From Watts Up With That?
Recently, I was asked to make a podcast on the subject of “global warming,” otherwise known as “climate change.” Regrettably, the material I had was too much and too detailed, so the podcast did not go ahead. As I had already spent considerable time assembling an armoury of facts on the issue, I decided to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I have chosen to expand the level of detail considerably, and so to build the material into a matched pair of major essays.
This, the first essay in the set, will concentrate on the accusations that are being made against humanity and our civilization over this issue, and the evidence that we are not guilty on those charges. In the second part, I’ll tell the back-story to these accusations, and how the UN, governments, mainstream media and others have joined together in a project, whose objective appears to be no less than the destruction of our human industrial civilization.
Much of the material in these essays, I have published before; but never all together.
Why am I writing this? And why now, in the early spring of 2023? In the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” today, our rights and freedoms, our economy, and everything we stand for as human beings, all hang in the balance. Over 40 years and more, successive UK governments have persistently lied to and misled us. And, in cahoots with the European Union, the United Nations and other internationalist organizations such as the World Economic Forum, they have imposed on us a torrent of bad laws and ever-increasing taxes. Hurtful green policies have progressively chipped away at our rights, our freedoms, our standard of living and our quality of life. And the nastiness of their policies, the speed with which they are seeking to implement them, and the dishonesty with which they are behaving towards us, are rising in a mighty crescendo. One obvious symptom of this right now is their escalating war against our right to drive cars. Here is a recent, topical example: [] and [].
All the main political parties are in on this. In a supposed “democracy,” it should be the people (that is, persons eligible to vote) who dictate the direction in which a country moves, not a bunch of lying, thieving, scheming politicians. Still less should policies be driven by unaccountable internationalist and globalist élites. Yet, that is what is being done to us.
There is no way to create change through the ballot box. None of the four major parties (Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens) offers anything but the same old same old tyranny. “Democracy” is a total sham, when there is no-one worth voting for. Indeed, I myself haven’t voted in a UK general or local election since 1987! And in a first-past-the-post system, new parties take decades at least to get any traction. So, there is no prospect of any relief within the existing system.
Therefore, change for the better must come from the grass roots. There must be, to use a phrase, some “climate change.” We must change the climate of thought in people’s minds, and help them to join us in the struggle to re-gain our rights, our freedoms, our prosperity and our dignity as human beings.
My part in creating a “climate change”
Many among my friends are warriors for human rights and civil liberties. Indeed, in my own way, I am one myself. But protests and mass action are not my style. I see myself as more of an educator. I try to document the facts in a way which makes very complex issues, like “global warming” (or is it “climate change?”), understandable to ordinary people. This means that an essay such as this one will be, unavoidably, long. It will also include some numbers! My excuse is that, in a context like this, numbers can often tell more than words. But I’ll do all I can to keep the numbers simple.
This pair of essays will also be very wide ranging. I have been studying this subject for 16 years now, and writing about it for six. I have found a need to make myself into a combination of amateur scientist, historian, philosopher and journalist; not to mention psychologist! Add to that my long-ago degree in mathematics and my career as a software consultant, and I think I have earned the moniker, with which I sometimes label myself: generalist.
My job here, as I see it, is to give my readers the facts – lots of them – and some of my interpretations of those facts. I see this process as rather like one of those dot puzzles we all did as children. I’ll give you the facts – the dots. Your part of the job is to join them up; and then, you will have something far more valuable than mere facts. You will have understanding. From which, you can form your own views, both on this matter and on others. And you can take things from there.
I expect I may get flak for writing and publishing this. “Fact checkers” (most of whom are really “political correctness checkers”) will accuse me of “misleading,” “conspiracy theory,” “fake news” or “disinformation.” Faceless bureaucrats may try to get these essays removed from the Internet on spurious grounds of “safety.” To which I respond, what I write here is simply the truth, to the best of my knowledge and belief; with some deductions I have made from it. As the saying goes, if you’re getting flak, you’re close to the target!
The claimed case against us
To begin, I’ll ask: What are the specific accusations being made against us human beings under the moniker of “climate change” or “global warming?”
