Roger Harrabin’s new normal


This morning I awoke to the joyous tones of BBC Environment Correspondent Roger Harrabin on BBC Radio 4, expounding the new consensus on climate change. At last (he told us) the alarmists and the sceptics are edging to the middle ground, very nearly singing off the same hymn-sheet. The Climate Wars are almost over.

We all agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. We all agree that human activity is affecting the climate. We are converging on a figure for climate sensitivity of around 1.7oC (Climate Sensitivity is the theoretical warming associated with a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 level, on an “other things being equal” basis. Note that a fixed warming per doubling amounts to a law of diminishing returns).

So the good news is that warming will be slower than the IPCC’s worst alarmist forecasts, which tended to use a sensitivity figure of around 3.5o. We have more time to prepare. But the bad news is that climate change is real, is man-made, and will sooner or later do huge damage unless we radically change our ways, and (as I would argue) do vast damage to our economies.

Thank heaven that we have the BBC fulfilling its mandate and presenting us with such wise and balanced advice! Thanks heaven that the arguments are over, and we all know where we stand!

But before you break open the champagne to celebrate the outbreak of peace and the cessation of hostilities, there are several elephants in the room. Several massive but critical implicit assumptions that Mr. Harrabin has failed to resolve, or even to raise.

Is mankind responsible for the recorded increase in atmospheric CO2 levels? Certainly there is a (fairly) good correlation between the rise in CO2 since say 1950, and the global temperature trend (though the CO2 trend is much more linear, while temperature has ups and down, and in fact declined from 1950 to 1975). But temperature has been on a broadly upward trend since the early 19th Century, long before the increase in CO2. That upward trend is exactly comparable to the increase before the Mediæval Warm Period 1000 years ago, before the Roman Optimum 2000 years ago, and indeed before cyclical up-turns on a roughly 1000 year timescale throughout the current Interglacial. This seems much more like astronomical cycles that a CO2-driven effect.

In any case, anthropogenic CO2 emissions are estimated to be only around 3% of the total CO2 cycle, which is largely driven by natural phenomena — volcanoes (both on land and under-sea) and biological processes. A few weeks of Icelandic volcanic eruptions can negate years of desperate attempts to reduce man-made emissions.

And the evidence over hundreds of thousands of years is that the CO2 cycle follows the temperature cycle after 800-1000 years, and therefore cannot be the cause of it. The mechanism is clear: as oceans warm, they are able to contain less dissolved CO2, which ends up in the atmosphere. (There is fifty times as much CO2 in the oceans as in the atmosphere). It is much more likely that the recent increase in atmospheric CO2 is primarily driven by rising temperatures, not human activity. So action we take to reduce emissions will have no effect at all (apart from bankrupting us).

Is CO2 the only factor driving the terrestrial climate? Indeed, is it a significant factor at all? It beggars belief that a colourless, odourless, non-toxic trace gas in the atmosphere, currently at only 0.04%, can be the primary driver of terrestrial temperature — especially since on a geo-historical perspective, the CO2 level has been much higher in the past, perhaps twenty times higher. And those periods were not associated with Warming — indeed they partly coincided with an Ice Age.

CO2 is just one minor factor amongst many in a vast and chaotic climate system which is poorly understood and very difficult to model. CO2 is not even the most serious greenhouse gas. Both water vapour and methane have a bigger effect — and we can do nothing about water vapour until we can stop the winds blowing over the ocean.

In any case, there’s that big hot ball in the sky which largely drives the earth’s energy economy. The Sun. And over the last 1000 years, there’s a very good correlation between solar activity and sunspots, on the one hand, and global temperatures on the other. But a rather poor correlation between CO2 and temperature.

The IPCC dismisses the effect of the Sun, because its luminosity is remarkably constant. However its magnetic field is not. Linked to sunspot cycles, it is very variable, and there is increasing evidence of a causal link between sunspots, the Sun’s magnetic field, the incidence of cosmic rays on the earth, terrestrial cloud formation, and albedo (the earth’s reflectivity, largely driven by cloud cover). The difference is this: that there are hard data to confirm the link between solar activity and temperature, whereas predictions based on the IPCC’s CO2 theory have failed again and again.

