Occasional eruptions of mass delusion are a recurrent feature of human social behaviour. It is also characterised by a notable propensity to overstate certainty and reject any possibility of error regardless of conflicting evidence. This pattern prevails across all major areas of endeavour save one. By formally recognising uncertainty and actively seeking to uncover error, science has ironically become the most certain and least error prone of all our understanding.
Development of the internet has facilitated the propagation of delusions to a global scale with the threat of climate change being among the first of such events; and, unlikely to be the last. As a mass delusion climate change has a lot going for it. It claims to be scientifically certain, but only by ignoring or dismissing all opposing science. Regardless of actual academic credentials, it affords an open invitation for any third-rate academic of no distinction to publish something supporting the “threat” and thus be accorded immediate recognition as an expert (with ready access to generous funding for research).
Then, beyond this frontline of academic hustlers, the legions of righteousness have gathered in the form of politicians and self-appointed activists to whom CC provides a prominent platform for no-risk, low-cost virtue signalling. Following these are the ranks of empire building bureaucrats and a vast array of camp followers drawn by the scent of power and profits. It’s a heady mix and hard to resist.
As all this began to develop, the media found it a rich font of dramatic stories and joined in with hype and the lending of an indiscriminate aura of importance and credibility for even the most trivial and uncertain of speculation supporting the threat. As the consummate global bureaucracy, the UN also saw the potential for power, funding and a useful façade for sundry other agendas.
From its founding, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created to promote the idea of climate change as an existential threat that urgently requires generous funding and unprecedented authority for which they will be the peak administrator. For IPCC purposes, science was employed to provide an unquestionable basis for their authority. To assure that it supported their aims their various Summaries for Policymakers were decided line-for-line by their own administrative procedures and preliminary unpublished scientific summaries, inevitably edited to support the policies.
Lavish annual meetings at attractive venues all over the world have been used to establish policy, gloriously free of any of the tiresome and restrictive constraints of scientific, economic or technical reality. As for the so-called scientific evidence for climate change, there are two major deficiencies. The historical climate record presented has been carefully selected and extensively altered by “adjustments” that are generally undisclosed and unexplained. While there can be valid reasons for adjustment of data, there is no valid reason for ignoring the normal scientific practice of clearly disclosing any such changes and providing explicit details of what, why and how they were made.
The other major problem is with the extensive reliance on the outputs from computer modelling of climate. There are about 100 such models. As they can be, and are, subject to extensive undisclosed adjustments, their output in the end amounts to nothing more than the opinion of the modeller. No two of these models fully agree and all but one project warming at a rate much higher than has actually occurred over the past two decades. The sole exception is a Russian model which is much closer to the recorded record. Predictably, it has been essentially ignored by the climate change establishment.
The core anomaly in all this is that most of the predicted warming derives from an assumed positive feedback caused by increased water vapor due to increased evaporation initiated by the warming effect of increased CO2. The glaring contradiction in this assumption is that any increase in evaporation must also transport large quantities of heat from the surface as latent heat of evaporation and release it at altitude as latent heat of condensation where much of it can radiate away into space.
Then, too, over any time scale beyond as few weeks, global evaporation must be equalled by precipitation — and this also means increased cloud cover with cooler surface temperatures from both the cloud shading as well as the cooling effect of rain on the surface. In terms of net effect, an enhanced water vapor cycle is far more likely to be a negative feedback than a positive one, at least in the tropics where most of the GH effect takes place. Even a 1-2% increase in cloud cover can more than offset the purported increase in warming from CO2.
At this point, any actual effects on climate remain undetectable within the natural fluctuations of weather. Global assessments of extreme weather events indicate that storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves and blizzards all remain well within the available historical record and the rate of sea level rise shows no increase over the past two centuries. The frequent reports of “record” events are simply an artefact of the very limited historical record for most locations, thus a relatively common extreme in a general region becomes a record whenever it chances to be recorded for the first time at one of the myriad locations where the record is limited.
The only relatively certain effect of increased CO2 emission thus far has been a significant global greening of arid regions and a general increase in primary productivity of about 15-20 %. If we could put CO2 back to pre -industrial levels, we would either have major food shortages or need to convert about an additional billion Ha of natural land to agriculture.
OVER THE past five years in Australia we have seen five prime ministers commit ritual political suicide at the altar of climate change. We have also gone from having some of the least expensive and most reliable electrical power in the world to among the highest priced with increasing blackouts. In addition, and over a bit longer time, we have gone from having among the most abundant, low cost, high quality food to among the most expensive, with climate change initiatives playing a major role in this as well.
