Een magistrale voordracht!

Telkens weer verschijnen er goede, toegankelijke overzichten van de stand van de klimaatdiscussie. De laatste tijd schonk ik in dit verband aandacht aan een rapport van Roy Spencer en een voordracht van Fred Goldberg.

Daaraan kan een recente presentatie van Matt Ridley, voormalig wetenschapsjournalist van ‘The Economist’ en thans lid van het Britse Hogerhuis voor de conservatieven, worden toegevoegd.

Onder de titel, ‘Global Warming versus Global Greening’, heeft Matt Ridley onlangs de traditionele jaarlijkse voordracht, geïllustreerd met talloze grafieken en andere slides, gegeven voor de ‘Global Warming Policy Foundation’ (GWPF).

Ik pik er een aantal krenten uit.

After covering global warming debates as a journalist on and off for almost 30 years, with initial credulity, then growing skepticism, I have come to the conclusion that the risk of dangerous global warming, now and in the future, has been greatly exaggerated while the policies enacted to mitigate the risk have done more harm than good, both economically and environmentally, and will continue to do so.

And I am treated as some kind of pariah for coming to this conclusion.

Why do I think the risk from global warming is being exaggerated? For four principal reasons.

1. All environmental predictions of doom always are;
2. the models have been consistently wrong for more than 30 years;
3. the best evidence indicates that climate sensitivity is relatively low;
4. the climate science establishment has a vested interest in alarm.

Ondertussen is de aarde groener geworden.

I think this is one of the most momentous discoveries of recent years and one that transforms the scientific background to climate policy, though you would never know it from the way it has been reported. And it is a story in which I have been both vilified and vindicated.

In December 2012, the environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University drew my attention to a video online of a lecture given by Ranga Myneni of Boston University.

In this lecture Myneni presented ingenious analysis of data from satellites proving that much of the vegetated area of the planet was getting greener, only a little bit was getting browner, and that overall in 30 years there had been a roughly 14% increase in green vegetation on planet Earth.

… about half of this greening was a direct result of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, rather than the application of agricultural fertiliser, irrigation, warmer temperatures or increased rainfall. …

I published an article in the Wall Street Journal in January 2013 on these various lines of evidence, including Myneni’s satellite analysis, pointing to the increase in green vegetation. This was probably the very first article in the mainstream media on the satellite evidence for global greening. For this I was subjected online to withering scorn by the usual climate spin doctors, but even they had to admit I was “factually accurate”.

Na jarenlang getraineer werd het werk van Myneni uiteindelijk april 2016 in de ‘peer-reviewed’ literatuur gepubliceerd toen de jamboree van het klimaatconferentie van Parijs achter de rug was. Het VN-klimaatpanel (IPCC) had er nooit prominent aandacht aan geschonken.

Back in 1908 Svante Arrhenius, the father of the greenhouse theory, said the following:

“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.”

It appears he was not wrong. …

Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and UN Special representative on Climate Change, said in a speech in 2007 that “it is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation. The time for diagnosis is over. Now it is time to act”.

I disagree. It is irresponsible not to challenge the evidence properly, especially if the policies pursued in its name are causing suffering.

Increasingly, many people would like to outlaw, suppress, prosecute and censor all discussion of what they call “the science” rather than engage in debate.

“We will not, at any time, debate the science of climate change,” said three professors at the University of Colorado in an email to their students recently.

Shamefully, much of the scientific establishment and the media are prepared to go along with that program. And to bully any academic or journalist who steps out of line.

This coercion was displayed all too vividly when the distinguished scientist Lennart Bengtsson was bullied into resigning from the academic advisory council of GWPF in 2014 by colleagues’ threats. He even began to “worry about my health and safety …”

And when Philippe Verdier was sacked as weather forecaster in France for writing an honest book. And when Roger Pielke was dropped by the 538 website for telling the truth about storms.

No wonder that I talk frequently to scientists who are skeptical, but dare not say so openly. That is a ridiculous state of affairs.

We’re told that it’s impertinent to question “the science” and that we must think as we are told. But arguments from authority are the refuge of priests.

Thomas Henry Huxley put it this way:

The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.

These days there is a legion of well paid climate spin doctors. Their job is to keep the debate binary: either you believe climate change is real and dangerous or you’re a denier who thinks it’s a hoax.

But there’s a third possibility they refuse to acknowledge: that it’s real but not dangerous. That’s what I mean by lukewarming, and I think it is by far the most likely prognosis.

I am not claiming that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas; it is.

I am not saying that its concentration in the atmosphere is not increasing; it is.

I am not saying the main cause of that increase is not the burning of fossil fuels; it is.

I am not saying the climate does not change; it does.