Will the activity we are taking to mitigate climate change actually have any effect? If man-made CO2 is not a significant driver of climate, then No. But even if it is, I have argued elsewhere that (A) Intermittent renewables do not achieve major reductions in emissions; (B) But they do drive up energy prices, causing energy intensive businesses to move to jurisdictions with lower energy prices and laxer emissions rules — arguably increasing emissions; (C) with 1200 new coal-fired power stations in the global pipeline, covering the UK with wind turbines is simply whistling in the wind (literally and figuratively).

So I’m sorry, Roger, but the battle isn’t over (and the alarmists are losing it!). But right now, until the final collapse of the orthodoxy, we are investing massive, front-loaded sums of money in mitigation measures which can never achieve their aims — even if the IPCC were right. And its not. We are mortgaging our children and bankrupting our grandchildren with bizarre policies based on highly suspect science, with technologies that cannot deliver even in their own terms.

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29 Responses to Roger Harrabin’s new normal

  1. “the alarmists and the sceptics are edging to the middle ground”

    This sceptic bleedin’ isn’t.

  2. Maureen Gannon says:

    We have so many alarmist messages from bird flu to the poles melting to now honey which I take everyday being harmful to you then years later whoooosh “don’t worry folks not as bad as first thought ” can’ we shut these doomasters up until they tell us all is well “nothing to scare you with this week follks.” and I should add I am fed up with being told I am in denial just ‘cos I don’t agree with them. before I finish all this recycling bunkum we pay our rates and do the work that once men were employed to do , and then it,s all dumped in containers together and sorted by the chinese and Asians, they play us for mugs and wonder why we hold them in contempt. , thank you UKIP a boot to kick them with.

    • `David says:

      I recon the millions of trips to recycle are eliminating much of the savings in landfill or the re-use of the rubbish.

      • Wun Hung Lo says:

        All combustible “rubbish” should be burned in incinerator – power stations to produce electricity and hot water heating etc., on industrial estates to make cheap power for factories, at the very least. Then dump just the ashes into the landfill. Ashes would take up a fraction of the space that the seas of plastic milk cartons and “un-recyclable” packaging, and old furniture etc., which take up much space in landfill sites today.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        I can’t agree with Wun that everything needs burning, this costs both energy and resources, the ash dust is far from healthy when blown around by the winds. Land fill is a resource, fill in uneven places and re profile contours, fill in selected areas and reclaim tidal sections of river banks. Probably more important is packaging needs to be reduced, as in glass bottles being reused like we did 50 years ago. Manufacturing needs to be more localised instead of everything now being made in China, less transportation, less packaging and less wastage. I don’t worry about the rest of the World, we need to fix our own problems here, and others do the same.

  3. Alan Townsend says:

    Do I recall Harrabin dismissing the pause with a soundly based scientific statement like ‘it will end sometime soon’ no doubt a prediction made by the same sorcerers who failed to predict the pause in the first place? Come to think of it have any of the soothsayers predictions turned out to be true?

  4. ilma630 says:

    “We all agree carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas”! Ur, no we don’t!! That’s pure assumption. Look at how the global temperature has reacted to the last 18+ years of CO2 rise. It hasn’t, zero!

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      Yes Ilma. But that’s because CO2, while it is a greenhouse gas, is (in my view) only a minor factor in the climate mix. See above, in my blog post.

      • Wun Hung Lo says:

        Man Made CO2 is even less significant when you look at the reality.

        Drax Power Station is the largest fossil fuel plant in the UK and the second largest in Europe, Drax supposedly produces a bit less than 23 million tonnes of CO2 per annum, and some daft project to reduce the efficiency by burning woodchips transported from the USA and another daft idea to have the mythical Carbon Capture and storage won’t reduce these emissions much further. The CCS idea has attracted hundreds of millions from both the UK Government and the EU as well, yet it is a boguis technology, which does not work, and it would use 1/3 of the stations electrical output to capture less than 20% of the CO2 even if they could make it work. The CCS is a Crazy idea, promoted by the deluded.

