Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Part 2 – The climate change allegations

2.    The climate change allegations

“Climate change” is the phrase, with which the accusers usually identify their claims. These words replaced, some years ago, the original moniker of “global warming.”

But if you ask yourself “what, specifically, are they accusing us of?” you’ll find that “climate change” is an over-simplification. Indeed, it is a mis-representation. Here, again, is my best statement of the allegations. “One, that emissions of carbon dioxide gas from human activities are causing, and will in the future cause, a large and unprecedented increase in temperatures on a world-wide scale. Two, that this will have catastrophic consequences on the planet as a whole, and so on human well-being.”

At first sight, this looks like a really easy issue to clear up. All we need do is look at the facts of the case, and judge according to those facts. Either the alarms are justified, or they are not. And that decision can be made objectively, using hard, factual evidence and honest, unbiased science. There should not be any clash of values between alarmists and skeptics. There should not be any need to bring politics into it, or to resort to dirty tricks or name-calling.

In a sane system, and particularly in a democracy, would you not expect that the facts of such a case would have been debated freely and fully, in a forum accessible to the general public, under impartial moderation, with all points of view reported in the media? So that everyone can make up their own minds on the issue, and have their views fully taken into account? I have never heard of any such debate.

No; governments press on with destructive, freedom-killing schemes like “zero carbon,” and even seek to bring forward their implementation dates. While the scares and hype of the alarmist point of view are trumpeted all over the media. Meanwhile, skeptics are largely ignored, and attempts made to suppress our voices. Even suspecting that the climate change allegations might be flawed is enough to get you labelled “denier” or heretic.

Meanwhile, many ordinary people seem to think the whole issue is unimportant, and prefer to tune out all the hubbub. Polls have consistently shown that climate change doesn’t rank high at all on most people’s list of problems that need solving. Indeed, it often comes dead last. There is a huge disconnect here between the political class and the ordinary people they are supposed to be serving.

Evaluating the allegations

If an objective auditor were asked to investigate these accusations, he would need to elucidate, using only hard evidence and logical deductions, answers to four questions:

1.    Is it warming on a global scale, and if so, by how much?

2.    If there is significant global warming, how much of it is caused by human emissions of CO2; and how much more warming should we expect in the future from that cause?

3.    If there is significant warming, from whatever cause, what would be the likely consequences for human civilization?

4.    If there are significant likely negative consequences of warming to human civilization, what are the costs and benefits (to all the parties involved) of: (a) “adaptation,” that is, reacting to problems only as they arise? Or (b) “mitigation,” that is, putting in place schemes which might abate some of the human-caused problems?

To the first question: Is it warming? Yes; it has been warming since the 17th century, and is still doing so today. Before that, it was cooling down from the Mediaeval Warm Period. And before that, it was warming. That is what climate does; it changes. Always has done, and always will. Even without any human intervention.

But is there evidence of anything unusual, above and beyond what we have seen in the past, in the variability of the temperatures in recent decades? My own answer is the Scottish verdict: Not proven.

To the second question: How much of this warming is caused by human emissions of CO2? My answer is: Probably some, but it’s very uncertain how much. There are other factors in play; and some of them are unknowns. For example, we have no clear idea of what caused the Mediaeval Warm Period. As to the future, such “evidence” as we have is provided only by computer models, and they are – to say the least – dubious.

To the third: What would be the effects of significant warming on human civilization? I answer: Unsure, but given that human civilizations have flourished in past periods of relative warmth – Minoan, Roman and Mediaeval warm periods – I would expect that a moderate warming (say, 2 to 4 degrees Celsius over a century or so) would actually be beneficial overall. To me, the only credible downside of such moderate warming is a bit of sea level rise; but we should be able to deal with that. After all, the Dutch have been doing it successfully for many centuries.

As to the fourth question, I find the reactive approach (adaptation) far better, because you don’t waste resources on problems that are not real. The pro-active approach (mitigation) is not only far more expensive, but risks not producing any benefits, or making problems worse, or even having side-effects that create new problems. So, my view is that action should only be taken to solve “problems” when it is clear that there is a real problem to be solved.

Where is the proof of our guilt?

The “zero carbon” agenda, and the transport proposals being made as a result, will without doubt cause economic and lifestyle damage, inconvenience and loss of freedom to a lot of people. So, where is the justification for them? What have we done, to deserve such treatment? Why should any of us accept any restrictions, without first seeing hard, objective, incontrovertible evidence of what it is that we are supposed to have done wrong, and why it was wrong?

