|No! No Dangerous Rise!|
Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge” – Lao Tzu, 6th Century BC Chinese Poet
Why No Dangerous Rise in Temperatures Threatens
Address to University of Third Age, Orrong Rd, 28 March 2011
by Des Moore
by Des Moore
I start with a confession that I have no belief in the thesis promulgated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that unless early government action is taken to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases there will be a continuing increase in temperatures that will reach dangerous levels for humans. This is not to deny that temperatures have increased and may increase further: the key questions to examine are the cause and the possible human contribution, and whether any further likely increases are capable of being handled safely, as they have to date. I propose to examine the main arguments adduced to support the dangerous warming thesis and to show that there is no substantive basis to them. I say this despite the acceptance of the thesis by just about all major political parties in the Western world and despite persistent claims that there is a scientific consensus on the issue.
When I first began to present my views on global warming in public three or four years ago I was widely regarded as being extreme and ignorant about what some regard as the greatest threat faced by mankind. Those terms have re-emerged strongly in recent days in Canberra and elsewhere. I present myself here as someone who is attempting to present the facts and who knows many with like minds.
It is important to recognise that supposedly irrefutable arguments by experts have been discarded or substantially altered many times in the past. Back in 1972 when I attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in London many respected scientists (and others) were then promulgating the view that unless governments acted to stop or radically slow the growth of population the world would soon run out of resources to feed and care for the needs of the higher populations. The thesis I wrote as part of my attendance at the College in London argued that the scientists concerned had not only failed to understand the way economic systems function to overcome actual or potential shortages but had overlooked the almost certain development of scientific innovations that would ensure growing living standards.. This 1972 Malthusian thesis is still hovering around but has faded somewhat as living standards have increased even as populations have grown and as the identified supply of resources has also continued to grow.
Today, the global warming scare is starting to fade too, although less in Australia than some other countries. A large survey (7000) in March in the US by the popular science journal, Scientific American, showed that 78% believe climate change is a natural process and 26% believe it comes from greenhouse gases. A PEW survey last October showed 34% believed warming came from human activity, which is about the same as the proportion who believe houses are haunted! In Australia, a Gallup poll last August showed 44% believe warming is due to human activity, down from 52% in 2006, although 69% believe it is a serious or very serious problem, only slightly down from the previous poll of 75%. A US Gallup Poll in 2009 showed that out of eight environmental problems global warming ranked last
My argument that the global warming scare is fading is not simply based on such polling. It partly reflects the fiasco in Copenhagen last year. That showed that, when political leaders have to make decisions that would hurt their taxpayers’ pockets, they are much less likely to agree than when they are asked to answer questions requiring no action. Just as important as the Copenhagen and Cancun flops has been the exposure of exchanges of emails between scientists that revealed the experts who are part of the supposed scientific consensus are in reality themselves uncertain about the science. This exposure, popularly described as ClimateGate, also revealed that even scientists are not above manipulating data and using dodgy analyses to produce results that fit the theory. One outcome is that there is now doubt even about the accuracy of actual surface temperature measurements and the extent of increases.
Other influences over the last 2-3 years have been the increasing analyses by scientists questioning claims by the IPCC. These have revealed important errors in the IPCC 2007 report including the claim that Himalayan glaciers are in danger of melting by 2035, which if correct would have serious adverse implications for water supplies in major countries. It turns out that, contrary to IPCC claims that everything has been peer-reviewed, this one was not. The Indian head of IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, who initially said the denial of melting was voodoo science, eventually had to admit an error. But this was not the only case where IPCC alarmism or failure to peer review had been used to scare people into believing the thesis. Others include incorrect claims that 40% of the Amazon rain forest is at risk of destruction; that African agricultural production is likely to be cut in half; that coral reef degradation will be extensive; that glacier melt will occur in the Andes and Alps; that extreme weather related events are causing rising costs; and that the Netherlands is 55% below sea levels when in fact it is only 26% and has shown itself well able to handle relevant problems.
These errors and the exposures of uncertainty led to the announcement of “independent reviews” into the IPCC, a section of the US university attended by prominent believer Michael Mann and the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University. That CRU unit has been the major supplier of data and analyses to the IPCC, which itself undertakes no scientific research. The head of the CRU, Phillip Jones, let the cat out of the bag in an interview last year with the BBC environment reporter when he admitted that surface temperature data probably cannot be verified or replicated, that the medieval warming period may have been as warm as today; that no statistically measured global warming has occurred for the last 15 years; and that the science is not settled.