I am not saying that the atmosphere is not warmer today than it was 50 or 100 years ago; it is.

And I am not saying that carbon dioxide emissions are not likely to have caused some (probably more than half) of the warming since 1950.

I agree with the consensus on all these points.

I am not in any sense a “denier”, that unpleasant, modern term of abuse for blasphemers against the climate dogma, though the Guardian and New Scientist never let the facts get in the way of their prejudices on such matters. I am a lukewarmer. …

En waarover is precies consensus?

There is no consensus that climate change is going to be dangerous. Even the IPCC says there is a range of possible outcomes, from harmless to catastrophic. I’m in that range: I think the top of that range is very unlikely. But the IPCC also thinks the top of its range is very unlikely.

The supposed 97% consensus, based on a hilariously bogus study by John Cook, refers only to the proposition that climate change is real and partly man-made. Nobody has ever shown anything like a consensus among scientists for the proposition that climate change is going to be dangerous.

Professor Daniel Sarewitz put it well recently:

“Even the vaunted scientific consensus around climate change…applies only to a narrow claim about the discernible human impact on global warming. The minute you get into questions about the rate and severity of future impacts, or the costs of and best pathways for addressing them, no semblance of consensus among experts remains.” …

And remember, as Richard Feynman said:

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

Vervolgens richt Ridley zich op de voorspellingen van milieurampen die niet zijn uitgekomen.

I said that one reason to be skeptical about dangerous climate change is that environmental predictions of doom are always wrong.

Here’s a list of predictions made with much fanfare and extensive coverage in the media in the 1970s, when I was young and green, in both senses of the word:
• the population explosion would be unstoppable;
• global famine would be inevitable;
• crop yields would fall;
• a cancer epidemic caused by pesticides would shorten lifespan;
• the desert would advance at two miles a year;
• rainforests would disappear;
• acid rain would destroy forests;
• oil spills would worsen;
• oil and gas would run out;
• and so would copper, zinc, chrome and many other natural resources;
• the Great Lakes would die;
• dozens of bird and mammal species would become extinct each year;
• and a new ice age would begin.

All these were trumpeted loudly in the mainstream media. Not one of them has come even close to meeting the apocalyptic expectations of their promoters. Sometimes this was because we took action to avert the danger. Sometimes it is because the jury is still out. More often it was because the scare was exaggerated in the first place.

These were later joined by more predictions of doom:
• sperm counts would fall;
• mad cow disease would kill hundreds of thousands of people;
• genetically modified weeds would devastate ecosystems;
• nanotechnology would run riot;
• computers would crash at the dawn of the millennium, bringing down civilisation;
• the hole in the ozone layer would cause blindness and cancer on a huge scale.

Many of the impacts of global warming have not happened as predicted either:
• malaria was going to get worse because of rising temperatures; it didn’t.
• snow would become a thing of the past; yet northern hemisphere snow cover shows no trend.
• hurricanes/cyclones would get worse; they haven’t.
• droughts would get worse; they haven’t.
• the Arctic sea ice would be gone by 2013; it wasn’t.
• glacier retreat would accelerate; yet more than half the retreat of glaciers happened before 1950.
• sea level rise would accelerate; it hasn’t.
• the Gulf Stream would falter, as this clip from the movie the Day After Tomorrow latched on to.

All these predictions have also failed so far.

The death toll from droughts, floods and storms has been going down dramatically. Not because weather has got safer, but because of technology and prosperity. … The UNEP predicted in 2005 that by 2010 there would be 50 million climate refugees. In 2010 it tried to delete the web link.

Ten years ago, Al Gore said that within ten years we would have reached the point of no return. [Inconvenient truth]

So we should take predictions of doom with a pinch of salt.

Vervolgens schenkt hij aandacht aan de divergentie tussen de uitkomsten van klimaatmodellen en de realiteit.

“111 of the 114 available climate-model simulations show a surface warming trend larger than the observations”. [IPCC Synthesis report 2014, p 43.] That is to say there is a consensus that the models are exaggerating the rate of global warming. The warming has so far resulted in no significant or consistent change in the frequency or intensity of storms, tornadoes, floods, droughts or winter snow cover.

What about 2015 and 2016 both being record hot years? Well, because of the massive El Nino, the HADCRUT4 surface temperature line just about inched up briefly in early 2016 into respectable territory in among the lower half of the model runs for a few months before dropping back out again … That’s all.

A doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere cannot on its own produce dangerous warming. The sensitivity of the atmosphere to CO2 is about 1.2C per doubling. That is the consensus, spelled out clearly (if obscurely) by the IPCC several times over the years. And that’s what we are on course for at the moment.

