WE used to leave scientists to deal with the oddities of our climate. In the 1970s we were plunging into an ice age, they told us. We took no notice. Nobody rushed to order more coal.
By the 1990s the message had reversed: Our climate was warming. Here we go again, we thought. Never mind, they’ll have another think soon. Nobody made plans to move up north.
But the forecast of a changing climate has become a strident message of doom. Catastrophe, we are told, is inevitable unless we do something now. (Other catastrophes are available: Ukraine, refugees, energy prices, etc).
The signs of climate danger are clear, we are told: Meteorological records being broken; extreme weather worldwide; global temperatures rising and the steady increase of atmospheric CO2.
You can understand the media wallowing in this, but it is rather surprising (and regrettable) that science seems willing to stoke our fears so energetically. ‘Weather records aren’t just broken,’ said a New Scientist article reviewing 2021, ‘they’re smashed. Record-shattering fires, freezes and rainfall around the world made it all too clear that extreme weather is fast becoming the new normal.’
Let’s have a stop and think moment. Remember the Ice Age? Not the one that didn’t happen, but the last real one, which ended about 12,000 years ago.
Weather has been properly monitored worldwide and day by day for only the last 140 years, so we know hardly anything about it for 98.8 per cent of the current inter-glacial period. Records will therefore continue to be broken far into the future. They may be due to climate change, but we have no way of knowing.
Did you notice that word ‘extreme’ in the New Scientist quote? Weather that is unusual is always labelled ‘extreme’ or (worse) ‘freak’. Floods, drought, hurricanes, heavy rain, blizzards, typhoons, storms of any kind, all are now assumed to be signs of global warming.
There is actually no such thing as ‘freak’ weather. It’s just behaving in the way it always has, mostly normal, but occasionally surprising; we have always had weather like that.
To prove the point, records from past ages, before the Industrial Revolution, are always about violent weather: The Great Storm of 1703 in the UK for instance, or the catastrophic flood caused by the Calcutta cyclone of 1737.
Rising temperatures worldwide are contributing to the general hysteria. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the global temperature in 2021 was 1.11 (± 0.13) degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels.
Another stop and think here. How can any organisation claim to have measured the average temperature of the whole world for every day over a full year to an accuracy of one hundredth of a degree, with error limits of plus or minus 13 hundredths of a degree?
The carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. It has risen from 315.7 parts per million in 1958 to 419.3 parts per million in February 2022, which is actually only 0.03 per cent to 0.04 per cent, but the scientists say it is a very important heat-trapping gas.
Must something be done to save the world? ‘Major climate changes are inevitable and irreversible,’ says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It arranged 26 annual gatherings of delegates from all over the world to deal with the problem, from COP1 (Berlin, 1995) to COP26 (Glasgow 2021). The result of all that talking? Emissions are still rising.
This has been noticed. ‘Planned gradual reduction of CO2 could take too long,’ one expert points out. ‘Emissions are not declining at anywhere near the rate needed to keep global temperatures from rising’. In fact, they are still going up: Global CO2 emissions ‘rebounded in 2021 to reach their highest-ever annual level’.
The IPCC view is that ‘climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying.’ In plainer language, the situation is getting worse, we’re not doing much about it and on top of that it is increasingly obvious that a drive to Net Zero will both bankrupt and cripple world economies. So are we helpless?
Another stop and think moment. Who would you vote for if the world needs saving? Politicians, or scientists? Now read on.
Not many people know that some scientists have realised it’s no good leaving our climate to the politicians, and they have a plan. A lot more people need to know, because it carries with it very high risks. It involves neither adaptation nor mitigation (current fashionable solutions), but intervention.
Why not intervene directly in the climate? A Nature article last March gave some unusually positive advice: ‘The US government should launch a federal research programme to explore whether it’s feasible … to artificially cool Earth … by injecting particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight.’
The argument for this form of geo-engineering is convincing in three ways: It is much cheaper than any other form of dealing with carbon emissions; it could have a noticeable effect within months and the Earth has experienced something similar in major volcanic eruptions such as Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies in 1815 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1815_eruption_of_Mount_Tambora, which affected worldwide temperatures for many months afterwards.
It is curious that the latest UN conference (COP26 in Glasgow) talked about adaptation and mitigation, but not intervention. Intervening by modifying solar radiation is in the latest IPCC report, only to be dismissed as too risky.
There had been worries before: The ‘Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques’ was agreed back in 1977.
In January, the American Institute of Physics summed up the situation precisely: ‘As global climate impacts grow in severity, the interest in climate intervention research is expected to increase.’ There is at least one team of scientists with advanced plans for initial experiments later this year, and maybe others.
There are doubts about the possible random and unexpected results from such tinkering with the Earth’s atmosphere. Warnings have become louder the more it seems that some team might actually try to dim the sunshine.
One last stop and think: If the climatologists and the media keep on about rising temperatures, broken records, ‘freak’ weather and forecasts of doom, what scientist could resist an attempt to become more famous than Newton or Einstein?