I’ll note, first, that simply to accuse humanity of causing “global warming” or “climate change” is very imprecise. To spell out just what it is that we are being accused of, it is necessary to split the accusations into several parts, and to state each one clearly. Also, to refer to the matter in just two words, “climate change,” is a big over-simplification. For the Earth’s climate changes. It always has, even before humans existed; and it always will! Human beings cannot possibly be responsible for all “climate change.”
And yet, the United Nations, which has been the main driver of the green agenda for the last half century, has had since 1992 its very own definition of “climate change.” Article 1, paragraph 2 of the Framework Convention on Climate Change [, page 3] says: “‘Climate change’ means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” So, now we know. “Climate change,” because of the way the UN defines it, has to be our fault! So much for the presumption of innocence.
The six claims
I divide the accusations into six specific claims.
Claim One: It’s warming. It has been warming since at least 1880 or so. And the warming is global, not just local or regional.
Claim Two: The warming is unprecedented.
Claim Three: All, or a significant part of, the (global) warming is the result of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by human civilization. The effect, by which these gases cause warming on a planetary scale, is known as the greenhouse effect. The major GHGs are: methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapour. (There are some others, most of which are fluorinated gases).
Our accusers see CO2 as by far the main culprit in the warming, and the burning of fossil fuels as by far the biggest contributor to it. Although water vapour is the strongest GHG of them all, being responsible for about half of the entire greenhouse effect.
Claim Four: This warming will have significant negative effects on the planet and on human well-being and prosperity.
Claim Five: The benefits from avoiding the negative consequences of this warming outweigh the costs of taking action to avoid them. Thus, pre-emptive action to stop the warming is preferable to letting the warming happen and then fixing any problems as they arise. The former approach is known as “mitigation,” the latter as “adaptation.”
The mitigation approach depends heavily on Claim Three, that all or much of the warming is caused by carbon dioxide emissions, being true. For if not, no amount of reduction in CO2 emissions could prevent any amount of warming! To force people to make such reductions would turn out to have been far worse than a mere waste, if it turned out that CO2 wasn’t the main culprit after all.
Claim Six: It’s a crisis! There is a climate crisis, and we need to act NOW!
It’s important to note that ALL of these six steps must be proven beyond reasonable doubt in order to “justify” any of the extreme political actions that have been and are being proposed. Such as making it unaffordable, within only a very short time from now, for anyone but the rich to drive cars. In the UK, and probably in most of the rest of the world as well.
Evidence for a climate crisis?
What evidence is being presented that there is a “climate crisis?”
As I’ll show later, there’s no hard evidence of any crisis, at least none that I can see. But here is a list of some of the things the alarmists are wailing about. In almost every case, they are claiming that these things are happening now.
- Weather disasters are becoming worse and more frequent!
- We’re facing more and worse storms and hurricanes!
- We’re facing more and worse floods!
- We’re facing more and worse droughts!
- We’re facing more and worse wildfires!
- We’re facing more and stronger heatwaves!
- More and more people are dying from heatstroke!
- There are millions of climate refugees!
- Arctic sea ice is disappearing fast!
- Because of this, thousands of polar bears are dying!
- Sea levels are rising fast!
- And the rate of rise is accelerating!
- Because of this, islands like Tuvalu and the Maldives are being submerged!
- Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice fast! This will lead to melting of ice sheets, and catastrophic sea level rise!
- Hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of coral reefs are dying!
- We soon won’t be able to grow enough food to feed the population!
All these things, so they claim, are our fault for emitting so much CO2!
Before going further, it is necessary to understand one particular aspect of the politics. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was set up in 1988. In its own words, it “prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place.” []. The IPCC is a United Nations organization. Unsurprisingly, then, it takes the alarmist side.
Responses to the accusations
It’s time to take a look at the facts on the six accusations.
Is it warming?
It’s commonly agreed that the climate has been warming for centuries. The so-called Little Ice Age was a period of relative cold, which lasted from roughly the 14th century AD to the middle of the 19th. Across the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures went down by more than half a degree Celsius over this period. The Central England temperature record (in Hubert Lamb’s reconstruction, see the IPCC’s first assessment report [, page 202]) troughed out in the mid-17th century at a full degree below where it had likely been in the 14th century.