Despite such revelations and the Copenhagen fiasco, the four reviews held into ClimateGate did not produce any sackings or formal retractions. Independent analyses of these reviews have concluded that they were heavily influenced by those appointed to undertake them, most of whom were believers in the dangerous warming thesis. The unfortunate reality is that so many scientists (and others) have locked themselves into the supposed scientific consensus that it is likely to take some considerable time before government policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are either abandoned or allowed to wither on the vine.
More generally however, although the believers in the dangerous warming thesis have not reversed their view that the basic science is right, there has been increasing acknowledgement that there are uncertainties. This should not be surprising given that in the 987 page report of Working Group 1 of the IPCC’s 2007 report the words “uncertain” or “uncertainty” appear more than 1,300 times and includes no less than 54 “key uncertainties” that acknowledge limits to capacity to predict climate change. However the uncertainties referred to in this key Working Group document attract very little public or political attention. The focus is on the much shorter “Summary for Policy Makers” also published by the IPCC and designed to “sell” the dangerous warming thesis to governments and the public. It claims the thesis has 90% certainty.
Perhaps the most important public recognition by mainstream scientists of the uncertainties has been last September’s report by the Royal Society, which is a widely regarded as an authority on climate science. This report was produced in response to concerns by some members that it was wrong for the Society’s public statements to claim there is a consensus. While the report itself had a bit both ways, it did acknowledge that climate change “continues to be the subject of intensive research and public debate”, that “some uncertainties are unlikely ever to be significantly reduced”, and that” it is not possible to determine how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future”. A not dissimilar development occurred in the American Physical Society (the top body of US physicists), where a large dissenting group circulated a letter last year saying ClimateGate had revealed “an international fraud, the worst any of us have seen”. More recently, when 18 scientist believers sent a letter to Congress in February asking that its attention be concentrated on the view that human activity is changing the climate, 36 scientists responded with a letter referring to 678 peer-reviewed scientific studies that “offer a point-by-point rebuttal of all the claims” by the 18. Also in the US over 30,000 scientists, including 9,000 Phds, have signed a petition specifically rejecting the dangerous warming thesis. In Australia a written document was sent last year to the government by four respected sceptical scientists and this led to a hearing in Canberra before the then Climate Minister Wong - but rejection of the proposal for an independent inquiry into the science.
These and other reactions by mainstream scientists confirm that those rejecting the dangerous warming thesis are far from being ignorant extremists.
Outside the scientific world many books and articles have been written either rejecting or questioning the thesis and pointing out the many analytical mistakes made in the past by scientists. I mention here only the book Scared to Death by Christopher Booker which gives numerous worrying examples of the disastrous consequence associated such mistakes.
Published analysis by Australia’s professionally respected Productivity Commission is also important. It has noted that “uncertainty continues to pervade the science and geopolitics and, notwithstanding the Stern Report, the economics” (that 2006 report by economist Nicholas Stern argued that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change considerably outweigh the costs because it will be difficult or impossible to reverse the changes in temperatures from doing nothing and, hence, tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy for the longer term). The Productivity Commission has also pointed out that “independent action by Australia to substantially reduce GHG emissions, in itself, would deliver barely discernible climate benefits, but could be nationally very costly”. And it described the Stern report “as much an exercise in advocacy as it is an economic analysis of climate”. The Commission is now examining where Australia currently lines up internationally on the net effect of various policies designed to reduce emissions and PC chief Banks has already pointed out publicly that the cost of achieving a similar level of reductions to others will be greater for Australia because we are a bigger user of fossil fuels.
Notwithstanding this, and the publicly available acknowledgements of uncertainties and possible flaws in the science, the Gillard Government aims to start in 2012 a policy of reducing emissions by 5% by 2020 (compared with 2000) through, initially, a tax and then through the establishment of a system that would impose limits on carbon emissions by 2000 leading businesses and provide opportunities to trade in available carbon. It proposes to proceed regardless of what other countries do. The Opposition also supports the need to reduce emissions although by direct action such as planting of trees and carbon sequestration. Last March the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology produced a joint State of Climate report that accepted the dangerous warming thesis. This report, which claims to be “sourced from peer-reviewed data”, says that Australia will be hotter and drier in coming decades. It also claims that it is “very likely that human activities have caused most of the global warming since 1950”. The Fairfax press remains firmly locked in to this view and even The Australian, which publishes sceptical views, has stuck to an editorial position that there is a warming problem. The Australian has, however, opposed the adoption by Australia of an emissions reduction policy regardless of what others do.