        Here is a picture of Drax to the same scale as Mount Etna in Full eruptive mode. Mount Etna has been erupting, more or less continuously for thousands of years, and CO2 and SO2 and H2O is emitted continuously, even when there is not so much smoke or lava.

  5. Jane Davies says:

    People used to think the earth was flat……..

  6. Mike Stallard says:

    Thank you for this very well thought out and fair minded summary of the whole issue. Much appreciated.
    I make myself go on left wing blogs to get the whole picture. The really scary thing is that they are full of people who actually still believe in AGW as if it is all proven and happening. Questioning that is rather like our questioning, say, the wickedness of Adolf Hitler or the honesty and asceticism of the EU.
    Heaven help us when they win the next election.

  7. Ex-expat Colin says:

    I had switched R4 off because I had listened to the World Service earlier and had suffered the usual insertion of Climate Change in the middle of something interesting about plants. They stuff CC into anything and often.

    So I missed Harrabin…. thankfully. However, he misunderstood/confused what Nic Lewis (GWPF associated) had said before the programme aired…here:

    Nic Lewis is not an “authority” although his background is maths and science (Cambridge).

    Since GWPF could mean Nigel Lawson, I wonder what the BBC is up to? Airing skeptics…sort of?

  8. Richard111 says:

    The only ‘greenhouse gases’ in the atmosphere, that is the only gases in the atmosphere that CAN STORE HEAT ENERGY, are nitrogen, oxygen and argon.
    As for that incredibly stupid ‘chief scientific advisor’ to the UK government who seems to believe CO2 in the atmosphere will make the oceans ACID, the mind boggles! I bet this man believes oil is a fossil fuel that came from plant life in the oceans millions of years ago. Just look up the geology of those times and you will find that atmospheric CO2 was many THOUSANDS of parts per million more than the present miserable 400ppm we have today. All the records show that life was thriving in the oceans in those days. So much so that life had to find some room to live on the land. The oceans weren’t acid back then so how in Heaven’s Name can it become acid now?

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      I don’t think “greenhouse gas” means a gas that can store energy (and of course all material can store energy in the form of heat). My understanding of “greenhouse gas” is a gas that is transparent (or nearly so) to incoming solar radiation, but less transparent to lower-frequency out-going radiation, and thus has the effect of trapping heat in the atmosphere. I believe that CO2 has this effect.

      • Richard111 says:

        Sorry, Roger. CO2 is VERY responsive to incoming solar radiation in the 2.7 and 4.3 micron bands. Peak temperatures are ~800C and ~400C respectively. Solar energy in the 15 micron band is so weak it is ignored but that band is effective for radiation from the Earth. CO2 is effective over some 3,800 lines of radiation centred around the 15 micron band covering 13 to 17 microns. This band makes up some 27% of radiation from the surface radiating at a peak temperature of 15C. The surface temperature sets the adiabatic lapse rate of the atmosphere. CO2 in the atmosphere will be at local air temperature for any altitude. Therefore up to the tropopause CO2 will be TOO WARM to absorb that radiation because the PEAK temperature of 13 microns is MINUS 30C !
        The rest of the band is colder. But you can be assured that CO2 will be radiating over that band cooling the surrounding air. The laws of radiation science says that radiation CANNOT warm a surface at 15C.
        Difficult to keep this explanation short and sweet but one more point; the energy absorbed over the 2.7 and 4,3 micron bands NEVER reached the surface. Another cooling effect.
        And finally from me :-). H2O, water vapour, completely swamps that 15 micron band anyway. No ways anyone will cut back on H2O.
        ‘Global warming’ is worse than a scam because shortly people are going to die whole sale because of food shortages caused by reduced growing periods as the world cools.

