A climate of fear

More home truths about the dwindling threat from climate change

Investigate Jun/Jul 2013

In April, British peer Lord Monckton toured New Zealand with the Climate Realists organisation and was attacked for talking about a slowdown in warming. Now, ironically, the latest climate studies are backing him up. IAN WISHART reports

 

A funny thing happened on the way to the global warming panic forum: the sun stopped shining, the world stopped warming and even the climate scientists began dialling back on the dire predictions. Well, some of them.

In late May, Nature Geoscience published a new peer-reviewed study by a number of senior climate scientists working on the new IPCC AR5 climate report, due out later this year. A leaked draft of the AR5 contained claims that temperatures could reach up to six degrees higher than current levels – a big increase from the two to four degree increase forecast in AR4. Now, however, their own research in Nature Geoscience shoots down both of those forecasts.

Using real-world temperature data from the past decade, the research team have found temperature increases are highly unlikely to top two degrees by 2100 as previously claimed, and may rise only 1.3 degrees by then.

One of the study’s authors, Nic Lewis, comments:

“Best estimates of 2.0°C for equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) and 1.3°C for the – arguably more policy-relevant – transient climate response (TCR) are obtained, based on changes to the decade 2000–09, which provide the best constrained, and probably most reliable, estimates.

“The 5–95% uncertainty ranges are 1.2–3.9°C for ECS and 0.9–2.0°C for TCR.

“The take-home message from this study, like several other recent ones, is that the ‘very likely’ 5–95% ranges for ECS and TCR in Chapter 12 of the leaked IPCC AR5 second draft scientific report, of 1.5–6/7°C for ECS and 1–3°C for TCR, and the most likely values of near 3°C for ECS and near 1.8°C for TCR, are out of line with instrumental-period observational evidence.”

Significantly, the new study pulled in both satellite and ocean heat monitoring records.

Despite such studies showing climate change may not be catastrophic after all, doom merchants continue to dominate media coverage of the debate. New Zealand’s own Antarctic Research Institute hit the headlines in May over predictions that sea levels could rise by as much as 40cm a decade because of irreversible Antarctic ice melt. Naturally their predictions got wide media coverage. Just as naturally, they were non-factual scaremongering at their worst.

“Antarctic ice melt may result in sea levels rising by up to 5 m and as fast as 4 cm per year. Even with the most optimistic scenarios for stabilizing atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations, the world can no longer avoid 2°C of warming by 2100, meaning we are already committed to irreversible meltdown of Greenland and West Antarctica. The questions is when, how much and how fast!,” warns the ARI, a taxpayer-funded organisation.

Given the findings of the Nature Geoscience paper that the ‘scary’ high estimates of temperature rise are wrong, it’s not hard to see that the foundation that ARI claim is based on has collapsed, leaving its other conclusions, like dominos, to fall as well.

They don’t just fall because the temperature increase estimates were wrong, however. They fall also because the taxpayer-funded scientists at the Antarctic Research Institute hadn’t bothered, in their public statement, to reference the scientific data on whether sea levels were actually capable of physically rising that fast.

It’s an issue I covered in the book Air Con because NASA’s outspoken climate activist James Hansen has made similar statements about sea level rise this century:

“I find it almost inconceivable that ‘business as usual’ climate change will not result in a rise in sea level measured in metres within a century. Am I the only scientist who thinks so?” asked Hansen.

Possibly, now, he just might be. According to a study by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Colorado University’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Hansen has more chance of finding a snowball in global warming hell than he does of seeing the sea level rise by five or ten metres.

The study took on board the claims Hansen and other global warming believers have made about melting ice, but then did something that hasn’t been done before – they checked to see how fast the glaciers would actually have to melt to achieve a multi-metre rise in sea levels, and whether this was actually possible.

“Despite projections by some scientists of global seas rising by 20 feet or more by the end of this century as a result of warming, a new University of Colorado at Boulder study concludes that global sea rise of much more than 6 feet is a near physical impossibility,” begins a bulletin from the University.