The Little Ice Age itself followed the Mediaeval Warm Period. This was the time, roughly between 950 and 1250 AD, in which commerce took off in southern Europe; and at the same time, the Vikings had farms in Greenland. Earlier, there had been a Roman Warm Period, from about 250 BC to 400 AD. The Romans were able to grow grapes in Scotland! It’s hard to “measure” temperatures with any accuracy that far back, but some scientists think this warm period may have been as much as two degrees Celsius warmer than today.
You might expect that it would be far easier to measure temperatures accurately today than to infer temperatures for the past. It’s true that the only means available to estimate temperatures for times before written weather records were “palaeo” records such as ice cores and tree rings. But going forward, it’s not that simple. For a start, there are many ways to measure temperature. There are surface measurements with thermometers. There are satellite measurements of temperatures at different heights in the atmosphere. There are weather balloons and radiosondes. At sea, there have been ships’ buckets, and more recently buoys.
Further, each kind of temperature record has its own set of difficulties. For instrument-based land records, for example, there are changes in instrument siting. There are new stations. And there are discontinued stations, of which there may be large numbers at once; for example, in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.
For all temperature records, there are changes in instrument types and accuracy, and even in whether records are kept in Fahrenheit or Celsius. There is the problem of how to deal with missing readings. And even with the best will in the world, instrument operators will make mistakes. To make matters worse, most of the data we have comes from land, and from Europe and North America. There is poor coverage of the southern oceans, for example. And there is the thorny question of how you try to in-fill areas which have no data at all, for example by extrapolating from neighbouring regions.
Satellite measurements have their own problems, too. Complex calibrations and adjustments are necessary. Satellites have an unfortunate tendency to drift in their orbits. And when the responsibility for the measurements is moved from one satellite to another, there may be a discontinuity between the old readings and the new.
Then there is the problem of trying to assemble the whole into a coherent picture of “the global temperature” over time. Inevitably, there will be huge levels of uncertainty in any such picture. It doesn’t help that in many cases this is being done by government agencies, some of which (such as the UK Met Office) choose to take an alarmist position at any opportunity. But there is general agreement that global temperatures have been warming since the 17th century. And that they have warmed very close to 1 degree Celsius since 1880.
Is the warming over the last 150 years or so unprecedented?
Past records show temperatures going up and down by large amounts, sometimes over relatively short time periods. For example, Lamb’s Central England Temperature record shows a huge dip into, and an even bigger rebound out of, the trough of the Little Ice Age.
More recently, there seems to have been strong cooling, on a global scale, between about 1880 and 1910, followed by strong warming over the following 30 years. And if we look at the magnitude of the temperature changes apparent in the Roman and Mediaeval warm periods, and juxtapose them with the last century or so, they are very comparable.
So, on the question of whether recent warming is “unprecedented,” my verdict is the Scottish one: Not proven.
How much warming has been, or will be, caused by CO2 from human civilization?
To the third accusation, that all or much of the global warming is the result of emissions of carbon dioxide gas by human civilization.
Now, there’s a plausible scientific hypothesis that says that greenhouse gases, including CO2, do cause some warming. The basic idea is that molecules of CO2 absorb photons of radiation, then re-emit them in directions that, on average, are more downwards than upwards, thus keeping heat in rather than letting it escape to space. The forcing is usually expressed in watts per square metre, at a suitably selected point high in the atmosphere.
For ease of understanding, the forcing can be converted into a temperature rise in degrees Celsius per doubling of CO2. It is calculated this way, because according to the greenhouse effect theory, the effects of CO2 are logarithmic. That is, each doubling of CO2 is expected to produce the same amount of warming. This warming is not expected to be evenly distributed over the globe; there is likely to be far more warming at higher latitudes, and so a lower temperature gradient from the tropics to the poles.
In its Third Assessment Report (2001), the IPCC gave this value as 1.46 degrees Celsius: []. Their latest technical summary report [], on page 27, gives a central estimate of 1.07 degrees Celsius. Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and a skeptical expert, has given 1 degree Celsius: [], page 4. But some skeptics come out with considerably lower numbers. See [] for an argument suggesting the figure may be as low as 0.5 degrees Celsius.