In a country like the UK, supposedly based on the rule of law, a charge such as causing catastrophic global climate change ought to be tried under due process of law. Ought it not? With all sides telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

And we have human rights, too. If accused of a murder, for example, each of us must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. So, it’s up to the accusers to substantiate their case beyond reasonable doubt. We also have the right to fair judgement by an independent and impartial tribunal. And each of us has the right to speak up in our own defence, and to call whatever witnesses, including experts, we find necessary for our defence.

Moreover, how much stronger should the safeguards be, when the future of our entire civilization is at stake? Should not the charges be debated and assessed, objectively and rationally, in an open and honest forum, free from all political, emotional or media bias? Should not those involved in the assessment, on all sides, be required to give their evidence under oath, on penalty of perjury or worse if they lie, fabricate or mislead? Should not the charges themselves, and the conduct of those promoting them, first undergo a thorough audit by independent, honest, unbiased parties? And if the case is not proven beyond reasonable doubt, should the charges not be dismissed? Or if there has been any misconduct at all by the accusers in the case, shout the charges not be dismissed with prejudice?

Now, I for one see no hard, objective, conclusive evidence being put forward that we humans are causing catastrophic global warming through our emissions of carbon dioxide gas. Where is the evidence? Not theories, not computer models, not what-ifs, not guesstimates with huge error bounds and uncertainties. Just evidence: observable facts, and rational deductions from them, which can be independently verified.

Where, for example, are the millions of climate refugees our accusers claim? The thousands of polar bears, and hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of coral reefs, they claim died because of human-caused global warming? Where is the proof, beyond reasonable doubt, that weather is getting worse on a global scale as they claim, and that the cause is human emissions of CO2? And where is the proof, beyond reasonable doubt, that global sea level rise is accelerating abnormally, and for that same reason?

I’ll give you a cautionary tale from the past. In the early 1980s, damage to trees was discovered in several German forests. This took on the name Waldsterben. Claims were put forward that this was a new problem. That it was caused by increasing levels of many different air pollutants, at the time branded as “acid rain.” That all species of trees were hit by it. That it developed very rapidly, and many trees would die of it within 10 years. And those making these claims urged that immediate action must be taken.

After more than a decade of research, forest scientists concluded that this was not a new problem at all. Similar damage had been observed as far back as the 1920s. It had different causes in different tree species; for example, a fungus attacking the tree roots of spruce. And apart from some damage caused by sulphur dioxide from eastern European communist industry, there was no correlation between the damage to trees and the level of air pollution. By about 1993, Waldsterben as a scientific theory had gone the same way as phlogiston.

But for more than a decade, alarmists were allowed to push their claims and to demand action. It is well said that “a lie can get halfway around the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” And in the last month, indeed, there have been fresh reports of damage to Swiss forests; this time, claimed to be caused by heat stress due to climate change! Though people with forest knowledge are suggesting that the real culprit is a bark beetle. Could this be Waldsterben déja vu?

Would a zero-carbon economy be sustainable?

The Rio Declaration, to which the politicians signed up back in 1992, was supposed to ensure that development based on it would be “sustainable.” Now, I understand this word to mean “capable of being sustained,” or otherwise “able to endure into the future.” So, I ask: Would the zero-carbon economy, which the politicians seem to think is so necessary and urgent, actually be sustainable? Would it be able to endure into the future? Or would it, if put into practice, fail; for example, leading to widespread starvation like Stalin’s holodomor, or people freezing to death?

More generally, should not any contemplated political action, on the kind of scale the zero carbon advocates seek, first be tried out on a small scale, to check that it would have no negative effects? And would not failure to prototype the effects of such a proposed action be an egregious violation of the true precautionary principle, “Look before you leap?”

It’s amusing to think how we might create such a prototype. Set aside a suitable zone, and run an experiment there to find if a zero-carbon economy is sustainable or not. Require all those – activists, politicians, bureaucrats, corrupt academics, celebrities, media figures, and all the rest – that have promoted or supported the zero-carbon agenda, to go live in that area. Monitor that the zone doesn’t emit any more CO2 than comes in. And though they may trade with people outside the bounds of their zone, the zone must be economically self-sufficient. They have to prove that a zero-carbon economy can survive and prosper without subsidies, grants, or gifts of money or goods from outside – including from government. (Especially from government!)

Then, let’s just leave them there; and get on with our own lives in our own ways. If they succeed in the experiment, we’ll see them in 2050. If not, it will both prove them wrong and serve them right; and all human beings worth the name will say “good riddance.”

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