Forgive me for returning to Prof Vahrenholt so soon, but he was the keynote speaker at the Union Pétrolière Européenne Indépendante (UPEI) 50th Anniversary Conference in Brussels yesterday.
Just to recap: Prof Vahrenholt has a degree in Chemistry from Münster, and spent his early career in the federal Umweltbundesamt (environmental protection agency) in Berlin and the Ministry for Environment of Hesse. Active as a Socialist in German politics, he became Environment Minister for Hamburg. Later, moving into the energy Industry, he joined the Board of Deutsche Shell AG. From 2008 he was CEO of RWE’s renewables business — ironically the same company involved in the Batsworthy Cross wind farm planning appeal in Devon, where I was a witness last week. He was awarded an honorary Professorship in Chemistry in 1999 from Hamburg University.
Here is a man who has been an icon of the German green movement. And he is the man who has turned his back on the theory of anthropogenic climate change.
He spoke for an hour, and held the audience — mainly industry folk, but a smattering of politicians — in rapt attention.
His key points, as I remember them, were first that the trajectory of temperature over the last ten thousand years is a pretty consistent pattern of slight fluctuations on an approximately 1000 year time scale. Most recently, we’ve seen the Minoan, Roman and Mediaeval Optima (not coincidentally, times of great progress in civilisation), and what we are currently experiencing appears to be a new 21st century optimum exactly like those that preceded it.
The slight warming of the last hundred years is not at all exceptional — it is entirely typical of the pattern of the whole interglacial. We hear the Greens — and the European Commission — insisting that the current warming is exceptional and requires an anthropogenic explanation. They appear not to have looked at the data. The current temperature trend looks entirely natural.
Superimposed on the 1000 year cycle is a 30 year solar cycle. Over the period 1970 to 1998, these two trends reinforced each other, giving rise to climate alarmism. The solar cycle has now turned, leading Prof Vahrenholt to anticipate three decades of cooling. His conclusion appears to be borne out by current data — there has been no warming since 1998.
He also demonstrated that the correlation between temperature and atmospheric CO2 is in fact very poor, while the correlation with solar activity is remarkably strong. The sun appears to be moving into a quieter period (hence Vahrenholt’s book title “The Cold Sun”). Let’s just hope it’s not so serious as the Maunder Minimum cool period in the Seventeenth Century, which had a serious impact on agricultural yields. At least our higher atmospheric CO2 levels should help to maintain crop yields this time.
Before Prof. Vahrenholt’s presentation we heard from Ms. Mechthild Wörsdörfer of the European Commission, setting out plans to “decarbonise the European economy” by 2050. I put a question to her: Was she aware of credible new research showing that renewables with conventional back-up resulted in emissions savings that were trivial or zero? And did she agree with me that current EU environmental plans meant that European energy costs would be high, and European industry hopelessly uncompetitive, for decades, and that we risked condemning our grandchildren to an agrarian existence of subsistence farming, poverty and hunger?
Rather to my surprise, my question attracted a significant round of applause.