A major problem arises at this point. For surface level warming (“forcing” in Climatespeak), whatever the reason for it, is theorized to cause more warming (“feedbacks”). This is because a warmer surface is expected to cause more evaporation from the oceans, so more water vapour in the atmosphere; and water vapour is a strong greenhouse gas, far stronger than CO2. Moreover, warming is also likely to cause more cloud cover. Clouds can cool, as on a hot summer day, or warm, as on a cold winter night. Which of these effects is stronger when averaged over the whole globe, and by how much, are very difficult questions to answer.
The alarmist camp think that the overall feedbacks are strongly positive, and the 1.07 degrees Celsius of forcing translates into an equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) of 2.5 to 4.0 degrees Celsius per doubling of CO2. Interestingly, in the Third Assessment Report, the 1.46 degrees of forcing translated into an ECS for a doubling of CO2 of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius. So, over 20 years, the IPCC’s estimate of the forcing has gone down significantly; but the feedbacks seem to have become bigger to compensate!
The skeptical camp, on the other hand, think that the feedbacks are considerably lower, perhaps zero or even negative. Lindzen discusses this in the paper at . In which he goes so far as to say: “the stability of the tropical temperature suggests negative rather than positive feedbacks.”
Nic Lewis, in a comment in the same paper (page 17), suggests that the ECS, or otherwise put the long-term warming, from a doubling of CO2 is 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius. This is well below the IPCC’s range. Lewis’s own best estimate, with Judith Curry, is between 1.50 and 1.76 degrees Celsius: []. In a reply to the comment (page 20), Lindzen suggests that even Lewis’s numbers are high.
CO2 is currently at 412 parts per million (ppm) compared to pre-industrial times with about 280. We are now a fraction over half way towards our first doubling. (412/280 is about 4 per cent larger than the square root of 2). If I accept Lewis and Curry’s most pessimistic estimate of 1.76 degrees for a doubling, including feedbacks, that means 0.88 degrees of temperature rise from CO2 which has been emitted from 1880 up to now. So, the higher the proportion of the feedbacks which have not appeared yet (and I’d guess this is quite small; 140 years is a long time!) the higher the proportion of the close to 1 degree Celsius warming we have seen since 1880 must be due to causes other than CO2.
There is one piece of (lack of) hard evidence, which suggests that the idea of large positive feedbacks from surface warming which was caused by increased CO2 is almost certainly wrong. Calculations lead to a conclusion that feedbacks from surface warming should result in a “hot spot,” warmer than its surroundings, in the atmosphere over the tropics at about 10 to 12 kilometres altitude. Since human caused emissions of CO2 have been going on constantly for decades now, if CO2-caused warming leads to large feedbacks, there should be a permanent hot spot at this altitude. But neither weather balloons nor satellite measurements find any such hot spot, despite attempts by the alarmists to claim that it exists after all.
Moreover, the Roman and Mediaeval warm periods were, without doubt, warmer than today. Although alarmists have tried, at various times and in various ways, to air-brush them out of the record. These warm periods cannot possibly have been caused by emissions of carbon dioxide by human civilization, can they? So, the question is, what caused them? There are lots of theories, such as solar variability, lack of volcanic eruptions, and ocean oscillations bringing more warm water to the surface over a long period. But no-one knows for sure. And if we don’t know what caused these warmings, how do we know those phenomena aren’t still active, and causing, or at least contributing greatly to, the modern warming period?
What will be effects of warming on the planet and on human civilization?
Historically, human civilizations have tended to thrive during warmer periods rather than colder ones. Roman civilization flourished during a relatively warm period; yet Rome collapsed not long after it ended. There is also some evidence, further back, for a Minoan Warm Period, which coincided with the Minoan civilization up to about 1500 BC. It’s not impossible that the end of that warm period might have been a factor, not only in the fall of the Minoan civilization, but in the wider “Late Bronze Age collapse” across the region in the 12th century BC. Moreover, the early Middle Ages, as I said earlier, was the time in which commerce began expanding in southern Europe. Whereas the 14th century, during which the warm period ended, was a time of wars, diseases, and disasters in much of Europe.
