Ian Plimer: Global warming a damp squib
January 05, 2006
HEAT, bushfires. Just another Australian summer, some hotter, some wetter, some cooler, some drier. As per usual, the northern hemisphere freezes and the blame game is in overdrive. At the 2005 UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal, Greenpeace's Steven Guilbeault stated: "Global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter, that's what we're dealing with."
It is that simple! If it's hot, it's global warming; if it's cold, it's global warming. Demonstrators in frigid temperatures in Montreal chanted: "It's hot in here! There's too much carbon in the atmosphere!" The same apocalyptic Guilbeault says: "Time is running out to deal with climate change. Ten years ago, we thought we had a lot of time, five years ago we thought we had a lot of time, but now science is telling us that we don't have a lot of time." Really.
In 1992, Greenpeace's Henry Kendall gave us the Chicken Little quote, "Time is running out"; in 1994, The Irish Times tried to frighten the leprechauns with "Time running out for action on global warming, Greenpeace claims"; and in 1997 Chris Rose of Greenpeace maintained the religious mantra with "Time is running out for the climate". We've heard such failed catastrophist predictions before. The Club of Rome on resources, Paul Erlich on population, Y2K, and now Greenpeace on global warming.
During the past 30 years, the US economy grew by 50 per cent, car numbers grew by 143 per cent, energy consumption grew by 45 per cent and air pollutants declined by 29 per cent, toxic emissions by 48.5 per cent, sulphur dioxide levels by 65.3 per cent and airborne lead by 97.3 per cent. Most European signatories to the Kyoto Protocol had greenhouse gas emissions increase since 2001, whereas in the US emissions fell by nearly 1per cent. Furthermore, carbon credits rewarded Russia, (east) Germany and Britain, which had technically and economically backward energy production in 1990.
By the end of this century, the demographically doomed French, Italians and Spaniards may have too few environmentalists to fund Greenpeace's business. So what really does Greenpeace want? A habitable environment with no humans left to inhabit it? Destruction of the major economies for .07C change?
Does it matter if sea level rises a few metres or global temperatures rise a few degrees? No. Sea level changes by up to 400m, atmospheric temperatures by about 20C, carbon dioxide can vary from 20 per cent to 0.03 per cent, and our dynamic planet just keeps evolving. Greenpeace, contrary to scientific data, implies a static planet. Even if the sea level rises by metres, it is probably cheaper to address this change than reconstruct the world's economies.
For about 80 per cent of the time since its formation, Earth has been a warm, wet, greenhouse planet with no icecaps. When Earth had icecaps, the climate was far more variable, disease depopulated human settlements and extinction rates of other complex organisms were higher. Thriving of life and economic strength occurs during warm times. Could Greenpeace please explain why there was a pre-Industrial Revolution global warming from AD900 to 1300? Why was the sea level higher 6000 years ago than it is at present? Which part of the 120m sea-level rise over the past 15,000 years is human-induced? To attribute a multicomponent, variable natural process such as climate change to human-induced carbon emissions is pseudo-science.
There is no debate about climate change, only dogma and misinformation. For example, is there a link between hurricanes Katrina and Rita and global warming? Two hurricanes hit the US Gulf Coast six weeks apart in 1915, mimicking Katrina and Rita. If global warming caused recent storms, there should have been more hurricanes in the Pacific and Indian oceans since 1995. Instead, there has been a slight decrease at a time when China and India have increased greenhouse gas emissions. The impact of hurricanes might seem more severe because of the blanket instantaneous news coverage and because more people now live in hurricane-prone areas, hence there is more property damage and loss of life.
Only a strong economy can produce the well fed who have the luxury of espousing with religious fervour their uncosted, impractical, impoverishing policies. By such policies, Greenpeace continues to exacerbate grinding poverty in the Third World. The planet's best friend is human resourcefulness with a supportive, strong economy and reduced release of toxins. The greenhouse gases - nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane - have been recycled for billions of years without the intervention of human politics.
Ian Plimer is a professor of geology at the University of Adelaide and former head of the school of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne.
HT to Eric Vestrup for drawing my attention to this article.