Another major supporter of the need for early government action is prominent economist Ross Garnaut, who has been employed by the Federal (and some state) Government as chief adviser on climate matters. His major report in 2008, which he is updating this year, has been accompanied by many statements justifying early action to reduce emissions, but he has dodged any attempt to assess the science. Initially he acknowledged there are large uncertainties in the science but asserted that “the outsider to climate science has no rational choice but to accept that, on the balance of probabilities, the mainstream science is right in pointing to high risks from unmitigated climate change” (Final Report on Climate Change Review, September 2008). In this year’s Update, however, Garnaut seems to have “lost” his uncertainty and he now claims that developments since 2008 “have strengthened the position of mainstream science then held with a high degree of certainty”. It is clear that Garnaut has now become little more than an adviser employed to help the government realise its stated objective and to pay minimal regard to the uncertainties. It is remarkable that he even supports the policy of Australia acting to reduce emissions without any binding global agreement – or any realistic prospect of such an agreement.
Let me just make it clear here that, like Garnaut, I am not a scientist. But my nearly 50 years experience as an economic analyst both in Treasury and outside provides a basis for assessing the credibility of data used to justify the dangerous warming thesis and for examining alternative explanations by sceptical scientists. Contrary to Garnaut’s assertion, qualified “outsiders” must pass judgement on science-based proposals –if they did not there would be a much bigger hole in government budgets!
The uncertainties about mainstream science and the extent of dissent are so large that any attempt to apply the so-called precautionary principle would defy common sense. Moreover, even if it were accepted that temperatures will increase, the enormous uncertainties about the extent and timing of any such increases, and about whether comprehensive mitigating action is required, suggests no case has been established for governments to start an emissions reduction program. Some say it’s no different to insuring your home. But even leaving aside that not all of the population does that, insurance of houses is totally different to insuring the whole economic system against damage whose possible extent and timing are highly uncertain. There is also a wide range of opinion here, even amongst believers, on when the benefits from emission reductions are likely to occur.
For example, in an interview last week government-appointed Climate Commissioner Flannery made the extraordinary assertion that “if the world as a whole cut all emissions tomorrow the average temperature of the planet is not going to drop in several hundred years, perhaps as much as 1000 years, because the system is overburdened with C02 that has to be absorbed”. Flannery’s timing perspective does serve, however, to draw attention to analysis by other experts of the timing and extent of economic changes from a major reduction in emissions.
Analysis of Economic Effects
For present purposes I draw attention only to Garnaut’s analysis in his Final Report of September 2008 but I note that he presents a view there that is similar to Stern’s. Both take the view that starting action now to mitigate the effects of higher temperatures will not produce net benefits for many years ahead when most of us will be dead. The basic Garnaut scenario is that, although a meaningful emissions reduction program would involve “a major change in the structure of our economy”, over time the net effect of mitigatory action will be beneficial. This conclusion is based on a view that, in addition to preventing damage from higher temperatures, Australian and other major economies have adaptive capacities that allow the transfer to low-emissions energy with relatively small initial adverse economic effects. However, “the main benefits of mitigation accrue in the 22nd and 23rd centuries and beyond” (P249).
Garnaut’s general message is that, if we start taking mitigatory action now, that will cut the growth rate over the next half century, but will lift it “somewhere in the last decades” and produce a GDP at the end of the century “higher with ... mitigation than without” (p 245). His graphical presentation shows GDP in 2100 after mitigatory action has been taken as about 5 per cent higher than it would otherwise have been (p 267). But note that Garnaut concludes that “Australian material living standards are likely to grow strongly through the 21st century, with or without mitigation” (p565, my emphasis).
While this is an unbelievable conclusion that is probably designed to attract support from sceptics and others who question the rationale, it also raises the question of why we should be concerned about the possibility that taking no mitigatory action now will have very little adverse effects on living standards between now and the end of the century “higher with 550 mitigation than without” (p 245). In fact Garnaut’s modelling suggests that a do nothing policy would still mean a GDP 700 per cent larger in real terms than today.
