Doomed Planet

Alarmed and Dangerous


Can we all agree that it is getting hotter? Facts matter and there is no point in agreeing on something that is wrong. However, the evidence seems clear to me. We now have 41 years of satellite data. I think we can rely on Roy Spencer and John Christy at the University of Alabama in ensuring that the NASA satellite measuring program under their purview is throwing up honest data.

That data from the end of 1978 until the end of 2019 shows a trend warming of 0.013 degrees per year; in total 0.54 degrees over the forty-one years. At this rate the temperature would rise by 1.33 over a century. This would represent an acceleration in warming when compared with HADCRUT 4 data (land and ocean) which shows a trend of just 0.90 degrees over the whole period from 1850 to the near end of 2019.

But a degree of caution is warranted in saying that the last forty-one years is a guide to the future. I looked at the forty-one years from the end of 1899 to the end of 1940 (when the global temperature had a local peak) and found using HADRUT data that the temperature had risen by 0.40 degrees. This provided no guide at all to the next forty-one years, when the recorded temperature actually fell by 0.17 degrees. At the same time, to be clear, ‘up’ is the dominant theme since 1850.

Why there is warming is a separate question. Some look to the activity of the sun. I don’t know, I haven’t read anything convincing. Are the larger conglomerations of cities having heat-island effects? I assume so. A scientist friend of mine hypothesizes that world-wide large-scale irrigation may be contributing to water vapor in the atmosphere and thus may be part of the explanation. Again, I don’t know – which is what I would like a lot more people, more qualified than I, to be saying rather than stymieing debate by pretending that everything is certain and settled.

Less obduracy might produce more light. Let me practice what I preach. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Scientists of whatever stripe agree on that. I am therefore quite ready to believe that the increasing concentration of atmospheric CO2, from about 275 parts per million in the late 1700s to over 400 parts per million now, has and is causing some warming. I am also ready to believe, though it is a separate question, that the use of fossil fuels might well be responsible for the increased concentration of CO2.

Of course, what this doesn’t mean is that increasing emissions of CO2, particularly from China and India, is bound to go on increasing temperatures to any kind of level which will prove to be at or near catastrophic. There is a view, even among some who blame CO2 for most of the warming (e.g. Bjorn Lomborg and Matt Ridley), that we have ample time to take action and that, in the meantime, warming and increased concentrations of CO2 will be beneficial.

What to do? First, we need to remind ourselves that idiots and charlatans can’t be given a seat at the table. Idiots are those who, for example, blame Australia’s bushfires on climate change or, even more idiotically, who blame Scott Morrison because we haven’t done enough in Australia to reduce our CO2 emissions. These people are truly half-wits.

Charlatans are those who make up facts to suit their purpose. They are not limited to but include all Greens, all socialists and all those making money from climate-change alarmism. Here is James Delingpole (3 January 2020) illustrating the problem by referring to a BBC news show which followed up a fact-based interview of Ridley with former UK chief science adviser Sir David King:

I sat there open-mouthed as he (King)…said that Europe’s dash for diesel had nothing to do with greens, when green pressure groups pushed actively for it. He said that we will see 1-2 metres of sea level rise this century, when the current rate of rise is 3.4 millimetres a year with no acceleration (or 0.3 metres per century). He said that all of Greenland’s ice cap might melt and could cause 5-6 metres of sea level rise, though at current rates of melting, Greenland’s ice cap will be 99% intact in 2100. He said that wild fires were being caused by trees dying out because of rising temperatures, rather than a failure to manage increasingly luxuriant vegetation in fire-risk areas leading to a buildup of tinder. He said scientists are agreed that Calcutta will have to be moved, when the Ganges delta is actually expanding in area, not shrinking.

A problem, as you can appreciate from this interview, is finding enough knowledgeable, honest, objective and sensible people to sit around the table. If that problem were overcome a solution might not be too hard to arrive at. Conceptually, at least, it is not too hard.

