risen dramatically. So human activity is the obvious cause – right? Maybe not. Let’s go back to Al Gore’s famous film, “An Inconvenient Truth”. He points to changes in both global temperature and atmospheric CO2 levels over the last 600,000 years. He establishes a clear correlation between the two data sets. And he cries “Eureka! That proves it! CO2 causes temperatures rises!”
Of course it proves no such thing. Correlation doesn’t prove causation. And what Al Gore doesn’t mention is that if you look at the fine grain of the data, the temperature changes precede the CO2 changes by a few hundred years. Any serious scientist looking at that would accept the correlation, but conclude that temperature was driving CO2. Not, as Gore claims, CO2 driving temperature.
But this creates a major problem for Gore and the Warmists. He can attempt to explain the most recent increase in CO2 levels as a result of man-made emissions. But he offers no explanation for the CO2 fluctuations over the previous 600,000 years, when clearly they were not the result of human activity. There were no industrial emissions or 4 x 4s or sports-utility vehicles. Gore’s CO2 fluctuations remain a mystery.
Climate sceptics, on the other hand, have a complete explanation. Changes in mean global temperatures are driven by long-term cyclical astronomical and solar effects. These in turn drive CO2 changes. Neither the temperature changes nor the CO2 fluctuations remain unexplained.
Over the last 10,000 years (and arguably much longer) there has been a roughly 1000-year cycle in mean global temperatures. It gave us the Holocene optima, the Minoan Optimum, the Roman Optimum, the Mediæval Warm Period, and it now seems to be delivering a new 21st Century Climate Optimum. Note that recent warming seems to be part of a well-understood, long established natural climate cycle, and (applying Occam’s Razor) we need seek no other explanation.
But to resume: it could well be the case that the cyclical warming which for two hundred years has been bringing us out of the Little Ice Age is also the main driver of the observed increase in atmospheric CO2. It may have relatively little to do with human activity, which in any case is only around 3% of the global carbon cycle.
But what about the mechanism? How would temperature drive CO2? Simple. There is about fifty times the amount of CO2 dissolved in the oceans as there is in the atmosphere. But the amount of CO2 that can be held in the oceans is temperature-dependent. As oceans warm, the sea water cannot contain so much CO2 in solution. So it ends up in the atmosphere. Levels of atmospheric CO2 rise. Conclusion: man-made emissions may well be no more than a minor factor in atmospheric CO2 levels.
Assumption #2: CO2 is the only significant driver of global temperature. Yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas. But so is water vapour – and as long as the wind blows over the ocean, there is nothing we can do about that. If we are to look at correlations (as Al Gore seems keen to do) there is a rather good long-term correlation between the sun and climate – and a rather poor correlation between CO2 and climate (see Fritz Vahrenholt ‘The Cold Sun’). There is also strong emerging evidence that the solar magnetic field, closely linked to the sunspot cycle, has a powerful effect on the cosmic ray flux reaching the earth, and that this in turn affects cloud formation, albedo — and climate. It is naïve to assume (as the IPCC does) that “It was the carbon dioxide wot dun it”.
Assumption #3: We can change the trend of CO2, and climate, with renewables. No. There are reportedly around 1200 new coal-fired power stations in the global pipeline – and fossil fuels are becoming cheaper. CO2 emissions will rise for decades whatever we do (and as noted above, may not be primarily driven by man-made emissions in the first place). And intermittent renewables cost more, and save fewer emissions than the industry likes to claim. This is because, through intermittency, they export inefficiency to the necessary fossil fuel back-up, which burns more gas (it’s usually gas), and emits more CO2 per megawatt than would be the case without intermittency.
But there is a more fundamental economic reason why our energy policies may do more harm than good. Electricity prices across the EU are now around double the level of our major competitors (excluding Japan, which is a special case). As a result, energy-intensive industries are moving offshore, taking their jobs and investment with them. Often they go to jurisdictions with lower emissions standards, arguably increasing global emissions. Brussels calls this “Carbon leakage”. I call it economic suicide.