In a separate document, released in 2008 by Treasurer Swan and Climate Change Minister Wong (“Australia’s Low Pollution Future: The Economics of Climate Change Mitigation”, 30 Oct 08) Treasury arrived at virtually the same conclusion. After examining various global scenarios it concluded that mitigatory action to achieve CO2 concentration levels of 550 ppm by 2050 would reduce real GDP per capita growth by only 0.1-0.2 % pa. Thus we have the view of experts that damage from global warming between now and 2100 would be miniscule.
It is simply unbelievable that Garnaut and Treasury have painted a picture of no significant adverse effects from operating with much less efficient capital and energy or from the major increase in government intervention in economic decision-making that would likely inhibit entrepreneurial activity outside the financial sector. In comparison, climate economist Richard Tol, who was an IPCC lead author, has estimated that the cost of mitigatory action by 2100 will be about 40 times greater than the benefits (see “Climate folly before failure”, Alan Wood, The Australian, 1 Oct 09). The reality is that even mitigatory action between now and 2020 to achieve 20% lower emissions could have significantly greater adverse initial economic effects than implied by the modelling. In their pamphlet “Back to the 19th Century” some colleagues have, with former Finance Minister Peter Walsh, outlined the extensive potential for adverse influences.
The Garnaut report raises three questions about the need for urgent government action.
First, given that the Garnaut report effectively assumes that Australian living standards would increase progressively to ever higher levels even if there is also a large increase in temperatures, doesn’t this suggest that a private sector that is getting wealthier and wealthier should be directly responsible for alleviating or suffering the main costs? That should mean a policy based mainly on adaptation rather than mitigatory action enforced by government.
Second, given the wide range already available of technological alternatives to fossil fuels, and the considerable research assistance already provided by governments, is it not very likely that over the next 25 years one of those technologies will become economically viable? Even if this doesn’t eventuate, is there any substantive reason why nuclear power could not start to be used in Australia, perhaps initially on a subsidised basis, and then extended progressively if temperature increases resume? It is surely contrary to the national interest to start now forcing reductions in CO2 emissions, let alone mandating resort to very expensive alternatives to supply 20 per cent of electricity by 2020.
It is relevant that one parameter in the Treasury modelling is that “carbon capture and storage technology combined with coal and gas electricity generation is assumed to be available on a commercial scale from 2020 in both Australia and the world” (emphasis added). If this is likely, there is no need to proceed with an emissions reduction policy as we can simply continue with using our greatest asset, coal.
My third question is why has no account taken of the likelihood that by 2050 some existing alternative energy technologies will become economically usable by then. Even leaving carbon capture and storage aside, history tells us that scientific research will very likely have produced a new, but now unknown viable solution. It is nonsensical to argue for government intervention now to “save the planet” simply because no economically viable solution is currently available.
My assessment of the published economic modelling, and the potential availability of alternative technology, is that it provides no substantive basis for the need to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But, as Garnaut rightly says “Climate change policy must begin with the science”, (Garnaut Climate Change Review Interim Report, February 2008, p8) and we also need to assess the data used to justify the scientific basis.
Assessing the Science
Although the IPCC’s key public document (“Summary for Policy Makers”) derives from submissions by scientists, the drafters have mainly been people sympathetic to the dangerous global warming view. Claims that peer reviews of IPCC assessments ensure accuracy are meaningless when reviewers are in the same “club” (and some important conclusions now appear not to have been peer reviewed). In any event, as already mentioned, today we now have a situation in which there are many peer-reviewed analyses that reject or qualify analyses in IPCC reports.
Chapter 9 of the Fourth Assessment report of the IPCC sets out that body’s basic science conclusion that “it is very likely that anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases caused most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century” and its report portrays graphs of rising global and regional temperatures over the last 100 years. The IPCC’s conclusion is that, as human activity and use of fossil fuels will continue to increase emissions of carbon dioxide, this will add to concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere and hence temperatures. Moreover, as it is also concluded that once CO2 concentrations reach a certain level it will become impossible to stop temperatures from continuing to increase, early action to reduce emissions is the only way to “save the planet”.