… recent attempts to measure the sensitivity of the climate system to carbon dioxide using real data nearly all find that it is much lower than the models assume, as Nic Lewis, Marcel Crok, Judith Curry and Pat Michaels have shown in recent years.

Vervolgens gaat Ridley in op de gevestigde belangen, zoals die van de fossiele brandstoffenindustrie.

What have fossil fuels done for us?

Apart from a new continent’s worth of green vegetation. And removing the need to cook over a wood fire, the smoke from which is one of the biggest killers in the world, dispatching over three million people a year according to the World Health Organisation. And removing the need to fetch wood from the forest and dismantle an ecosystem in doing so. Apart from that what have fossil fuels done for us?

Well, I suppose they supply the power to pump water so that it does not have to be fetched. They allow electric light and hence help literacy and education. They bring the refrigeration of food and vaccines. They enable the child to catch a lift to school. They make the fertilizer that raises farm yields, ending most hunger and sparing land for wildlife.

Yes, but apart from ending starvation, enabling kids to get to school, refrigerating vaccines, boosting literacy, pumping water, reducing the pressure on forests, reducing indoor air pollution, and creating 14% more green vegetation – apart from all this, what have fossil fuels done for us?

Alex Epstein:

Fossil fuels don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous, they take a dangerous climate and make it safe.

If climate change is not dangerous then there’s no justification for renewable energy subsidies. It is beyond question that global warming has generated enormous research funds, measured in many billions, that this has stimulated all sorts of scientists, from botany to psychiatry, to link their work to climate change, and that almost none of this money flows to those with sceptical views.

As the distinguished NASA climate scientist Roy Spencer has written:

“If you fund scientists to find evidence of something, they will be happy to find it for you. For over 20 years we have been funding them to find evidence of the human influence on climate. And they dutifully found it everywhere, hiding under every rock, glacier, ocean, and in every cloud, hurricane, tornado, raindrop, and snowflake. So, just tell scientists 20% of their funds will be targeted for studying natural sources of climate change. They will find those, too.” …

Our current policy carries not just huge economic costs, which hit the poorest people hardest, but huge environmental costs too.

We are encouraging forest destruction by burning wood, ethanol and biodiesel. We are denying poor people the cheapest forms of electricity, which forces them to continue relying on wood for fuel, at great cost to their health. We are using the landscape, the rivers, the estuaries, the hills, the fields for making energy, when we could be handing land back to nature, and relying on forms of energy that nature does not compete for – fossil and nuclear.

But there is a further reason why it matters. Real environmental problems are being neglected. The emphasis on climate change as the pre-eminent environmental threat means that we pay too little attention to the genuine environmental problems in the world.

We bang on about ocean acidification when it is overfishing and run-off that is most hurting coral reefs. We misdiagnose climate change as the cause of floods when it is land drainage and urban development that is the cause. We claim climate change as the cause of extinctions, when it is invasive species that disrupt and damage ecosystems and drive out rare species. We say climate change is a threat to air quality, when it is climate policy that has hindered progress in improving air quality. We talk about losing seabird colonies to warming seas and then build wind farms that slaughter the birds while turning a blind eye to overfishing. Here’s why I really mind about the exaggeration: it has downgraded, displaced and discredited real environmentalism, of the kind I have devoted part of my life to working on. …

And here is the maddest thing of all. Current policy is not even achieving decarbonisation. Whatever your views on the urgency of reducing emissions, the policy of subsidizing renewable energy is not achieving it.

Switching to biodiesel or ethanol actually increases emissions. So does burning wood in power stations. So does solar power in cloudy Germany. So do wind farms because they prevent the replacement of coal by gas or nuclear.

In 2012 Bjorn Lomborg calculated that 20 years of climate policy had reduced global emissions by less than 1 percent. During that time the world had spent more than a trillion dollars to subsidise wind and solar power, yet between them they had still not achieved 1% of world energy provision. In this country, they have just passed 2%.

In Germany, a 20% increase in renewables between 1999 and 2014 has resulted in no change in emissions at all.

En hoe reageert de publieke opinie?

The American presidential candidates are not talking about climate change because voters consider other issues more pressing. In one recent poll of Americans, just 3% said they think climate is the most important issue.

Most devastating of all, to those who have spent a fortune on propaganda, in a huge United Nations online poll of people all around the world, called My World, to which almost ten million people have now responded, action on climate change comes dead last, 16th, and by some margin – well behind the 15th priority, which is phone and internet access.

The sceptics, with their shoestring budgets, with zero public money, under constant assault, are winning the argument.

Aldus Matt Ridley.

Lees verder hier.

Een magistrale voordracht!

Voor mijn eerdere bijdragen over klimaat en aanverwante zaken zie hierhier, hier, hier en hier.