“For Greenland alone to raise sea level by two metres by 2100, all of the outlet glaciers involved would need to move more than three times faster than the fastest outlet glaciers ever observed, or more than 70 times faster than they presently move,” one of the Colorado team, Tad Pfeffer, explained. “And they would have to start moving that fast today [2008], not 10 years from now. It is a simple argument with no fancy physics.”

The reason it’s simple is because glaciers don’t just melt overnight, no matter how hot it’s been. The ice not only has to turn to water, but the water has to find its way out. The world’s fastest outlet glaciers, incidentally, are moving at a hefty 12 kilometres a year, so Greenland’s glaciers, all of them, would have to start whizzing out of their valley beds at speeds approaching one kilometre a week, and continue moving that fast, day and night, for the rest of this century, just to achieve Hansen and Gore’s fantasy of a two metre sea level increase.

Logistically then, the chances of a big sea level rise are almost non-existent, even with global warming.

“The gist of the study is that very simple, physical considerations show that some of the very large predictions of sea level rise are unlikely, because there is simply no way to move the ice or the water into the ocean that fast,” said Pfeffer.

Their study, published in Science, indicates the NASA GISS chief’s claim is possible, but only on paper, and arguably even then only after a long night of weed-smoking.

“We consider glaciological conditions required for large sea level rise to occur by 2100 and conclude increases of 2 metres are physically untenable. We find that a total sea level rise of about 2 metres by 2100 could occur under physically possible glaciological conditions but only if all variables are quickly accelerated to extremely high limits.”

Like others, Pfeffer says the research is a warning to political leaders to make sure they’re certain of the science before they start spending money like water.

“If we plan for 6 feet and only get 2 feet, for example, or visa versa, we could spend billions of dollars of resources solving the wrong problems.”

This, of course, brings us back to the scaremongering New Zealand scientists. It turns out their dramatic forecasts were also a plea for funding, at a time when their own city, Christchurch, is facing a $40 billion rebuild, much of it taxpayer-funded.

The Antarctic Research Institute justifies its funding request by claiming to have a better handle on Antarctic melt than others:

“Whereas most climate models, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are based on a linear sequence of progressive and predictable changes, the melting of polar ice is the result of complex interactions that have resulted in non-linear, even runaway rates of melting during times of past warming.”

The ARI paper claims New Zealand climate scientists are the world experts on Antarctic ice melt and are well-placed to lead research on runaway sea level rise:

“Even though 80% of the heat from global warming ahs [sic] gone into the Southern Ocean, the international community is only now focusing attention on the important role of the water mass beneath ice-shelves contributing to ice shelf disintegration. We still have very few measurements of the water mass beneath an ice shelf, let alone an understanding of how changing ocean currents around Antarctic will destabilise the ice shelves. New Zealand is well placed to lead an international initiative to obtain the first transect of data from beneath the Ross Ice Shelf.

“The international research community is establishing terrestrial observing systems through the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and New Zealand has already taken the lead in developing the Antarctic Environments Portal to ensure policy ready Antarctic research knowledge is made immediately available to national and international decision makers.”

This is what the climate change debate is actually all about. It’s not so much about the climate, which is always changing, but about “funding” plucked from taxpayers. In order to be fleeced, the sheep first have to be conned into believing there’s good reason to pay hundreds of dollars more each year to power companies, petrol companies and the government in the name of combating climate change.

Skeptics have long argued that climate change has been vastly overrated, and that it’s little more than a Trojan horse ushering in a massive global bureaucracy – taxpayer funded of course – with massive control and red tape over people’s lives.

One man who knows this argument well is Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley and a prominent climate change skeptic.

Monckton’s April tour of New Zealand played to nearly three thousand people nationwide, and even forced the mighty New Zealand Herald to run a correction after an early hatchet-job by the climate science community.

“They’re all pursuing a political agenda with which I don’t particularly agree, but as scientists they should be pursuing a scientific agenda and should not be straying into politics unless they’re open about what they’re doing. What they must not do is to appeal to their own authority and say ‘we are  scientists, Monckton’s a layman therefore he knows nothing. Because as it happens I’m not as much of a layman as I may look.”

It’s a quirk of the climate change debate that you have to be a ‘climate scientist’ to be qualified to have an opinion. Unless, of course, you are railroad engineer Rajendra Pachauri heading the UN IPCC, or journalist Al Gore making movies about it, or Sunday School teacher Bill McKibben of 350.org fame.