The IPCC is correct in saying that some of the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases do stay in the atmosphere in a concentrated form and do reflect back to earth some of the heat radiated from the earth’s surface. However the extent to which the greenhouse effect carries through to temperatures needs to be considered against relevant data and science.
The CSIRO/BOM report of 15 March last year also simply draws on the IPCC analysis. It claims “there is greater than 90% certainty that increases in greenhouse gas emissions have caused most of the global warming since the mid 20th century”. However the only support provided for this statement is a one sentence reference to “evidence of human influence ... detected in ocean warming, sea-level rise, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns”.
Temperatures and Concentrations of CO2 and Methane
I turn now to the graphs I have circulated.
Let us look first at Figures 1 and 2 showing data of annual averages of temperatures from 1910 published by our Bureau of Meteorology, the Hadley centre of the UK’s bureau of meteorology and used by the IPCC. These bodies usually present this data publicly in the form of ten year averages but this misses out on showing the considerable variation from year to year and also on showing important change points that suggest changes in the trend. An important change point is the increase in Australian temperatures of about 0.6 of a degree in the mid 1970s due to the Great Pacific Climate Shift in the mid 1970s. Why is this important? Because the increase reflected natural causes and had no connection with fossil fuel emissions. Thus of the increase over 100 years of about 0.7-0.8 of a degree about 75% reflected natural causes, not increased emissions of fossil fuels.
Note also the solid lines showing trends in global averages involving an upward movement from 1910 to 1940, then a decline, followed by the upward movement starting after the Great Pacific Climate shift, and finally the relatively flat period since 1998.
This leads us to the graphs shown in Figure 4 and the table at the bottom summarising the changes in different periods of both temperatures and CO2 concentration levels. What the table shows is that there were two periods, one from 1939 to 1977 and one from 1997 to the present, during which temperatures were relatively stable but CO2 concentration levels increased quite strongly, particularly in the most recent period. It also shows a period when both temperatures and CO2 concentration levels increased (1977 to 1997), but that was when the increase in temperatures had nothing to do with emissions. It is only in the pre-World War II period from 1910 to 1939 that it might be said there was a close connection between changes in the two. However in that period usage of fossil fuels would have been relatively low. My assessment is that, on the basis of this analysis, there is only a limited statistical relationship between changes in temperatures and changes in CO2 concentration levels.
Figures 10 and 11, which show the behaviour of another greenhouse gas, methane, are also relevant and of importance for interpreting the possible effect on concentrations of Australia’s agriculture. The graphs show a surge in methane concentrations between 1940 and 1980 and a subsequent sharp drop, while the table shows that the current rate is now about the same as in the early 19th century. What is the likely explanation of these changes? The CSIRO-BOM State of the Climate report simply says that methane has shown similar increases to carbon dioxide. But it makes no mention either of the fall from the end of the 1980s or of the likelihood that both the rise and fall reflect initial leakages from pipelines and the subsequent fixing of those leakages.
I have skipped past the graphs shown in Figure 2 and I want to say here only that they show that “raw” temperature data as collected are “adjusted” by official meteorological organisations and, while adjustments are needed from time to time, they may be questionable. That is certainly seems the case with the adjustments made to Darwin temperatures by the BOM which wrongly added to the upward trend. When challenged at a Senate Estimates Committee meeting, the head of BOM indicated that the Bureau did not use the adjusted series for Darwin in its “high quality” published series for Australia. There remains a question as to how much confidence can be given to the other BOM adjustments and it is of interest that Hadley still uses Australian raw data in its figures showing the global average.However let us assume that the published temperature data is correct. One often-made claim is that temperatures are higher now than they were a century ago and that the last decade shows the highest temperatures “on record”. The warmest temperature on record in the last decade was repeated in an article in Friday’s Age by the Government’s chief scientific adviser Professor Steffen, Climate Commissioner Flannery and a former chairman of the Business Council’s sustainable growth task. The article also made various assertions about increased temperatures and record hot days over the past 30-50 years. However, no mention was made of either the evidence available indicating that higher temperatures occurred in periods before official measurements were started from about 1850 or of the 0.6 increase in 1976/77 due to natural causes.
Figures 5 to 7 show that the 0.6 increase occurred about the same time as breaks in the time series showing CO2 concentrations. This suggests that there is a strong interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere, that is, when there is a significant (natural) change in the behaviour of the oceans that may in turn cause a significant change in increases in CO2 concentrations.
