by David Raal, Professor of Chemistry, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Tony Carnie’s articles (“We’re losers if we don’t save the planet”, The Mercury August 25, “City must aim to be low carbon”, mercury August 24) must not go unchallenged. The near-hysterical doom warnings by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), with active support by the UN and now also many misled governmental bodies, is becoming a new dogma based on false science and misleading information. It is all blamed on an innocent little trace gas, carbon dioxide.
In Australia, enforcement of the draconian “carbon footprint” will result in the closure of 18 coal mines and the loss of 25 000 jobs (The Chemical Engineer Feb. 2011.), all for an illusion! Draconian sacrifices and penalties are proposed, some already enforced, – particularly for the developing nations. Here are some facts and considerations about climate change:
- US and UK Government agencies have reported a global temperature increase (so far as these can be reasonably measured) of only 0.7 degrees Celsius since the year 1900.
- Sea level rise has been a steady 6-7 inches (15-18cm) for the last 5000 years. More recently this figure has been 18 cm per century since 1850 (S. Goreham, Climatism, 2010). Compare this with the Dryas Cold period +- 10 000 years ago when temperatures rose by 6 degrees in a decade.
- The “plight of the polar bears” an “emotive poster child” of the alarmists (such as Al Gore, Michael Mann, James Hanson and many others –perhaps we should add Kumi Naidoo?) is untenable. Polar bear populations have more than doubled since 1950 (Goreham, 2010). During the Ordovician-Silurian and Jurassic-Cretaceous glacial periods atmospheric CO2 content, now blamed for global warming, was +- 4000 and 2000 ppm by volume (H. Schreuder, 2011, “Slaying the Sky Dragon”). The present CO2 content is only 390 ppm. Where was the runaway greenhouse effect that should have followed? At present the sun is in slumber, with sunspot activity at a 100 year low (BBC 2009). This suggests an oncoming cooling period, as in the little ice age (+- 1300 to 1850 AD) when the sun was similarly quiet. This led to the extinction of the Vikings in Greenland and many other tragedies. We have more to fear from global cooling than from mild warming.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2), made the principal scapegoat by the “climatists” is a mere trace gas (390 parts per million in the atmosphere), vital for all plant life through photosynthesis. Increasing the CO2 content to only 600 ppm would double the rate of tree growth, as quite simple experiments have shown.
- The earth’s temperature has cycled through colder and warmer periods throughout its existence. The main driving forces are due to the Milankovich cycles (from periodic variations in the earth’s orbit, tilt and rotation –long term cyclic variations), variation in radiation intensity from the sun and interaction of the solar wind with cosmic radiation (short term), and variations in the Pacific and Atlantic sea current decadal oscillations. These are large, slow deep-sea flows.
- The Vostok ice cores from the Antarctic, showing CO2 and temperature variations over 420 000 years, confirm that earth warming always precedes CO2 rise in the atmosphere. This is of course expected since the oceans act as a vast sink or source –(they contain about 50 times as much CO2 as the atmosphere (Hertzberg, 2011)). When surface layers warm up, CO2 is released and shows up a few hundred years later as an increase in the atmosphere. The converse happens when the earth cools, as in the numerous ice ages, i.e. CO2 starts decreasing only after cooling due to natural causes. Al Gore’s interpretation was a perversion of the truth.
- The Antarctic sea ice has been slowly increasing for the last 30 years. This huge continent holds 90% of the world’s ice. Earth is in fact entering a mild cooling cycle. Moreover, the Arctic ice cap (with a miniscule amount of ice) “stopped shrinking and grew larger in both 2008 and 2009” (Goreham, 2010).
- Pronouncements from the IPCC (an essentially political body) should be viewed with the gravest skepticism. In–depth analyses of the IPCC’s simplified computer model, (on which they base their alarmist predictions), by a number of scientists, specialists in the field and not connected to any industry or government, have shown that the model is untenable and indefensible. (Slaying The Sky Dragon-Death of The Greenhouse Gas Theory, 2010). Climate modeling is extremely complex. The IPCC’s model, on which they base their dire predictions, is shockingly simplified: Their earth is a flat non-rotating disk (instead of a sphere) with no poles and continuous (24hr) sunshine. It neglects heat conduction, cloud effects, variation in solar intensity, convection currents, and is based on unreliable data. (T. Ball, 2011). In any case, more than 95% of the atmospheric CO2 is from natural causes.
- Who pray are the “tiny but powerful elite” (dissidents) at whom Naidoo’s ire is directed? The concerned authors I have quoted above have no connection with Industry or Governmental bodies. The real powerful elite are the UN and IPCC officials who have benefited hugely from the billions now diverted for an illusion, who all have much to lose if the climate bubble should burst, as it must eventually.
- The notorious Michael Mann “hockey stick” curve of global warming, it appears, was a deliberate fraud perpetrated on the unsuspecting. The Medieval Warm period (960 -1300AD) and the following little ice age (1300-1850), both injurious to their theory, were neatly excised from the actual temperature records. In 1300 AD global temperature was at least as high as, and perhaps higher than, it is today but without man–made CO2. How come? The deception was embarrassingly revealed in the “Climategate” scandal at East Anglia University in 2009. More than 1000 e-mails and documents were intercepted and posted on a Russian server and quickly disseminated worldwide -doing us all quite a favour. Temperatures had been deleted or inserted into the actual data to hide the medieval warming and little ice age periods! Similar scandals occurred in New Zealand and Australia.
I am not, of course, in favour of any pollution- particularly the mess we are making of our oceans, or releases of real pollutants such as SO2, nitrogen oxides etc. into the atmosphere. But spending billions chasing the CO2 mirage through false science is unpardonable. It is damaging to the reputations of the many earnest and dedicated scientists who labour to improve our understanding and knowledge of the world we live in. The good news is that, to quote Steve Goreham again, the “trickle of skepticism in 1990 has become a raging river today. The global warming petition project provides a list of more than 31 000 US based scientists who disagree with the theory of man-made global warming.”
J. David Raal.