There is in fact common ground to be found if political partisanship is put aside. Warmists want to cut emissions as much as is possible and as quickly as possible. Sceptics want affordable and reliable energy. Renewal energy in its present guise will do neither. A combination of cleaner coal power, gas and nuclear will help do both. Beyond that it ought to be possible to agree that much more public money should be spent on encouraging clean energy research and on mitigating the effects of untoward weather events.

The continuation of the climate debate, in its present form, is untenable. It casts a debilitating pall over all social, political, and corporate life.  We surely know that it has reached the lowest ebb possible when callow youths and young children are being used as pawns to spruik alarmism. Being alarmed is not a solution. So far, it has produced dearer and less reliable power while CO2 emissions have continued to rise. Which side is happy about that?

28 thoughts on “Alarmed and Dangerous

  • Biggles says:

    The greenhouse effect of CO2 is effectively saturated at present levels. Refer to lectures by Prof. Wal Happer of Princeton.

  • Tony Tea says:

    Pretty much nailed where I am on CC. I did a rare tweet about it last week and got hammered for it. Won’t make that mistake again.

  • IainC says:

    (275 and 400 ppm btw, not 2.75 and 4 – that would be parts per ten thousand.)
    I can see that I’ve wasted 10 years of my time getting a PhD in science, followed by a further 30 years in scientific disciplines, allowing me to read and understand most of the original publications in climate science. All I needed was to got to acting school, as I note that experts like Russell Crowe and Kate Blanchette, lecturing at the Golden Globes, are adamant that the current fires here are caused by climate change and not local factors. Why bother reading the recent study by NASA which reported that total global area burnt by fire dropped by 25% in the last 20y? Why bother retrieving the paper by Karoly et al. which reported that long term rainfall patterns in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide are unchanged trendwise over the last 170y? Why bother fishing out data from the US National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) that shows that total number and areas of fires peaked at 4-5x current levels in the 1930s? Why burden myself with the knowledge that Indian monsoons showed a drying trend for 60 years (aha!) until 20y ago, when they reverted to a wetter trend (oh….)? And so on and so forth.
    I used to have a saying about chemical engineers (no offence) that they knew just enough chemistry to be dangerous. I think the same is true for CC activists, only the stakes are around a million times larger.

  • PT says:

    IainC – I’m a Chemical Engineer. But also have Honours in Chemistry, and very nearly started a PhD. I completed Engineering as I wanted to work, earn money, and be part of the “real world”. Not quite sure where you’d place me.

    Regarding your other comments. I agree wholeheartedly. But these “celebs” are given credibility by the likes of CSIRO. I remember in the mid-2000’s driving along on a weekend with ABC radio on (it was cricket season). They were reporting on the “alarming, horrifying impacts of climate change on Australia”. You know, droughts, floods, rising sea levels, all the rest of it. They then said that we’d get more dengue fever, and ross river fever due to increased ranges for the mosquitoes – moving southwards. Now when I first heard about Ross River, some 2 decades earlier, I knew one of the “hot spots” was Albany, which is about as far south as you can get in WA. A quick check showed that Ross River is present in Hobart! So clearly a “warmer world” won’t push the “range of ross river virus” further south, since it’s already as far south as it’s possible to get in this country. So why would CSIRO make such a claim? Clearly they just had a brainstorming session about what possible bad effects they could think of, and then released this, without any further checks. I was already sceptical about the more grandiose claims being made, but assumed that they were at least reporting credible scenarios. But the Ross River claim is just pure scaremongering. They didn’t say that the “active season” would be longer, but that the affected region would move southwards. If the likes of CSIRO can push this stuff, why not see “celebrities” as experts?

  • ianl says:


    Yes. As has been noted, most people (perhaps >90%) are scientifically illiterate and mathematically innumerate, with absolutely no intention of changing that. Nonetheless, they hide in the political concept of consensus with no awareness of how that is manipulated by the shameless.

    My view, as informed by reported empirical measurement as I can make it, is that global temperature seems to have increased by less than 1C in about 150 years. I cannot regard this as scary. Severe drought dessicating the forests and sociopaths then igniting them to watch the results – yes, that’s scary, but CO2 related it is not.

