WE ARE all familiar with regular scare stories about the rapid disappearance of the Greenland icesheet. Last summer, for example, Sky News assured us that enough ice melted in one day to cover Florida in two inches of water.
We are told that it is melting ever faster, tracking ‘worst-case climate change scenarios’. These are usually accompanied with visions of the Statue of Liberty under water, or similarly apocalyptic images.
A new report, however, shows that the amount of actual melt is tiny, and that, far from accelerating, the icesheet was melting just as fast between the 1930s and 50s. The report comes from Professor Steve Koonin, a theoretical physicist who was Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy for President Obama between 2009 and 2011.
Part of his job was to analyse the data concerning climate change. It was during this time that he began to realise that the subject was not as black and white as traditionally made out. Nor did the data support the hysteria with which it was promoted to the public.
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, ‘Greenland’s Melting Ice Is No Cause for Climate-Change Panic’, Koonin explained how annual ice loss was at a similar level now to the 1930s and 40s. The rate of loss has been declining during the last decade.
There was a much colder period in Greenland between the 1960s and 90s, when unsurprisingly the ice melt declined to virtually nothing. This colder interval was a direct consequence of the cold phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, AMO, a natural cyclical event which usually recurs every fifty to sixty years. We are now in the warm phase again, but this will likely switch back to cold again in the coming decade, if past cycles are anything to go by.
There is really nothing controversial in anything Steve Koonin has written. We know from the temperature records that Greenland was as warm as now in the 1930s:
And as Koonin also explains, the actual amount of ice melt is tiny. The average annual loss of 110 gigatonnes, (that is billion tonnes), sounds catastrophic, but it equates to only about an inch of sea level rise per century. At this rate it would take 10,000 years for the whole ice cap to melt.
What the media never explain is how this all fits in with the longer-term history of the Greenland icesheet.
We know from ice cores that the Little Ice Age, which terminated in the 19th century, was the coldest era since the Ice Age, so some amount of warming since is to be expected.
There is also abundant evidence that Greenland’s glaciers used to be much smaller than in the recent past. Plant remains uncovered by retreating glaciers were carbon dated to the 16th century.
History tells us of the warmth of the Middle Ages when the Vikings colonised Greenland, but that was not the only warm period. Studies have also shown that Greenland’s glaciers have been smaller than now for most of the last 10,000 years.
The bottom line is that there is nothing unusual or alarming about the current state of the Greenland ice cap.
The truth about the Stonehaven train crash
Readers will probably recall the tragic Stonehaven rail accident in August 2020. Three people died when the Scotsrail train was derailed after hitting debris from an embankment landslide following heavy rain.
Quite disgracefully, there was an immediate attempt to blame global warming. Within hours, Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines was claiming that that climate change was an increasing challenge, adding that the network was designed for a temperate climate, but the country was experiencing more extremes such as storms and floods.
BBC’s Science Editor, David Shukman, was also quick off the mark, claiming that climate change was making events like this one more likely.
Naturally, neither the BBC nor Network Rail bothered to present any data to back up their assertions. Nor did they have the decency to wait for the results of a proper investigation.
This has now been done and it turns out that the landslip was due to a drainage system wrongly built by Carillion and unchecked by Network Rail. According to the Guardian: ‘Inspectors said the drainage system and earthworks, installed in 2011-12 by the contractor Carillion to stabilise the slope above the track, ‘had not been constructed in accordance with the original design and so were not able to safely accommodate the water flows’ when almost a month’s rainfall, 51.5mm [two and a quarter inches], fell in three hours. The changes made by Carillion, which went bust in 2018, were not noted by Network Rail, which did not inspect the upper parts of the drainage system after a handover in 2013.’
In fact, the rainfall in the area that day was not unprecedented. At Dyce, a few miles away, 83mm (three and a quarter inches) fell that day, slightly less than the 83.9mm which came down on July 24 1970. The chart below shows the highest daily rainfall for each year at Dyce, and there is no evidence to back up the assertion that rainfall is becoming more extreme there.
Nor is 51mm of rain in three hours remotely unusual. We see similar rainfalls up and down the country every year. It goes without saying that Network Rail’s infrastructure should be constructed and maintained to withstand amounts of rainfall well beyond anything on record.
Andrew Haines, who is still chief executive of Network Rail, now talks of ‘lessons learned’. Where have we heard that one before?
Instead of mouthing platitudes, he should hang his head in shame, apologise and then resign for trying to shift the blame, rather than accept responsibility at the outset.
The ‘green’ jobs mirage
TCW reported on a study last October which suggested that virtually no ‘green’ jobs had been created in the last five years, despite regular government promises of hundreds of thousands.
Now it is official. According to the Guardian:
‘The UK’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy has failed to grow since 2014, according to official data showing a fall in the number of green jobs.
‘In a blow to the government’s pledge to boost net-zero employment opportunities, the Office for National Statistics said its latest figures, covering 2020, showed ‘no significant change’ in turnover and job numbers in the sector compared with six years earlier.
‘Employment in the low-carbon and renewable energy economy – which includes manufacturing, energy supply and construction – fell by about 28,000 across the UK over the period, to just 207,800. Among the steepest declines were in factories producing energy-efficient products, onshore wind, and solar energy.’
The prospect of ‘well paid, career jobs’ has been one of the main planks in successive governments’ climate policy. In 2009 Peter Mandelson promised 400,000 new jobs in the environmental sector. Four years later Ed Davey claimed there would be 250,000 by now. Last year the Net Zero Strategy talked of 440,000 within ten years, if only we were prepared to cripple our economy and impoverish ourselves first.
Many of those 207,800 jobs are not new anyway, but are simply rebadged. The number, for instance, includes 15,000 who work in the nuclear industry, and have done for decades. Ditto with double glazing salesmen, installers and manufacturers. Other jobs have simply switched roles, such as car workers who have transferred to the electric car assembly line. Only about 20,000 are in the wind and solar power sector.
Economists will of course tell you that governments cannot create jobs out of thin air. They have to be paid for, and that means we have less money to spend elsewhere in the economy. Indeed a study a few years ago in Spain found that 2.2 jobs were lost for every one green job created because of the sub-optimum allocation of capital.
Meanwhile what is certain is that the shutdown of fossil fuels will cost a lot more jobs than are created.