As to likely temperatures before 1850 when fossil fuel usage and CO2 concentrations were small, the IPCC’s 1990 report included a graph showing estimated temperatures for the Medieval Warming Period (800 -1,100) higher than for the 20th century. Although the IPCC did not repeat that graph in subsequent reports, and did not explain why, it is now widely accepted that there is strong evidence that temperatures were higher then and also in the Greco-Roman warm period (600 BC - 200 AD). A report commissioned by US Congress from an expert statistician concluded that there were fundamental flaws in an analysis purporting to show, from tree rings, little or no increase in temperatures prior to the industrial revolution – the so-called hockey stick presentation. More generally, it is not surprising that some warming from natural causes has been experienced since the end of the Little Ice Age, which occurred around 1800 well before CO2 emissions became significant.
It seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that there is no policy significance in claims that we have temperatures that are the highest on record. Once account is taken of rises over the past century due to the Great Pacific Climate Shift, of possible manipulations of temperature data to help fit the warming theory, and of historical evidence of higher temperatures, there is no policy significance in the claims
I conclude that the statistical analysis presented by the IPCC and others, including advisers to the present government, is seriously defective in suggesting a close connection between temperature increases in the past century or so and increases in CO2 concentrations and does not form any sound basis for the projection of an increase in temperatures to 2100 ranging from 2-4 degrees.
But what about other evidence?
Droughts and Rainfall
I turn now to Figures 8 and 9.
Although the Government’s Green paper of July 2008 acknowledged that since the 1950s the NE of Australia has become wetter (it actually appears more to be in the NW), much attention has been given to below average rainfalls in other areas, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin since 2000. Drawing on advice from the CSIRO and the BOM, Garnaut’s modelling assumes that the projected higher temperatures will be accompanied by lower rainfall and, in the case of the MDB, he makes the extraordinary claim that “by mid-century it would lose half of its annual irrigated agricultural output … and by the end of the century … would no longer be a home to agriculture” (Final Report, p258). However, even the joint CSIRO/BOM report of 15March acknowledges that over the past 50 years “total rainfall in the Australian continent has been relatively stable” and provides no evidence that would support the Garnaut conclusion.
There is in fact no sound basis for such modelled projections. The variations in MDB annual rainfall clearly show no connection with levels or variations in Australia’s average temperature. Indeed, there is no statistically significant change in MDB rainfall since 1900 and the above average temperatures in the 1980-2000 period, reflecting the Great Pacific Climate Shift, were accompanied by above average rainfall.
Past Australian droughts occurred when global temperatures were lower than now and wetter years occurred when such temperatures were rising. There is no reason to expect that to change.
Antarctic and Arctic Ice Sheets -and the Reef
I turn now to Figures 12 to 14.
If large ice sheets and glaciers started to melt, sea levels rose and low-lying land became more susceptible to flooding that could be indirect evidence of warming.
The last IPCC report predicted an increase in average global sea levels to 2100 ranging between 18 and 59 cms (about 2 feet). As to the CSIRO/BOM report of March last year, it suggests that the rate of global sea level rise increased in the 20th century, and the accompanying published graph showed an increase of about 1.5 cms per decade. A continuation of that rate would suggest an increase to 2100 close to the lower end of the IPCC’s predicted range.
Satellite measurements of sea levels from 1994 also show an average rate of increase close to the lower end of the IPCC’s initial predicted range, but with a lower rate of increase in the last 8 years (See figure 12). In 2009 the Dutch Meteorological Institute stated that sea levels have risen 20 centimetres (about 8 inches) in the past century and there is “no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise”. Yet both under Prime Ministers Rudd and Gillard there have been what can only be described as scare campaigns that climate change threatens sea levels that will likely inundate many thousands of houses near the sea. The briefing instructions to Labor MPs reported in the last Weekend Australian tells them that “sea levels could rise by up to a metre and possibly even more by the end of the century ... up to 250,000 existing homes are at risk of inundation”. Owners of properties close to the ocean are being stopped from development by such alarmism and may be able to take legal action to prevent such measures.
As to the Arctic (Figure 14), while meltings did sharply reduce the extent of sea ice in 2007, that occurred when global temperatures were falling and during a period of cloudlessness in the area. Since 2007 the sea ice extent has returned to what it was in 2005. Although a downward trend remains, more extensive Arctic meltings have occurred in the past when CO2 emissions were very much lower and such meltings have no effect on sea levels because the ice is already in the sea. Canada’s North West passage has in fact been navigated in periods when fossil fuel usage was small.
