I was recently asked to provide some guidance notes for a member of the public invited onto the BBC to debate Climate Change. This is a difficult challenge. These are complex arguments that are not easy to reduce to sound-bites, and well-meaning non-specialists may risk being tied in knots by those working in the field. But I did my best, with five key points:
1 Current climate developments are entirely normal
The small increase in average global temperatures in the last hundred years (+ 0.7 degrees C) is entirely consistent with well-established, long-term, natural climate cycles that have been in place for the last ten thousand years. (The Holocene maxima, the Roman Optimum, the cooler Dark Ages, the Mediaeval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age). We now seem to be moving into a new and entirely natural 21st century climate optimum. Alarmists often talk of “reducing temperatures to the pre-industrial level”. But pre-industrial temperatures varied widely, and the immediate pre-industrial period was the Little Ice Age of the 17th & 18th centuries. Throughout Earth history, temperatures have often been warmer than today’s, and CO2 levels have often been higher (more than ten times as high at times). But this has not led to any “tipping point” or to a “runaway greenhouse effect”.
In the last ten years mean global temperatures have declined significantly, reversing much of the previous warming.
2 CO2 has largely shot its bolt
CO2 is a greenhouse gas (although a much less important one than water vapour, which we cannot hope to control — and anyway man-made CO2 emissions are only about 3% of the total natural carbon cycle). But the “climate forcing” (greenhouse warming) effect of CO2 is not linear. It is governed by a negative logarithmic equation, a law of diminishing returns. At the current level of around 390 ppm of atmospheric CO2, we are already close to the top of the curve, and further increases will have a trivial effect.
(To understand this better and to see the graph, I strongly recommend Prof Bob Carter’s paper: http://www.eap-journal.com/archive/v38_i2_03_carter.pdf)
3 The pattern of warming doesn’t fit the predictions
All climate alarmism is based on computer predictions. They vary widely, but all agree that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) caused by CO2 should have a distinctive pattern — a “signature” or “fingerprint”. We should expect maximum warming in the upper troposphere (high atmosphere) and in tropical latitudes. But all the evidence from meteorological balloons and satellite data shows a completely different pattern — warming mostly at ground level, and mostly Northern hemisphere. The fingerprint doesn’t match. This finding is not only inconsistent with AGW theory — it is sufficient by itself to disprove it.
This is a difficult but vital concept. To understand it better, visit http://www.sepp.org/ and look for the NIPCC report, which covers this issue in detail with graphic colour illustrations of the expected and actual patterns of warming.
4 There is no “scientific consensus”.
Professor Richard Lindzen is one of the world’s most respected climate scientists, and was the lead author of the science section of the IPCC’s major 2001 report. He is an American atmospheric physiscist and Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a climate sceptic, who explicitly rejects the idea that human activity has a significant effect on the climate. A number of scientists from the IPCC’s panel — touted as the “consensus” — deny its findings. Hundreds of scientists around the world, in Germany, in Australia and elsewhere (and thousands in the USA) are questioning the AGW theory, and writing to urge governments not to make huge, irreversible economic decisions based on flawed science.
5 Current policy proposals would not work, even if AGW were true
China and India have made it clear that they will not accept any programme that damages their economies. The US Senate will not approve a Cap & Trade programme. The Copenhagen Conference in December is unlikely to succeed. China is building more than one coal-fired power station a week. Nothing that we in the UK do will make a scrap of difference in global terms. Now we are being asked to provide billions of pounds to promote “green energy” in developing countries, yet China is the world’s largest polluter; in a few years it will be the world’s largest economy, and it has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves. It is absurd that British tax-payers facing recession and years of austerity should be asked to subsidise Chinese industry.
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- My final speech in Strasbourg – Two-seat parliament a perfect metaphor for the hubris and futility of EU project
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- EU energy labelling: confusing consumers and creating problems for industry
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