But the alarmists keep on screaming about the TERRIBLE consequences if “we” don’t reduce CO2 emissions and stop the warming RIGHT NOW! Cognitive dissonance, anyone?
Yet, looking forward, wouldn’t a warmer world be likely to be a better world? And if not, why not? Fortunately, today we have a technique, a means of exploring the consequences of hypothetical situations such as a warmer world. It’s called cost-benefit analysis. Why don’t we do a cost-benefit analysis on this issue?
Why don’t we estimate, as best we can, the cost of the damage which would be caused by a particular amount of warming, if we took no action at all to reduce CO2 emissions? Then compare that with our best estimate of the costs of the mitigation approach – acting to reduce CO2 emissions just enough to avoid that amount of warming? And with our best estimate of the costs of the adaptation approach – not bothering to reduce CO2 emissions at all, but simply fixing any negative consequences of warming as and when they become problems. And the time to do such an analysis is, obviously, before any action is taken, and before huge sums of money are spent on what may well prove to be a wild goose chase.
Now, I’m in danger of getting ahead of myself here; but I can’t resist telling you a little bit about what has happened in terms of cost-benefit analysis on the “global warming” issue. Not only has no objective, unbiased cost-benefit analysis ever been done on the issue. But the UK government has taken steps, which I can only interpret as being intended to prevent such a cost-benefit analysis being done. And still, no proper cost-benefit analysis has been done.
The cost-benefit saga is a long, complicated, sorry tale, and I’ll tell it when I get to the back-story. But the only answer anyone can honestly give, even now after we’ve already suffered decades of costly climate “action,” to the question “What would be effects of X amount of warming on the planet and on human civilization?” is: “We simply don’t have a clue.”
Mitigation or adaptation?
In the absence of any proper cost-benefit analysis on the matter, the fifth accusation, that pre-emptive action to reduce CO2 emissions in order to stop warming (mitigation) is preferable to letting the warming happen and then fixing any problems as they arise (adaptation), becomes moot. Moot, in the dictionary sense of “having little or no practical relevance, typically because the subject is too uncertain to allow a decision.”
From a philosophical viewpoint, I myself tend strongly to prefer adaptation over mitigation, because it avoids spending large amounts of effort and money on what may well turn out to have been non-problems. And if no proper cost-benefit analysis has been done at all, then the case for adaptation over mitigation becomes even stronger.
Many people will have noticed that governments, particularly in the UK, have shown an increasing tendency towards a culture of over-safety, and even of “safety at any cost.” This culture subjects us to ever more, tighter and more costly restrictions on how we live our lives. It reduces our freedoms and puts us more and more under government micro-management, yet we get little or no demonstrated benefits in return.
Those that want to “mitigate” putative warming, I think, are letting themselves be driven by this culture of over-safety. Again, I’m in danger of getting ahead of myself here. But I can – and will, in the second essay – tell you about where that culture came from, and how the UK government fostered it. It’s not a pretty story.
So, is there really a climate crisis today?
At last! The sixth and last accusation is one I can (mostly) answer directly. With facts and evidence.
Climate alarmists have been making accusations against us for more than 30 years. They’ve been screaming, again and again, “we’ve got ten years to save the planet!” (Or twelve years? Or 18 months?) So, by now, if the accusations are true, we should be able to see and to measure the negative effects they claim, should we not?
If we can see all or some of these negative effects happening today, then the next question to ask is, what caused them? Is it, all or mainly, CO2 emissions from human activities? Or is it, all or mainly, other human activities, such as land use changes and the urban heat island effect? Or is it, all or mainly, processes independent of human activities? (Some like to call these “natural” processes, but I find that a misnomer; for in my view, humans are just as natural as any other species on our planet!)
What I found out in responding to the first five accusations suggests that the effects on the climate of non-human-caused processes are very significant, and that we don’t know at all how significant CO2 emissions are, or even whether they are a real problem. Not much of a “case for the prosecution” so far, even if we could see some of negative effects that they claim when we observe the real world today.