Monckton is not a climatologist, but like many in this debate he has studied the literature deeply and is well acquainted with the scientific method. University studies in mathematics – and its consequent emphasis on logic – assisted greatly.

The British peer points to breathless media coverage of the

recent New Zealand drought, fuelled by climate scientists on the front page of the Herald calling it “the new normal” because of climate change, as an example of unscientific “bunkum”.

With recent official temperature data confirming Earth has experienced no statistically-significant global warming since 1998, Monckton makes a brutally simple point: “Global warming that was predicted for tomorrow, but which has not happened for a couple of decades, cannot have caused yesterday’s drought in New Zealand or hot weather and wet weather in Australia, because that which has not happened cannot have caused that which has.

“This is very elementary logic. You do not need to have a science degree to be able to work that out for yourself.”

When you extend that out, you can see it covers virtually every other scare story related to global warming. If there’s been no increase in warming for fifteen years, it cannot suddenly be responsible for more tornadoes/floods/hurricanes/alien invasions (select disaster du jour, as needed). Whatever is happening is just weather.

US hurricane experts have made similar points. There has not been an increase in global activity, merely an increase in reportage by a news media sensitised to climate events. Sometimes superstorms like the one that hit New York last year happen in populated areas, sometimes they happen out in the oceans and disturb no one.

 

To upset predictions even further, not only has global warming been at a standstill for 15 years, but now some scientists are warning we may be dipping back into another mini ice age. Each of the last five northern hemisphere winters has been worse than the previous one, and this year’s was so cold that Europe and North America have continued to experience massive snow dumps and blizzards well into spring. Add into the mix a sun that has noticeably quietened down to levels last seen in the Little Ice Age, and we could be in for another interesting century, but not in the way climate scientists originally anticipated.

Not that they regard the minor inconvenience of the year without a spring as a PR problem. Quite the opposite, in fact.

There has been a growing trend among climate scientists and the media to claim all major weather events, even blizzards in springtime, as evidence of global warming. Monckton claims the believers are desperate to put flesh on the bones of a claim that first surfaced in the final version of the UN IPCC’s second Assessment Report, AR2, that a human influence on climate had been found. Once you establish a ‘human influence’, anything can be blamed on it.

“In the second assessment report (draft) the scientists came to the conclusion that there was no basis for thinking that we were having any influence on the climate at all, nor was it possible to discern when we might have such an influence. But that was deleted, even though they said it five times, and replaced by a remark from one single scientist to the effect that a human influence on global climate was discernible.

“That’s become the party line, a ‘consensus’ of one man…that’s an odd approach, mathematically-speaking.”

To reinforce the new ‘consensus’ in the AR3 and AR4 reports, Monckton argues, the climate science community swung in behind the so-called “hockey stick” graph that purported to show modern warming was the highest ever in recorded history. The stick only worked if you could get rid of the inconvenient Medieval Warm Period a thousand years ago which, by all accounts, was as hot or hotter than we currently are now.

If the MWP remains in the calculation, then modern warming is not outside the bounds of natural norms, and therefore no discernible human fingerprint on warming can be established.

This is the core of current arguments about climate. No one really denies that the planet has been warming up until recently, the question is whether we were warming naturally out of the Little Ice Age that ended in the 1850s, or whether the warming has been forced by rising CO2 levels caused by humans using cars, heaters, electric lights and supermarkets.

The climate control conglomerate would have you believe the latter, and hence the justification for massive action to rein in human behaviour. But if the sceptics are right and the warming is mostly natural, then we could be spending trillions and sacrificing basic freedoms to prevent something we ultimately can’t stop.

“In the Fourth Assessment Report they used a statistical technique, again flagrantly bogus,” adds Monckton, “of taking the measured temperature record and applying four separate ‘trend lines’ to it, very carefully chosen, so that the most recent trend line was steeper than all the others, and then drawing from that the conclusion that the rate of global warming was accelerating and that we were to blame.

