16 February 2017. Twelve years to the day since ‘implementation’ of the Kyoto Protocol.* You and I sit in a jury box. We have only just met. We bring to our mutual task our life experience and understanding of the ways of the world, our endogenous prejudices, and our gut feelings.
The Judge sends us into our room charged to answer whether we are amid an interglacial, or, rather, is the globe warming – are anthropogenic CO2 emissions causing or contributing to this warming – and does this pose a clear and imminent danger, on the balance of probabilities?
So we sift the evidence: a mountain of recycled paper, an instructional filmstrip called “An Inconvenient Truth,” a month-long hot tub of pundits, doomsayers and sundry experts.
These experts seemed at times to agree, and at others there were radical departures, more heated than our stuffy room of deliberation. Purposes crossed; agendas concealed; we twist on a wire, remembering:
Svante Arrhenius (1908) By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates. (quoted by Ridley, below)
Burkhard Bilger, Global Warming (1992) By the mid-1970s, the first computer simulations of climate behavior, called general circulation models, or GCMs, had been devised, allowing researchers to predict how global temperatures and climate might change if levels of CO2 continued to rise…Thinking purely as scientists, even those who staunchly believe in global warming have to admit that it is still only a theory.
Nigel Calder, ‘International Wildlife‘ (1975) [T]he threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind. (quoted by O’Rourke – see below)
Prof. Judith Curry, interview in “The Spectator” (2015) There’s growing evidence that climate sensitivity is at the lower end of the spectrum..
Martin Ferguson, then Minister for Resources (2009) Every four months, from now until 2020, China will build new coal-fired power stations possessing the same capacity as Australia’s entire coal-fired power sector.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1926) “I read somewhere that the sun’s getting hotter every year,” said Tom genially. “It seems that pretty soon the earth’s going to fall into the sun – or wait a minute – it’s just the opposite – the sun’s getting colder every year.” (quoted by O’Rourke – see below)
Al Gore, Earth in the Balance (1992) The theory of global warming will not be disproved.
James E. Hansen, addressing U.S. Senate (23 June 1988) with 99 percent confidence we can state that the warming during [the last three decades] is a real warming trend.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (Report, December 1990) there is a natural greenhouse effect…emissions from human activities…will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming on the earth’s surface.
IPCC (Report update, February 2007) we are now at least 90% certain that [rapid global warming] is mostly due to human activities.
Paul Keating, written about by Graham Richardson in Whatever it Takes (1994) I can think of only one time when he opposed me on an environment argument, and that was the first time I raised the prospect of setting goals and targets for the emission of greenhouse gases. Keating was concerned about the effects on Australian industries if we acted unilaterally, leaving our competitors with a real advantage.
Climate modeller Syukuro Manabe to Time (1987) Even though the atmospheric model and ocean model work individually, when you put them together, you get crazy things happening.
George Monbiot, online article (2016) This, on current trends, will be the hottest year ever measured. The previous record was set in 2015; the one before in 2014. Fifteen of the 16 warmest years have occurred in the twenty-first century. Each of the past 14 months has beaten the monthly global temperature record. But you can still hear people repeating the old claim, first proposed by fossil fuel lobbyists, that global warming stopped in 1998.
Nils-Axel Morner, article in “The Spectator” (2011) the threat of rising sea levels is an artificial crisis.
P. J. O’Rourke, All the Trouble in the World (1994) The spectre of biosphere doom serves the mystical needs of people too sloppy and self-indulgent for regular religion.
Kim Pedler, The Environment, Climate Change and our Duty of Care (SA Law Society Bulletin) (2014) The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human impact is the major cause of pollution and the destruction of biodiversity of productive soil, plants and animals, which many believe could threaten the long-term future of human civilization.
Prof. Ian Plimer, Heaven and Earth (2009) Are the speed and amount of modern climate change unprecedented? No. Is dangerous warming occurring? No…Are humans forcing changes in ocean currents? No…Do thermometer measurements show the planet is warming? No. Do other temperature measurements show the planet is warming? No…the greatest global threat..is not global warming. It is the threat from policy responses to perceived global warming and the demonising of dissent..New legislation on pie-in-the-sky emissions will result in the public paying more for everything. Trading schemes will be based on a mythical commodity. Such schemes have not stood the test of time and will require constant amendment. The opportunities for fraud are breathtaking.