But, looking as closely as we can, are these touted negative effects evident? If not, then the idea that they are likely to happen in the future ought to be called into serious question.
It is part of my character that I seek to follow the sage advice of Bertrand Russell. “When you are studying any matter or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed, but look only, and solely, at what are the facts.”
So, here we go. The data and papers I link to come mostly from 2020 or 2021, a few from earlier. Not all the data is global; some of it is US specific. But even US figures do give a picture of the situation over a significant part of the globe.
Are weather disasters becoming worse and more frequent?
Global deaths from disasters such as droughts, floods and extreme weather have gone down dramatically in the last century or so: []. During which time, temperatures have risen by very close to 1 degree C. (Hover the mouse over one of the categories at the right to see that category more clearly). Deaths from extreme weather have dropped very significantly from the peak in the 1970s. Deaths from floods are now far lower than they were in the 1930s or 1950s. And deaths from droughts have come down enormously since the 1920s.
The drops in deaths from natural disasters have been even more spectacular when looked at in terms of death rates per 100,000 people: [].
Global death risk from extreme weather has declined 99% over 100 years and global costs of extreme weather have declined 26% over the last 28 years: []. And the weather isn’t getting worse, as our accusers tell us it is. See , section 2.8, and particularly figure 17.
Are there more and worse storms and hurricanes?
Even the IPCC finds no trend in global hurricane frequency, and has low confidence in attribution of any changes in hurricane frequency to human activity: , section 2.6. Moreover, the USA has not seen any increase in landfalling hurricanes since 1900: , Figure 14.
Yearly “accumulated cyclone energy” in the Northern Hemisphere has not been increasing in the last 30 years, and it was unusually low in 2022 (33% down on the average for 1991-2020): []. The data was captured from dynamic web pages supplied by Colorado State University.
Are there more and worse floods?
Flood damage in the USA, as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product, has been trending down since 1940: []. The IPCC cannot say whether flooding on a global level is increasing or decreasing: , section 2.4.
Are there more and worse droughts?
Deaths from droughts, floods and extreme weather have gone down dramatically in the last century or so: . The IPCC says: “there is low confidence in attributing changes in drought over global land areas since the mid-20th century to human influence.” , section 2.3.
As at 2012, there had been little change in global drought over the previous 60 years (Sheffield et al. 2012, referenced from .)
Are there more and worse wildfires?
“Many consider wildfire as an accelerating problem, with widely held perceptions both in the media and scientific papers of increasing fire occurrence, severity and resulting losses. However, important exceptions aside, the quantitative evidence available does not support these perceived overall trends.” (Doerr and Santín 2016, quoted in , section 2.5).
Are there more and stronger heatwaves?
In the USA at least, heat waves in the 1930s were an order of magnitude stronger than in any of the previous or subsequent decades: []. There is no apparent trend in the rest of the data.
Are there more and more people dying from heatstroke?
Looking at , it appears that deaths reported as caused by “extreme temperatures” have been rising since about the 1970s, peaking around the 2000s. But they are only a small proportion of deaths from all natural disasters.
In terms of deaths per population, the rise has been much less clear. Both may well be attributable to the reporting of these deaths by poor countries improving over time. So, the jury is still out on this one.
Moreover, a recent paper [] analyzing data from 750 locations around the world concluded that deaths caused by cold were approximately ten times as many as deaths caused by heat. Suggesting that warming on a global scale should have a beneficial effect on human survival, rather than a negative one.
Are there millions of climate refugees?
Not that I am aware of. I certainly haven’t met one. But then, what exactly is a climate refugee?
I came across this paper from 2001: []. Oddly, it was written on behalf of a UN agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This does, however, appear to be a part of the UN which is less corrupted than most. A couple of quotes from the paper: “Practical concern with the plight of poor people leaving fragile environments has not translated into hard evidence of the extent or fundamental causes of their problems.” And: “Without a firm definition of who is an ‘environmental refugee’ it is not easy to say that this category of people is increasing.”
