WE ARE told we must limit global warming to 1.5 deg C. The target became official when the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate was signed. Its overarching goal was to hold ‘the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’ and pursue efforts ‘to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels’.
Why 1.5C? The previous threshold of 2C was a far too distant one, and few people would have been worried about something which might not happen for several decades, so the UN decided they needed to come up with something much more imminent. Hence their claim that ‘crossing the 1.5C threshold risks unleashing far more severe climate change impacts, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall’. A recent study even claims that global warming above 1C is already causing significant harm to humans.
What does this mythical figure of 1.5C really mean? As noted above, it is measured from pre-industrial levels, even though we have no clue what global temperatures were then. Indeed, we don’t know what they are now, despite scientists trying to convince us by coming up with global temperatures to hundredths of a degree.
We are said to have already reached about 1.2C of warming, which to be fair broadly corresponds with the long-running Central England Temperature series. But why choose pre-industrial times at all? What evidence is there that there was anything ‘normal’ about the climate 200 years ago?
The reason is very simple. 1.5C sounds a lot, and the whole objective is to scare the public. The reality is that everybody is used to today’s climate, and it is from this that any increases should be measured. But nobody would be scared by a threat of warming of a tenth of a degree or so in 30 years’ time.
The implication is that the climate was normal and unchanging before we started burning fossil fuels. But that period was known as the Little Ice Age (LIA) for a very good reason. We know from multiple sources that the LIA was probably the coldest period since the last Ice Age ended. Evidence from ice cores in Greenland, glacial records in Europe, Greenland, Iceland and Alaska, upper tree line studies in the Alps and North America and other data overwhelmingly supports this conclusion.
Even New Zealand did not escape the clutches of the LIA. Eminent historian Brian Fagan wrote in his seminal book, The Little Ice Age, that the Franz Joseph glacier there was ‘a mere pocket of ice on a frozen snowfield nine centuries ago . . . Then Little Ice Age cooling began and the glacier thrust downslope into the valley below, smashing into the great rain forests that flourished there, felling giant trees like matchsticks. By the early 18th century, Franz Joseph’s face was within 3 km of the Pacific Ocean . . . The high tide of glacial advance at Franz Joseph came between the late 17th century and early 19th century, just as it did in the European Alps’.
Fagan also described how the advance of glaciers in Switzerland obliterated thousands of acres of farming land, and what remained was far too cold to grow anything. As a result famine was rife.
It was not just glaciers that were the problem. A couple of years ago, a Portuguese scientist wrote a synthesis of the LIA in Europe in general and Portugal in particular. He tells a story of heavy rainfall and floods, heatwaves, droughts, cold wet summers, snow storms, famines and malaria.
It is clearly nonsensical and dishonest to claim that the climate was somehow ‘normal’ in pre-industrial times. And it is certainly deranged for anybody to suggest that the world’s climate is now worse.
The year in review – perfectly ordinary
THE Global Warming Policy Foundation has just published my annual review of the UK’s weather. Once again, I find little to be alarmed about.
Although 2022 was a comparatively warm year, the long-term mean temperature has been largely unchanged since the turn of the century. Rainfall and storm trends are, respectively, unexceptional and favourable.
Here is the report’s executive summary:
According to the Met Office, the UK climate ‘is continuing to change’, while weather is becoming more extreme.
But what does the actual evidence tell us?
Using official data up to 2021, from the Met Office and other sources, this paper examines UK climate trends, and assesses the truth of these claims.
The results are as follows:
• Although 2022 was the warmest on record in the UK, there has been no increase in long-term averages since the early 2000s.
• The annual temperature in 2022 was well within the bounds of natural variability, and was largely due to long spells of sunny weather in spring and summer.
• The summer of 2022 was only the fourth hottest according to CET, and not as hot as 1976, 1826 and 2018.
• Annual rainfall last year was only slightly below average.
• The number of days with extreme temperatures is not increasing, as fewer cold days are offsetting more hot ones.
• Long-term averages in rainfall in England and Wales, which have been rising since the 1970s, are similar to the 1870s and 1920s.
• While winters have become slightly wetter, there is little change in the other seasons. In particular, summers are not getting drier, as projections have suggested.
• Rainfall is not becoming more extreme, whether on an annual, monthly or daily basis.
• Sea levels have been rising at around 1.7mm a year around the UK, after taking account of vertical land movement, and there has been no acceleration in the rate of rise on multi-decadal scales.
• Wind storms have been declining in frequency and intensity since the 1990s.
In short, although it is slightly warmer than it used to be, the UK climate has changed very little. Long-term trends are dwarfed by the natural variability of weather.
Nor is there any evidence that weather is becoming more extreme. Nothing in the data indicates that climate will become more extreme in future.
The full report can be downloaded here.