      • Wun Hung Lo says:

        Nitrogen is most abundant at 78%
        Oxygen is next most at 21%
        CO2 is a “trace gas” – 400 ppm = 0.04%
        This whole carbon tax climate charade is a criminal shenanigan.
        China building a new Coal Power Station every week !
        China will not be doing ANY carbon capture, except by
        pumping it into real greenhouses to grow larger and more
        produce to feed its population more cheaply. So should UK.

        Greenhouses heat up by preventing convection mostly,
        and stopping wind chill effects, neither of which occur by
        the effects of CO2 (or any other gas in the wild atmosphere,

        The so called “Greenhouse Effect” of CO2 in the Earth
        atmosphere, Does Not Exist. This is a misnomer and it
        always has been.

  9. Philip says:

    Another excellent comment with depth of insight and understanding. Your line of inquiry has lent itself wonderfully to my early conclusion that the alarmists are on the whole “liars” in my geology comment at . You also reveal the shear lack of proper lateral questioning and research on the part of the climate alarmists, who’s attitude you have already revealed many times to be as I believe, which is, “unscientific”.
    The alarmists do prove how difficult a task it is to prove fairy tales using science!

  10. Ex-expat Colin says:

    On the subject of Media panic mongering….
    TWC founder John Coleman to be on CNN this morning – link via WUWT:

    This appears to be the founder of The Weather Channel (US) talking about the media’s complicity in perpetuating an unscientific panic about man’s influence on the climate.

    I guess thats about 5pm UK time? (11am ET)

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      If interested the piece is here:

      Coleman put the following on WUWT after the airing:

      John Coleman November 2, 2014 at 9:29 am
      So here is what fired me off…
      The host was talking to the Kenny off of the air before the interview and as I waited in my earpiece I heard the host say that they were doing this segment because Fox had the stupid audacity to put an old, anti-science denier on the air and they wanted to set the record straight and discredit him. Of course, this really got under my skin.
      [Thank you for the courage to speak in public. .mod WUWT]

  11. John Hancon says:


    Thank you for another well argued article. May I just amplify the points you made about the Sun. You mentioned that total solar radiance is remarkably constant, however the extreme ultra violate (EUV) part of the spectrum follows the sunspot number very well. EUV affects the progress of the jet streams around the planet in the mid latitudes North and South of the Equator. A low EUV output tends to disrupt the usual west to east flow and stretch the flow bands, causing them to meander North South. The effect brings arctic air or equatorial air over the British Isles, causing during winter months Western Europe being subject to long periods of blocking high pressure systems (normal Atlantic low-pressure systems diverted), giving very cold and windless weather. The present solar cycle is very weak and solar maximum has probably passed, so the next few winters will probably be quite harsh.

  12. MartinWW says:

    I will add my thanks to Roger Helmer for this article. All this has been stated many times, but it is important that these corrections to Harrabin, the IPCC and the like, are repeatedly stated. Eventually, the sheer idiocy of the CO2-Global Warming scare and of our energy policies will penetrate the slow minds of enough politicians. I look forward to the sunny uplands of rationality returning to politics, but having now entered my eighth decade, I might not live to see it. As for the BBC, that force for evil is past saving

  13. Roger Helmer MEP says:

    Roger Harrabin tells me that he acknowledged in the broadcast that the climate debate was not yet over. As I was writing based on my recollection of the interview, and I did not have a transcript to hand, I am happy to accept his correction and I apologise for a (rather minor) error. I note that Mr. Harrabin did not choose to challenge the substance of my article.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      The debate (type) is above I think (CNN). As far as I am concerned those of the media should not be in it to the extent they are…something that they virtually pummel us with and too often at our expense.

      Anyway I’m pleased C02 warmed this part of West England up this morning – PDQ…oh, sorry its the Sun.

  14. Paul. says:

    Unfortunately Roger you talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. You like to post articles such as this on your blog but whenever you appear on the radio or television you lose your bottle and end up being a lukewarmer which not only undermines your case but bolsters the position of the likes of the BBC, tories and labour etc.
    The same goes for your party. They just don’t have the grit to actually stand up and say AGW is a crock for fear of offending god knows who – the green lobby????
    I suspect it’s that when all is said and done you people don’t quite have the intelligence required to put forward a cogent argument as regards the global warming myth.
    The thing is, Roger, best keep quiet on the matter until you actually have something substantial to say and say it loud.