To top it all off, for the past decade, only 45% of global anthropogenic emissions are estimated to stay in the atmosphere. Estimated uptake from the land accounted for 30% of emissions and 25% was by the oceans. Global GHG emissions for 2016 were 36 Gt and Australian emissions were 0.41 Gt. The 55% natural uptake of 36 Gt global emissions comes to 19.7 Gt. If all nations are credited for a share of oceanic uptake proportional to their land area, Australia’s share of natural uptake = 1.0 Gt. Considering uptake by land area alone, Australia’s share of natural uptake is still 0.54 Gt.
No matter how you figure it, Australia is a net CO2 sink. This is further affirmed in global CO2 monitoring by the Japanese Ibuki satellite. The high per capita emissions for Australia is a red herring. Australia is, in fact, the only advanced economy that is a CO2 sink. We are absorbing emissions from other nations and should be receiving emissions credits. It may also be worth noting that a study published in Science several years ago found CO2 uptake by soil in desert areas was comparable to moderately vegetated areas.
The frequently expressed concern over emissions of methane from livestock is equally ill-founded. Although methane is a highly effective GH gas, its absorption spectrum is overlapped by the far more abundant water vapour and the IR that methane might absorb is already absorbed by the water vapour. In addition, most of the land in Australia used for grazing is dotted with ant mounds, each of which is also a methane generator. Less grazing would only mean more food for, and methane from, the ants. Unless one prefers eating ants to beef and lamb there would be little to gain from restricting grazing. In any event methane has a relatively short life in the atmosphere so the effect of anthropogenic emissions could be quickly reduced if at any time a need was found to do so.
The reality is that our entire civilisation as it now exists depends critically upon fossil fuels and the notion that that this can all be changed by just flipping a switch to green energy and have it powered by sunbeams and summer breezes is pure fantasy. It has been tried in Europe and has failed. The infrastructure cost, highly erratic output and lack of any broadly applicable means of energy storage present major obstacles to effective adoption. A successful transition to alternative energy is probably going to depend on the development and widespread adoption of new technologies and will require the maintenance of a healthy economy to achieve it. Trying to force the mass adoption of immature or unsuitable technology is simply ignorance and a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, there is an emerging technology nearing initial deployment that shows strong promise of meeting future energy needs and it is in the form of small modular nuclear reactors powered by thorium. The advantages are multi-fold. For a start, thorium cannot be used for nuclear weapons. Thorium reactors also produce much less, and more easily handled, radioactive waste. They yield orders of magnitude greater useful energy from their fuel and there is much more of it than there is of uranium. Small, modular, mass produced Thorium reactors seem likely to drastically alter the whole energy picture and render the entire climate change industry irrelevant. This, of course, also means they will be viciously opposed.
We now have a whole generation of academics whose entire careers and experience of the natural world has been in the context of research on and advocacy of the threat of catastrophic climate change. This is compounded by a prevailing postmodern academic view that rejects any notion of objective truth based on reason and evidence. In its place is the idea of a political correctness which posits a form of intuitive knowledge known to all right-thinking persons and which is unethical to dispute, question or even to critically examine. With regard to the environment this has come to incorporate a view of the natural world as pure, delicate and perfectly balanced with any imperfection being evidence of some impact stemming from human greed or abuse. A further corollary is that misleading and outright lying to protect and promote such “higher truth” is not only excusable, it is entirely ethical.
It is unlikely this situation will self-correct through the ongoing failure of dire predictions or any reawakening of the scientific search for truth, at least so long as the funding continues to flow. However, two simple steps could make a sure and effective reform. One would be to cut off the lavish funding for this farce. The other would be to permanently disbar from public funding any researcher found guilty of scientific malpractice as determined by an appropriately resourced science court. Public research funding is a privilege, not a right and should be treated as such.
Fortuitously at this time, Germany’s Federal Audit Office has just concluded an audit of their massive Energiewende program and has found it to be a colossal and hugely expensive debacle. If nothing else, it should be seen as clear evidence of what can be accomplished with a massive commitment to renewable energy by one of the world’s most technologically advanced economies; and, what we can look forward to in Australia if we really try.
As for the Paris accord, it is a farce we don’t need, can’t afford and achieves nothing useful. Obsessing over our emissions and saddling ourselves with what is now among the highest electricity and food prices in the world is beyond stupid. The physical, technical and economic obstacles to a significant decrease in CO2 emissions through increases in solar and wind power is simply a mass fantasy of a large sector of the populace with little awareness of the technological reality on which their existence depends.
A marine biologist, Walter Starck has spent much of his career studying coral reef and marine fishery ecosystems