    > “2.75 parts per million in the late 1700s to over 4 parts per million [now]” [quote from the article here]. That’s actually 275/400 ppmv. As I said, mathematically innumerate …

  • Salome says:

    Thanks, Biggles. Further, palaeoclimatologists will say that incre ashes in carbon dioxide concentration have previously followed increases in temperature and not the other way around. Ed Berry has other points to make re carbon dioxide.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    As a scientific illiterate, it makes sense to me that if the world population has grown over time, so also have their total CO2 emissions, from respiration alone.

    From a population of about 1 billion people in 1804 to nearly 8 billion in 2020 that alone suggests a reason for the continuing rise in atmospheric CO2.

  • Peter Smith says:

    Several comments have corrected my slips. I knew it was 275 and 400 parts per million yet wrote 2.75 and 4. Go figure. I am not too sure that I am ready to admit that this makes me “mathematically innumerate,” as ianl puts it. Nor, by the way, do I admit to illiteracy because I wrote Borg (thanks lloveday) instead of Lomborg. However it does worry me. I will ask the editor to make the corrections.

  • lloveday says:

    A recent visit to Bandung, a West Java city where I lived for 2 years 30 odd years ago was instructive to me. It has tropical weather, back then relatively cool due to its high elevation, and there is small day-to-day and month-to-month temperature variation – Wikipedia gives average daily maximums for 1974-1994, neatly encompassing the period I lived there, varying in the narrow range 26.7 (Feb) to 28.9 (Sep & Oct), which is about right; I used to say, “Max every day 28, min every night 18, never need a/c or heater, never need a jumper, never need a blanket, ideal”.
    It is now noticeably hotter; I noticed it, locals who have lived there all their lives complained of it, and watching the weather reports since confirms it – it’s now commonly 30-31 maximum; 28 a “cold day”.
    So why? I can’t know with certainty, but the extra 2 million or so people living in the greater metropolitan area, many housed where there used to be forests, the concrete toll-roads, the extra million or so vehicles, pumping out heat from their engines and exhaust gases, the acres of paved parking areas around the new shopping malls, cannot rationally be overlooked as the cause; whether the extra CO2 they may generate has any general effect I can’t know, but I can’t see how it has a specific effect on Bandung.
    Local temperatures, if not weather, must be influenced by local human activities, as in the Bandung example.

  • Biggles says:

    Doubting Thomas – I have heard that if the volume of all the humans on the planet was measured, its sum would amount to the size of a cube one kilometre on side. If this is correct, or even if it is out by an order of magnitude or more, it shows that CO2 in human breath is very small potatoes in the scheme of things.
    I should have added above that, although the Earth emits a lot of infra-red to space over a wide range of wavelengths, there is only a sliver of it that excites CO2. That is why I say that CO2 is saturated at present levels. No matter how much more CO2 is added, there just isn’t the energy available to excite it, make it raise the temperature.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Biggles, I was merely commenting on a possible cause of the increased percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere. I have never believed that human emissions have any great effect on world temperatures. But, as I said, I’m a scientific illiterate.
    I have lived and worked for years in the tropics, eg Papua New Guinea and Malaysia, and in my nearly 80 years I’ve noticed no significant change in climate.

  • padraic says:

    PT, I can relate to your story re the CSIRO’s “brainstorming session”. In 1992 one of my friends told me of a similar session in his department in which he had been involved prior to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio in order to provide the Australian representatives with something to say about the effect on human health caused by a warmer world. He said nobody had a clue, as there was nothing in the literature at the time, so they tossed around a few hypotheticals, such as Dengue Fever, Malaria, crocodiles and cane toads all moving further south (It hasn’t happened). It’s a problem when scientists are asked to provide proof for a pre-determined political narrative, so I sympathise with those excellent scientists in the CSIRO who are put in this position.

  • Salome says:

    The human/industrial CO2 output is about three per cent of total. The AGW brigade calculates this as responsible for just about all of the increase in atmospheric CO2 since 1850 or thereabouts, but aggregating it. But CO2 is part of a cyclical system and there isn’t anything special about the human contribution. This suggests that the human/industrial contribution to the total is more like 3 per cent, which in the scheme of things is negligible.

