By William Kininmonth, former head of the National Climate Centre and a consultant to the World Meteorological Organisation, author of Climate Change: A Natural Hazard (Multi-Science Publishing Co, 2004)
FOR more than a decade public opinion on human-caused global warming has been moulded by pronouncements from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its army of acolytes.
Arguably the zenith of acceptance was the IPCC’s fourth assessment in early 2007 followed soon after by the release of the Al Gore movie An Inconvenient Truth. The accompanying recognition by way of an Academy Award for the movie and awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to Gore and the IPCC only heightened awareness of the message.
During more recent months it is not overstating the case to say that there has been a perceptible shift in public opinion. Rejection of some of the claims made in the movie by a British court in itself has had little effect.
It is the soothing promises that decarbonising the economies of the developed world can be achieved without pain, and even with gain of green jobs, that are being seen more widely as hollow.
There is rising recognition that introduction of a carbon tax under the guise of “cap and trade” will be personally costly, economically disruptive to society and tend to shift classes of jobs offshore. Moreover, despite rising carbon dioxide concentrations, global warming seems to have taken a holiday.
The science of global warming is claimed to be too complex for the public to comprehend and judge. We are continually being told to take and act on the advice of the consensus of IPCC experts; the dissenters are no more than paid mouthpieces of industry or worse.
Nevertheless, the public and their representatives are showing innate common sense.
The Australian Senate is poised to reject the “cap and trade” legislation designed by the Rudd Government to implement the Orwellian carbon pollution reduction scheme; it is unlikely the US Senate will ratify similar legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions any time soon, despite the rhetoric of Barack Obama; and the UN’s post-Kyoto dreams of global industrial regulation are destined to fail in Copenhagen later this year.
Economist John Quiggin appears so concerned at the direction of events that he claims “mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs” (The Australian Financial Review, April 23).
With public perceptions changing so dramatically and quickly it is little wonder Ian Plimer’s latest book, Heaven and Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science, has been received with such enthusiasm and isinto its third print run in as manyweeks.
The public is receptive to an expose of the many mythologies and false claims associated with anthropogenic global warming and are welcoming an authoritative description of planet Earth and its ever-changing climate in readable language.
In an interesting slant on logic, Robert Manne, writing in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, takes the position it is not what citizens should believe that is important but who they believe.
Needless to say, he favours the UN’s IPCC and its so-called consensus over those such as Plimer who question the anthropogenic global warming science.
What is often forgotten is that the UN established the IPCC in 1988 only because of the then raging scientific debate over the veracity of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. The debate has continued because the dire predictions violate fundamental scientific laws and the real science cannot be suppressed.
Recognition of the essential flaw in the dangerous global warming hypothesis predates the IPCC and has been there for the world to see in the title of a paper published in 1966 by CSIRO division of meteorological physics former chief Bill Priestley: “The limitation of temperature in hot climates by evaporation.”
Seventy per cent of the Earth’s surface is made up of ocean and much of the remaining surface is transpiring vegetation.
Evaporation and the exchange of latent energy from the surface is a strong constraint to surface temperature rise.
It is not rocket science that water from a canvas bag is cool even on the hottest days.
Furthermore, the surface temperatures of the warmest tropical oceans seldom exceed 30C and for millions of years the underlying cold sub-surface waters have provided a powerful thermal buffer to warming.
The suggestion of anthropogenic global warming exceeding a tipping point and leading to runaway orirreversible global warming is a violation of conservation of energy principles.
Computer models are the essential tool for prediction of future climate. Since the IPCC fourth assessment, several independent analyses of the characteristics of the various models have been published in the scientific literature. These analyses reveal serious defects.
As the Earth warmed during the 1980s and ’90s, it was observed that the convective overturning of the tropics (the Hadley circulation) increased. In contrast, the overturning of the computer models is portrayed to decrease as increasing carbon dioxide generates global warming.
Separately it is found that the computer models underspecify (by a factor of three) the important rate of increase of evaporation with projected temperature rise, meaning that the models underspecify rainfall increase and exaggerate the risk ofdrought.
The same evaporation problem causes an exaggeration of the temperature response to carbon dioxide, but the exaggeration is a model failure and not reality.
The greenhouse effect is real, as is the enhancement due to increasing carbon dioxide concentration.
However, the likely extent of global temperature rise from a doubling of carbon dioxide is less than 1C.
Such warming is well within the envelope of variation experienced during the past 10,000 years and insignificant in the context of glacial cycles during the past million years, when Earth has been predominantly very cold and covered by extensive ice sheets.
Fundamental science has always identified that it is quixotic to attempt regulation of climate through management of carbon dioxide emissions. The pity is that community leaders have been beguiled by the mystery of powerful computers and have failed to critically assess the predictions within the context of Earth’s history.
Plimer’s authoritative book provides the excuse and impetus to re-examine the scientific fundamentals and redress that failure.
William Kininmonth is author of Climate Change: A Natural Hazard (Multi-Science Publishing Co, 2004)