Plimer, article in “The Spectator” (2015) For 30 years I have been waiting to be shown that human CO2 emissions drive global warming. This has not been done.
Matt Ridley, article in “The Wall Street Journal” (2014) But for the past 15 to 17 years there has been essentially no net warming (a “hiatus” conceded by the IPCC)...
Prof. Murry Salby, article in “The Australian” (2013) The bureau [of meteorology’s] record [of surface temperature] is routinely adjusted, the next high-quality reincarnation rendering its predecessor obsolete. The adjustments performed are discretionary, applied differently to different sites in the surface network. And if the adjustments are understood, it is by few, if any, outside the bureau.
Prof. Mike Sandiford, article in “The Australian” (2011) With an increase [in average temperature] of more than 0.5C over the past 40 years, the decadal trend is now warming faster than ever. It beggars belief that any serious scientist could assert the climate is cooling.
Stephen Schneider, quoted by L. Ponte, The cooling. Has the next ice age already begun? Can we survive it? (1975) Global cooling presents humankind with the most important social, political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for 110,000 years.
Russell E. Train (EPA, WWF), Introduction to Global Warming by Burkhard Bilger (1992) Controlling emissions of carbon dioxide , the principal greenhouse gas, will involve efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. Such a reduction will include energy conservation and the promotion of alternative energy sources, such as nuclear and solar power.
David Viner (University of East Anglia) (2000) Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past…Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.
Another thing – ‘if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.’ So are we to ignore the ‘Climategate’ emails (some 1000 communications between climate researchers at East Anglia University that showed a deep malaise at that warmist institution), the ‘hockey stick’ and the recent dodgy paper commissioned by the IPCC that attempted, meretriciously, to demolish the so-called ‘warming hiatus’? I gather that CO2 isn’t the major greenhouse gas anyway – that’s water vapour (i.e. clouds) and although painters from time immemorial (especially Constable) loved to gaze at and paint clouds, oddly, nobody knows very much, still, about the effect of clouds on climate.
If it don’t heat up, it may be a beat up.
It seems that you can throw away a lot of the computer modelling on the ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ rule. Temperature records are only good for the last 5 minutes of earth history. Anyone who says they can predict the future with accuracy and confidence (we can’t say with certainty if it will rain two days from now) should be consigned to an institution or burned as a witch. And if we’re warming up, is that really a problem? Do we really believe in 100 foot sea level rises^ (sea goes up, sea goes down, moon goes up, moon goes down), daily hurricanes, never-ending millennial droughts and more bush-fires than we’ve observed since the days of Dorothea Mackellar? And what became of the power and ingenuity of human adaptation – Hamlet’s quintessential men and women noble in reason! infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!
We jurors glance at each other – some no doubt exchanging phone numbers…some googling “global warming” – and it occurs to me that I, and most everyone else in the room, last did a vaguely scientific subject in about 4th year high. So how do we sift this confusing pile of contradictory, speculative, incomplete, occasionally confected, sometimes highly emotional evidence?
As every schoolgirl at Law School knows, “She who asserts must prove.” So, is the case there?
It still seems thin.[* Kyoto Protocol: an international agreement based on a linear assessment of temperature and CO2 changes, and assuming an interrelationship between them – it has been described as ‘modest,’ ‘uneven,’ and ‘useless’.] [^We doubt that the President of the Maldives will need to hold any more cabinet meetings in scuba gear.] [UPDATE NOTE: Clive James has published an essay (June 2017), “Mass Death Dies Hard.” in which he writes: “When you tell people once too often that the missing extra heat is hiding in the ocean, they will switch over to watch Game of Thrones, where the dialogue is less ridiculous and all the threats come true. The proponents of man-made climate catastrophe asked us for so many leaps of faith that they were bound to run out of credibility in the end.”]