  • Charles says:

    Salome, you are correct the human contribution is only 3% although likely only half of that since volcanoes and geothermal activity release CO2 with the same isotope number as CO2 produced from burning wood, coal or other fossil fuels. As you have pointed out the theory goes that anthropogenically produced CO2 aggregates in the atmosphere and is not as easily absorbed as CO2 produced as gas exchange of the oceans with the atmosphere for example. Howewver, that is nonsensical as if that were true the geothermal produced CO2 would have saturated the atmosphere millions (probably billions) of years ago.

    As IanL has pointed out we are plagued by some of the dumbest people in human history who cannot think for themselves and are effectively innumerate.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Here’s a question for the scientifically literate. The following quote is from a comment in a Facebook group quoting an Italian newspaper account of the hypocrisy of the woke elite travelling by private jet to a conference on climate change.
    “”A G280 has a long-range cruise speed of 614 miles per hour, meaning it can travel the 6,482 miles in approximately 10.5 hours. The aircraft burns approximately 237 gallons of jet fuel per hour, and 9.57 kilograms of carbon dioxide are emitted per gallon of jet fuel. That means 10.5 hours of flight time would produce 23.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide.”
    We’re talking US gallons of AVTUR which, iirc, weighs about 3kgs per gallon.
    Can somebody please explain how 3 kgs of jet fuel can produce 9.5 Kgs of CO2.

  • Andrew Williams says:

    Doubting Thomas – someone with more organic chemistry than I will correct this – but to my understanding, jet fuel is (in broad terms) a mix of various hydrocarbons – so, almost entirely made ip of carbon and hydrogen. Carbon will make up most of the weight of the fuel (typically 2-3 times more Hydrogen atoms than carbon atoms in a hydrocarbon string, but a carbon atom is about 12 times heavier than a hydrogen atom). So, lets assume that by mass, the jet fuel is 90% carbon atoms. When burnt, the carbon is combined with oxygen from the atmosphere (two oxygen atoms per carbon atom). Oxygen is heavier than carbon (approx 16:12 ratio). So conversion to CO2 multiplies mass by approx 3.5x compared to mass of the carbon in jet fuel. So, assuming there was approx 2.7kg of carbon in the 3kg of jet fuel, this coverts to (about) 9.5kg of CO2.

  • Guido Negraszus says:

    We (rational people who inform themselves) are slowly but surely losing. The CC hysterics are simply not interested in facts. The Piers Morgan / Craig Kelly interview from this morning just made it crystal clear: just bash the “Climate change denier” and 100% ignore the facts (fuel loads, arson, drought, Australia’s bush fire history etc.). Add to that our weak PM who keeps fueling this nonsense that these bush fires are linked to CC. I don’t think he actually believes it but he just gives in to this mob again and again.

  • IainC says:

    Doubting Thomas, I fear it is much worse than you surmise. I’m currently reading a 2009 book by David J C McKay (Sustainable Energy – without the hot air), who does a lot of these types of calculations for various energy uses. For a long haul flight (14,000km), a jumbo will use around 240 THOUSAND litres of jet fuel, or 63,400 US gallons (4500 gallons/hour, or 75 gallons per minute), or for a 400 passenger flight, 158 gallons one way per person, or around 320 gallons round trip. He calculates an energy equivalent of 33kWh/day for the whole year, which is about double the average daily electricity use in the UK, or similar to driving a car all year.
    Short circuiting the intermediate calculations, University of Exeter in the UK (at least it is for now) has published the kg CO2 emitted per 1 km of travel: 0.11kg CO2 per km for long haul flights.
    So for a 28,000km round trip for a celebrity travelling from (say) Sweden to lecture us on our emissions, she (say) would emit 3 tonnes of CO2.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Thanks, Andrew and IainC.

  • lhackett01 says:

    I too am a scientist, a physicist. While I am retired, I have studied the writings of the IPCC and others for at least the last ten years. I am astounded that these people believe they can lay blame and predict the future by looking only at the last 200 years or so.