    • Martin Reed says:

      Paul, I’m worried you might be right. The whole mindless, catastrophic lunacy that is UK energy policy needs to be binned, single every atom of it, CCA of course, bonkers carbon capture, subsidies, this and that tariffs, etc., etc. Coal fired power stations need to be repaired if there’s anything left to repair, CCGT needs to be built, nuclear of course but not Hinkley Point B unless the existing ridiculous contract can be renegotiated. Westinghouse AP1000 perhaps. Longer term we need a molten salt thorium reactor programme. As long as there are subsidies of any kind for the environmentally disastrous, useless eco junk the energy market will be a basket case and no one will be prepared to build capacity unless they receive similarly ruinous bungs. It’s hard to see how anything could happen unless the whole of the existing DECC is thrown out in the gutter, after all they ought rightly to be in clink for malfeasance, the whole lot of them. And we don’t even need government departments for pretending to be able to change the climate in the first place – all the bird mashers in the world aren’t going to change the temperature of the planet by a millionth of a degree one way or the other. In short, as you allude, anyone who starts off from a luke-warmist point of view is never going to have the self belief to be able to stand up to the massed ranks of the climate monster that has grown so fat on taxpayers’ billions – industry, finance, education, media, civil service, and all the thousands of rent seekers. A herculean task that would need the whole-hearted support of all the party behind it. Unfortunately I doubt there is that degree of commitment, not least because UKIP would have so much else on its plate if it ever has a sniff at the levers of power.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        Will there be anything left to restore? That’s a very good point, the modern day Bolsheviks will order bulldozing immediately to ensure we can’t undo their destruction. Like they did with Nimrod and the TRSR2 fighter bomber aircraft.

  15. Brin Jenkins says:

    Someone needs hitting over the head with the counter productive Carbon Credit Taxation. Assuming carbon made a difference, credits can only convert low carbon economies into carbon producer at our expense. Current Carbon producers Should be encouraged to be more economical by rewarding them when they produce less. Rewarding Africa by selling us credits, which they then spend on consumables moves them into the higher carbon bracket.

  16. Wun Hung Lo says:

    None of what you say makes any practical sense at all Brin Jenkins, Why should we assume that “carbon made a difference”, and how does “credits only convert low carbon economies into carbon producer” ?

    Reality is that the entire so called “carbon tax and credit” scheme is a scam, This is more to do with control by the EU and the UN over its Member States. Control that can produce a massive revenue stream for bureaucratic largess, to pay the ar,ies of loafers who sit about all day being paid to dream up ever more fanciful schemes or scams to rook the ignorant public.

    Actually every country is a “carbon producer”. Carbon is an element in the natural environment, and in Africa and India, many people get by by burning dried animal manure in open fires. In many ways this is the epitome of sustainable biofuel. The plants absorb the CO2 from the air, and the animals eat the plants. People burn the dried animal dung, and scatter the ashes on the land to grow more plants, and so on. The problem being health issues from indoor burning of dung in open fires. Small enclosed flue cooking stoves, in such case would be far better aid to the people than a load of bits of paper issued by some bogus green carbon certificate western bank.

    Compare the two types of cooking stoves

    This has very little to do with carbon credits or green policies, just that this is the kind of help that rural poor in developing nations actually need. They can make these articles from local materials, and save fuel in the process of improving their health, Paying these people with bits of western paper to “spend” on western mass produced consumer goods doesn’t actually improve their situation.

  17. Brin Jenkins says:

    Perhaps you miss my point here, I actually agree that CO2/carbon is a scam. When one says “lets assume”. Its saying lets pretend something that might be the opposite of the truth, then we can explore explore a possibility. I have illustrated how Carbon Taxes are counter productive in their stated purpose of reducing Global carbon production.

    The UN is not our friend, acting only towards a new word order.

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