EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Climate change: time for a reality check
, March 3, 2007
Alarmism on global warming is not only unnecessary, but is potentially dangerous.With a mounting sense of alarm, climate scientists, politicians and media commentators are warning that greenhouse gases, particularly rising levels of CO2, are causing global warming which, if not reversed, will plunge the world into environmental and economic disaster within a hundred years.
Responding to community fears, the Prime Minister, John Howard, said Australians must do whatever can reasonably be done to avert global warming, but he himself would do nothing to damage the Australian economy. Mr Howard dismissed the proposal by Greens' leader, Senator Bob Brown, to shut down the coal export industry.
Meanwhile, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore flies around the world in a private jet to spread the message that we must wean ourselves off fossil fuels, while Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery, is reported to be charging up to $US50,000 to address American corporations on the dangers of global warming, while accusing unnamed industrial giants of running a campaign to "blacken his name". (Brisbane Courier-Mail
, February 14, 2006)."An Inconvenient Truth"
Al Gore's 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth
, which blamed droughts, floods, cyclones and melting of the ice caps on global warming, followed a 2004 film, The Day After Tomorrow
, which depicted global warming as paradoxically leading to a new ice age encompassing the whole of the northern hemisphere. Both can't be true: both can be false.
Contrary to Gore's alarmist predictions of a melting Antarctic ice cap, the latest research from Antarctica shows that there has been no increase in either temperature or precipitation in Antarctica over the past 50 years, contradicting the global climate models.
Professor David Bromich, of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, commented: "The best we can say right now is that the climate models are somewhat inconsistent with the evidence that we have for the last 50 years from continental Antarctica.
"We're looking for a small signal that represents the impact of human activity and it is hard to find it at the moment," he said.
There are respected climate sceptics, such as William Kininmonth (former head of Australia's National Climate Centre), Dr Timothy Ball (chairman of Canada's Natural Resources Stewardship Project) and Richard Lindzen (professor of meteorology at the MIT), but their voices are rarely heard and even more rarely listened to.
They conclude that there is no firm evidence that increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere are causing global warming: that over the past 200 years, as the proportion of CO2 has risen since the Industrial Revolution began, there has been no corresponding rise in global temperatures, but rather, rises and falls which are poorly understood.
Many alternative theories have been suggested, including rises in solar radiation which heats the earth, the impact of ocean currents, the impact of clouds, cosmic rays from outer space, slight changes in the earth's rotation around the sun, and others.
Predictions of imminent environmental doom are the product of computer models of the atmosphere. Climate models play an important role. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology uses them to predict short-term weather (up to a week away), and seasonal weather patterns (up to three months ahead). Beyond that, the computer models' predictions are completely unreliable.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attempts to address this problem by seeking a "consensus" of the predictions of climate models. But if the predictions of each model are unreliable, combining different climate models does not make the "consensus" prediction more reliable: arguably, less so.
Professor Lindzen points out that the climate models which predict that the earth's temperature will rise 4°C over the next century, also predicted that they should have risen by 2°C over the past hundred years, which has not happened.
There is, however, a more fundamental reason for scepticism.
In light of the very rapid industrialisation of China, India and other developing nations, it is inevitable that these countries will continue to expand their use of fossil fuels, ensuring that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise throughout the 21st century. (Developing countries are exempt from the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol, which mandates that developed nations reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.)
The huge contracts signed by China and India for Australian coal and natural gas show that these countries will continue to expand their industrial production, and therefore CO2 emissions, into the foreseeable future.
There is nothing that Australia, the United States or Western Europe can do about this. Even if they were to halt economic growth tomorrow, it would have little effect on future global greenhouse gas levels.
In light of this, the alarmism on global warming is not only unnecessary, it is potentially dangerous.— Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.