    My paper, “Global Warming Misunderstood” at presents evidence to question the alarmist view. Until and unless these alarmists can refute or otherwise discount this evidence then the alarmist view is a hypothesis only without proof.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Thanks Peter
    Do worry about a“global temperature trend” that claims an accuracy of two and three decimal places, whatever the data source.
    As for a single figure representing the annual temperature of the whole globe, am I the only one surprised that this dubious statistic is treated with such reverence? We live on a planet where the daily variation is somewhere between -40C and +40C and folk get apoplectic by the prospect of an additional 2C, assuming their in silico prognostications are accurate.
    There are other issues, as atmospheric physicist John Reid explained in his December 2016 paper:
    “In recent decades, energy policy, both nationally and internationally, has been primarily concerned with the reduction in carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. This has arisen from a proliferation of theories of climate, encapsulated in complex numerical models, which purport to relate global surface air temperature to the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All this activity is based on a single empirical observation, viz. that there has been a significant increase in global average temperature over the last century and a half. Here we show that this observation is false and is based on an overly-simplistic interpretation of the data.”
    “The HadCRUT4 time series of 166 annual values of global average temperature was analysed both deterministically and stochastically and the results compared….The small increase in global average temperature observed over the last 166 years is the random variation of a centrally biased random walk. It is a red noise fluctuation. It is not significant, it is not a trend and it is not likely to continue.”

  • Peter Smith says:

    Thanks for the reference Alice. The conclusion in the article is interesting, though the detailed content might mean more to scientists than it does to me. My take on the modelling is more prosaic. I feel fairly sure that the various IPCC models developed, I assume, using data since circa 1975 would simply not work if applied to data from, say, 1900 to 1975. They would be a very bad fit for the period 1940 to 1975 when global temperatures – so far as they can be measured – declined. If this is so, the models need to be ditched. Or at least honest scientists would ditch them.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Even the CC modellers now admit their climate models are “not fit for purpose”. They now want bigger supercomputers and more money, please. We have been duped for years, if not decades.

    “……for many key applications that require regional climate model output or for assessing large-scale changes from small-scale processes, we believe that the current generation of models is not fit for purpose .”

    “By downplaying the potential significance that model inadequacies have on our ability to provide reliable estimates of climate change, including of course in terms of extremes of weather and climate, we leave policy makers(and indeed, the public in general) ignorant of the extraordinary challenge it is to provide a sharper and more physically well-grounded picture of climate change, essentially depriving them of the choice to do something about it.”

    “What is needed is the urgency of the space race aimed, not at the Moon or Mars, but rather toward harnessing the promise of exascale supercomputing to RELIABLY SIMULATE Earth’s regional climate (and associated extremes) globally.”

    Which means, presumably, that despite decades of modelling and billions spent already, there remain significant “modelling inadequacies”.

    Source: The scientific challenge of understanding and estimating climate change. Tim Palmera and Bjorn Stevensb. October 21, 2019

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    I once calculated that the entire population of the planet would fit in Sydney Harbour, a la sardines, which leaves an awful lot of the world unaffected. I think we give ourselves far too much credit for our influence on the planet. If we were to go extinct tomorrow, which is what the enviros want, Sydney would revert to bush within a few decades. Look at what happened in Phnom Penh after Pol Pot evacuated the city. Within a year the roads were overgrown.

  • John Cook says:

    Thanks Lindsay Hackett. I read your paper, and found it very informative.
    A pity more Australians will not read and digest it.

  • Greg Williams says:

    This is a maths lesson I give to any of my students who are prepared to listen.

  • lhackett01 says:

    Hello John Cook. Thank you.

    There should be great concern in our society that the media generally, businesses like BHP, and banks like the ANZ will not accept anything other than the alarmist view. Interestingly, the website of “The Conversation” likewise will not publishing anything that smacks of scepticism about the alarmist view. It has a post at that says so specifically. So much for a conversation and a free exchange of ideas.

  • Peter Smith says:

    Greg Williams. I missed this piece of yours at the time. A lovely read.

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