As to the Antarctic, the total ice area has been increasing and has recently reached record levels. Break offs of sections of the Antarctic ice sheet do occur but are normal and recent imaginative claims of a small increase in temperatures (from 50 degrees below) were based on data from the one or two weather stations that cover the vast area. Satellite data covering the past thirty years show a distinct cooling of the Antarctic region.
Turning to the Great Barrier Reef, which is high on the Government’s list of reasons for an emissions reduction scheme and has a Foundation that is concerned about possible bleaching caused by global warming, any action by Australia to reduce emissions would not help unless there is an effective agreement by major emitters. It should also be noted that most of the reef has recovered from the bleachings of 1998 and 2002, which probably resulted from the temporary warming of sea water that occurs during the light winds that occur at the time of El Ninos and that limit the flow of cooler water across the reef. The Reef may have a stronger capacity to continue than is thought by some.
The Science of Emission Concentrations
I turn to figures 15 and 16.
The IPCC’s 2001 report acknowledged that the climate is a “complex, non-linear, chaotic object” and that long-term prediction of climate states is “impossible”. All such analytical qualifications have since disappeared and the politicisation of climate science has almost certainly played an important part in that.
Figure 15 is difficult for a non-scientist to explain. Most importantly, it shows that increases in C0 2 concentrations do not result in a commensurate increase in radiation back to the surface of the earth (the greenhouse effect). Let us look at what would happen if CO2 concentrations were to double, which is what the IPCC projects to happen by 2100 if there is no government action to reduce emissions. Thus Figure 15 shows that if concentrations increased from where they are now (nearly 400ppm) to 800ppm that would only increase radiation back to the earth’s surface by about 10 per cent (from about 29 watts per square metre to about 32 watts). (This analysis comes from an online calculator of energy in the atmosphere (MODTRANS) and is an international and IPCC accepted standard for atmospheric calculation).
The question then arises as to what would happen to surface temperatures and what are the implications for the modelling of temperatures in the future.
There is in fact very considerable doubt about the basis of the modelling used by the IPCC to project temperature increases. Although these models incorporate the positive feedbacks from water vapour that increase the radiation effects back to earth and oceans from increased CO2 concentrations (and hence cause some initial rise in temperatures), they fail to reflect all the temperature reducing effects from the negative feedback coming from the strong increase in evaporation from the ocean (which constitutes 70% of the earth’s surface) that also occurs as surface temperatures rise.
This means that the IPCC models significantly understate the temperature reducing effects that offset the initial increases from radiation back to earth. The modelled outcomes of larger CO2 concentrations by the IPCC thus produce a much larger increase in surface temperature than would be likely to occur.
Figure 16 provides a summary of the various warming or cooling influences identified by the IPCC as producing the radiative forcings back from CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, with an average increase of 1.6 watts per square metre. But the range around the average is enormous - from 0.6 to 2.4 square metres - and that in turn reflects the large ranges in radiative forcings for the various individual influences. Some of the estimates are also based on opinions of experts, not measured data. If the estimates of radiative forcing are much too large, which is quite possible given the margin of errors, that would obviously reduce the warming effect on the earth’s surface.
What all this means is that there is potential for wide margins of error in the estimates of the temperature effects arising from the greenhouse gases that remain in concentrated form in the atmosphere and, hence, in the future projections of temperatures. This reinforces the uncertainties already identified in assessing other features of the climate.
I summarise my assessment as follows. There are fundamental faults in the statistical and scientific analyses used to justify the need for early comprehensive mitigatory action by governments; claims of a consensus on the IPCC science have no credibility and account is not taken of the long history of faulty analyses by scientists; that examination of the temperature and CO2 concentrations data indicate that the green house effect on temperatures to 2100 is likely to be much less than the IPCC (and other believers) predict; that there is no substantive evidence of threats from rising sea levels or meltings of sea ice in the Arctic or Antarctic; that there is no evidence of any significant change in average rainfall or that droughts and other severe weather events are likely to occur more frequently. In conclusion, my submission is that the best policy is to adapt to changes in climate and to leave that mainly to the private sector.