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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Operation Pie in the Sky

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IF YOU think there really is a climate emergency (and other opinions are available) you must be worried. Worried that resolutions agreed at 27 annual United Nations Climate Conferences since 1995 have had absolutely no effect on emissions. The CO2 content of the atmosphere has been rising steadily since records began in 1958.

You might therefore be grateful that some scientists are also worried. Worried that nations, particularly in Asia, have noticed that their populations want electricity and are not willing to wait ten years while their governments build emission-free nuclear power stations. Which is why, in spite of those 27 conferences, several countries are rushing to build smoke-belching coal-fired power stations, and coal is having to replace Russian gas in Europe.

Global annual average temperatures have actually been falling slightly since 2016. But the worried scientists seem to think this is only a temporary pause, so they are continuing their hunt for some other more immediate ways to fight the climate ‘emergency’.

We are now into geoengineering, which has produced at least a dozen ideas (all of them extremely worrying) to create a more instant effect while we wait for the major emitting nations of the world (China, the US, India, Russia and Japan) to agree to cut their 60 per cent share.

All these ideas involve the most grandiose experiments ever carried out, not in a lab where they could easily be stopped if they went wrong, but in the earth’s delicately balanced atmosphere. Proposals include: giant mirrors or ice bubbles orbiting the earth to block some of the sunshine; creating brighter clouds over the Arctic to reflect the sun’s rays and slow down the melting of the ice;  injecting substances into the high atmosphere to spread round the world, plus many others more or less practical to reduce the intensity of the warming.

The calls for geoengineering action are being force-fed partly by some irresponsible scientists blaming every instance of any kind of extreme weather on climate change. The media picks up these comments, the result being that everyone thinks that every storm, gale, drought or flood is proof that our weather is going badly wrong and something needs to be done, and done quickly before things get even worse.

The earth has always had bad weather, but we have started recording every instance and broadcasting pictures of it worldwide only in the last 50 years. It is impossible to distinguish storms caused by normal bad weather from those forecast in the climatologists’ models.

Sensational headlines about any kind of extreme weather are also being deliberately encouraged by a large grouping of media outlets (CCNow). Paul Homewood’s recent article in TCW explains more about this organisation. Their guidance advice quite blatantly says: ‘Extreme weather stories that fail to mention climate change should . . . be viewed as incomplete and perhaps inaccurate.’ Their advice is not only about extremes: any feature about weather must always be linked to climate change.

It is not surprising, therefore, that research flights have begun in the US ‘to inform policy decisions related to potential injection of material into the stratosphere to combat global warming’. Not surprising but worrying is that one company has already started experimenting on a small scale, recently sending up three balloons from Nevada to inject sulphur aerosols into the high atmosphere.

Harvard University have been planning a similar project for some time: SCoPEx, the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment, and there are other groups in both the UK and US working on various projects. The web is awash with geoengineering information. Half the sites argue that action is needed soon to save the world, the other half warn that tinkering with our atmosphere could be catastrophic.

The problem here is that both sides have a good case to make. How long will it be before the nations of the world make any serious cuts to their emissions? (Notice that here the UK simply does not count. We emit less than one per cent of the world total. Nothing we can do on our own will have the slightest effect.) How long will it be before one geoengineer or more decide that they have to act before it’s too late and the world overheats?

Now, put together (1) the climate experts telling us we’re bound to get more bad weather, (2) the media obediently shouting ‘Catastrophe!’ every time we have a heatwave or flood, and (3) numerous scientific teams who think they can successfully repair the world and therefore become as famous as Newton or Einstein. The mixture is explosive.

Explosive? Yes, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. If a move to darken our skies went wrong then we could forget worrying about energy costs. We’d be struggling to survive.

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Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams is a freelance writer and has been a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society since 1984.

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