I’m with the paper’s author on this one. I won’t believe anything I hear about “climate refugees” without evidence that they exist, that there are a lot of them, and that their plight is due to human-caused climate change, not to war, political oppression, or anything else.
Is Arctic sea ice disappearing fast?
At its yearly summer minimum, Arctic sea ice reached a low point in 2012. But by 2021 and 2022, it had rebounded to around 50% above that value: []. (Click on 2021 and 2022 to see those lines on the graph).
Are thousands of polar bears dying because low sea ice means they can’t find food?
We keep on hearing stories about polar bear populations declining abruptly. But these stories aren’t always what they may seem. See this report: [], and note the caveat. “Scientists caution a direct link between the population decline and sea ice loss in Hudson Bay wasn’t yet clear.” See also this: [].
The world-wide polar bear population has risen from about 10,000 in the 1960s to 26,000 now. This estimate comes from the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature): []. One polar bear expert has estimated 32,000 bears: [], see particularly Figure 3.
Are sea levels rising fast?
Sea levels have been rising for 12,000 years, since the last Ice Age. Most of that was obviously not caused by human-caused CO2 emissions! As measured by tide gauges, the current rate of sea level rise varies a lot by location. This is as you would expect, since some coasts are rising, others falling. But a sea level rise of 1-3 millimetres per year is typical.
Here is a table of sea level data for 1,269 tide gauge stations spread around the world: []. Most of the data goes up to the end of 2015. The “trend” column shows the rate of sea level rise at each station in millimetres per year. The mean rate of rise was 1.65 millimetres per year, and the median 1.78. Of the 1,269, 199 show sea levels falling by more than 1 mm/year, and 215 show a rise of more than 4 mm/year.
As an aside, more than 40 years ago, I lived in the Netherlands, in a polder almost 6 metres below sea level. They have serious flood defences there! The nearest tide gauge (Maassluis) has been in operation since 1848. It is almost right in the middle of the list of stations when they are sorted by rate of sea level rise. The detail graph for the Maassluis tide gauge is here: []. It shows an average rise from 1848 to 2021 of 1.69 millimetres per year (plus or minus 0.1). At that rate, it would take around 3,500 years for sea levels to rise 6 metres!
Is the rate of sea level rise accelerating?
Satellite measurements seem to show an acceleration of sea level rise in the last 20 years or so. Tide gauges, in general, don’t. Here’s a skeptical perspective: []. In any case, the discrepancy needs to be fully explained before anyone can reasonably claim that acceleration of sea level rise is a problem.
My Dutch tide gauge shows an acceleration of 0.0041 millimetres per year per year. That’s 0.41 millimetres per year per century. So, in 100 years, the current 1.69 mm/yr might rise to 2.10 mm/yr. (Might). And Maassluis is in the top half of the 1,269 stations sorted by rate of acceleration, though not by much. Wake me up when the world is under water.
Are islands like Tuvalu being submerged?
There have been claims that low lying atolls like Tuvalu and the Maldives would become flooded and submerged by rising sea levels. But even some of the mainstream media have noticed that, on a multi-decadal scale, many of these islands are growing, not shrinking: []. 80 per cent of all the islands surveyed (including Tuvalu) were either growing, or staying about the same.
Are Antarctica and Greenland losing ice fast?
The Antarctic continent has not warmed in the last seven decades: []. For the entire continent, the winter (June to August) of 2021 was the second-coldest on record: []. So, if Antarctica is losing ice from its ice sheets, it isn’t because of warming; and surely not because of warming caused by CO2.
As to Greenland, see the “Con:” argument here: []. I quote: “the total ice loss each year is a nearly undetectable five one-thousandths of one percent (0.005 percent) of the Greenland ice mass.” At that rate, melting it all would take 20,000 years. Also see here: [].
Are hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of coral reefs dying?
The biggest coral reef I know of is the Great Barrier Reef. And that seems, after an iffy period around 2012 or so, to be doing fine: [].
Florida’s reefs have taken a bit of a pasting, and through human actions too. But the problem is not “global warming,” but local water pollution: []. And coral reefs are a lot more resilient to changing conditions than they are often given credit for: [].
Can we grow enough food to feed the population?