“But that, when I checked with a professor of statistics to confirm my own suspicion, was a bogus technique. Now there’s the Fifth Assessment Report where they’ve used models to project future temperature increases that bear no relation to reality.”

Which brings us back to the Nature Geoscience paper at the beginning of this article. Monckton was interviewed at the start of April saying the AR5 predictions are bogus. Here, again, is what the scientists are now admitting:

 

“The take-home message from this study,” explained study co-author Nic Lewis, “like several other recent ones, is that the ‘very likely’ 5–95% ranges for ECS and TCR in Chapter 12 of the leaked IPCC AR5 second draft scientific report, of 1.5–6/7°C for ECS and 1–3°C for TCR, and the most likely values of near 3°C for ECS and near 1.8°C for TCR, are out of line with instrumental-period observational evidence.”

So much for the claims in the Herald and elsewhere that Monckton was wrong.

“They keep doing these bogus techniques. Sometimes it is because they are ignorant,” says the Viscount, “and sometimes it’s because they know perfectly well what they are doing and they are intent on pushing a particular line.”

The Chicken Little press release from the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute, promoting massive sea level increases of four or five metres within a century (sea levels are currently increasing anywhere between zero and three millimetres a year, or 30cm a century), is another case in point. We’ve shown how its reliance on temperature increases higher than two degrees has been falsified by the Nature Geoscience study, and we’ve shown how the speed of melt has been falsified by the Scripps Institute study. Now comes another one.

The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research has just published a study suggesting melt rates of ice sheets – already dubious as seen – have been overestimated by climate scientists:

“For decades, scientists have used ancient shorelines to predict the stability of today’s largest ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica,” the authors of the study, published in the journal Science, say. “Markings of a high shoreline from three million years ago, for example – when Earth was going through a warm period – were thought to be evidence of a high sea level due to ice sheet collapse at that time. This assumption has led many scientists to think that if the world’s largest ice sheets collapsed in the past, then they may do just the same in our modern, progressively warming world.

“However, a new groundbreaking study now challenges this thinking.

“Using the east coast of the United States as their laboratory, a research team led by David Rowley, CIFAR Senior Fellow and professor at the University of Chicago, has found that the Earth’s hot mantle pushed up segments of ancient shorelines over millions of years, making them appear higher now than they originally were millions of years ago.

“ ‘Our findings suggest that the previous connections scientists made between ancient shoreline height and ice volumes are erroneous and that perhaps our ice sheets were more stable in the past than we originally thought,’ says Rowley. ‘Our study is telling scientists that they can no longer ignore the effect of Earth’s interior dynamics when predicting historic sea levels and ice volumes’.”

In other words, the more the news media and money-seeking climate researchers assure you they know about human-caused climate change, the less it turns out that we do actually know. In this case, every scare story you’ve ever heard about the rapid melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet may in fact be wrong, because research up to now failed to account for plate tectonics pushing land up and down, confusing estimates of historic sea level.

“The team studied the coast from Virginia to Florida, which has an ancient scarp tens of metres above present-day sea level. Until now, many research groups have studied this shoreline and concluded that during a warm period three million years ago, the Greenland, West Antarctic and a fraction of East Antarctic ice sheets collapsed, raising the sea level at least 35 metres. But the new findings by Rowley and his team suggest that these ice sheets, particularly the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (the world’s largest), were probably more stable.”

Although this news, too, did not emerge until after Lord Monckton’s NZ tour had ended, it underlines the message he took to audiences around the country: yes, the planet is warming, but probably not catastrophically, and you need to factor in the motivations of those trying to scare you:

“I think one of the best things that’s going to come out of the global warming story,” Monckton says, “is the realisation that just because scientists wear the robes of a druid high priest, doesn’t mean they should be given the sort of deference that a druid expects.

“We’ve got to realise that scientists are human too, subject to just the same financial motivations as the rest of us. They know perfectly well if they can get a good scare going by taking advantage of the near-total lack of scientific knowledge on the part of the political classes, they can make themselves rich by manufacturing scares, and peddling and marketing these scares to politicians.

“The politicians will, I think in the next few years, begin to wake up to the fact that everything you get from a scientist has to be checked and double-checked, just as any scientist in the good old days would have done.”

 

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