Yields of most crops per area farmed have risen over the last 60 years. Wheat yields, for example, have gone up from just over 1 tonne per hectare in 1961 to almost 3.5 tonnes per hectare in 2020. And maize yields have gone up from 2 to well over 5, in the same units. You can find the data at []. Meanwhile, more carbon dioxide in the air has had a beneficial effect of “greening” the Earth: [].
Sadly, there are places and times where farmers are not able to grow enough to feed local people, let alone export food. But in recent times, these problems have been caused almost exclusively by governments. It is green policies, not global warming, that have caused the famine in Sri Lanka and the troubles with farmers in the Netherlands!
Hubert Lamb’s warning
I recently read an interesting account of the life and work of Hubert Lamb, one of the earliest “climatologists” and the first director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia: []. In his later years, he became rather skeptical of the idea that humans were causing catastrophic global warming.
In 1994, in the journal of the World Meteorological Organization, Lamb left for posterity the following warning. “A precarious and threatening situation has developed for climatology. A tremendous effort was made to land research funds in all countries, mostly the USA, on the basis of frightening people about the possible drastic effect of Man’s activities. And so much has been said about climate warming, that there will be an awkward situation if the warming doesn’t happen, or not to the extent predicted.”
Hubert Lamb was right; but I think he understated his case. As I’ve shown above, the drastic effects, which have been predicted from warming caused by emissions of carbon dioxide from human activities, aren’t in evidence today. Thirty years on from the Rio summit which triggered all the oppressive green policies, the argument that the bad effects are “baked in” already, but we just can’t see them yet, is losing any semblance of credibility. As the bad policies really start to bite into the rights and freedoms of ordinary people, there is indeed an “awkward situation.” Not just for climatologists, but for all those that have jumped on the “climate change” bandwagon, and used it either for personal gain, or as an excuse to carry out political aggressions against innocent people.
To sum up
Whatever alarmists may say, I for one don’t see any evidence for a “climate crisis.” Still less is there any hard evidence that emissions of CO2 from human civilization are causing any climate problems at all. Nor is it at all certain that any amount of reduction in CO2 emissions would achieve any improvement in the climate.
The alarmists, in order to argue that there is a climate problem, require that the surface warming directly caused by having more CO2 in the atmosphere is dwarfed by the “feedbacks” to this direct warming through other processes, notably water vapour and clouds. But many skeptics, including experts such as Richard Lindzen, do not agree. They think these feedbacks may even be negative. Moreover, an empirical estimate of long term climate response, including feedbacks, by Nic Lewis and Judith Curry suggests that the effects of CO2 on climate are way less than even the lower bound of the range given by the IPCC. The absence of a permanent “hot spot” at about 10 to 12 kilometres up in the atmosphere also suggests the feedbacks from warming induced by CO2 cannot be large.
The alarmists, I think, have caught themselves in a trap here. The effects of 1 degree of warming over 140 years have not been catastrophic. Why, then, should we suppose that the effects of at least one more similar warming would be any worse? That defies both common sense and history. The effects of the warming into the Roman and Mediaeval Warm Periods, and out of the Little Ice Age, weren’t bad, were they?
Of course, the alarmists will probably try to scare us by telling us that equilibration is slow, and there’s a lot more warming yet to come, which is already “baked in” from past CO2 emissions. But that would imply that a lot of the last 140 years of warming is due to factors other than CO2. The alarmists are wrong, either way.
In my view, the entire “global warming” and “climate change” accusation is a total fraud. Those that have peddled and are peddling it are traitors to human civilization. In addition, they are causing severe mental damage to many young people, through spreading lies, fear and scares. They deserve to be brought to justice, made to compensate all those they harmed, and duly punished as traitors deserve.
Those who have been bamboozled into believing there is a climate problem at all, let alone a crisis, need to look at the facts, evaluate them, and reach their own conclusions. They must stop fearing anything that hasn’t been proven to be a real threat. And they must stop accepting guilt for anything, without proof of their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. They also need to stop deferring to politicians, “authority” figures, “experts” and the mainstream media. Instead, they must use their own judgement, and spread the truth on the matter, as best they understand it, to all those they can.