February 10th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Blackouts due to closure of coal-fired power stations

EDITORIAL Behind China's push for global power

CANBERRA OBSERVED The left's appetite for change can't be satisfied

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY The Four Ideologies of the 21st century: Transgenderism, Libertarianism, cultural and Economic, and Radical Environmentalism

SEX-TRAFFICKING Meet modern slavery - in your very suburb

EUTHANASIA Delivering Victoria's death law: an unedifying spectacle

ENVIRONMENT Too hot? Too cold? Blame global warming

OPINION Report on child sexual abuse aimed at Church

FREEDOM OF RELIGION 'Equality' and equally disingenuous terms

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Saudis, Israel confirm Middle East alliance

OBITUARY To the memory of a multimedia Chestertonian: Tony Evans

MUSIC Straight to the heart: for the listener, at least

CINEMA The Commuter: And my criteria for reviewing films

BOOK REVIEW Essays take 'settled science' to task

BOOK REVIEW A pathway through a tangle of nonsense

BOOK REVIEW Quarterly Essay

LETTERS

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BOOK REVIEW
Essays take 'settled science' to task




News Weekly, February 10, 2018

CLIMATE CHANGE: The Facts 2017

Edited by Jennifer Marohasy

Connor Court, Redland Bay
Paperback: 380 pages
Price: AUD$34.95

Reviewed by William Kininmonth

Climate change, as a global policy issue, burst on to the world stage in 1985. The United Nations had convened a conference of invited participants at Villach, Austria, “to assess the role of increased carbon dioxide and other radiatively active constituents of the atmosphere (collectively known as greenhouse gases and aerosols) on climate changes and associated impacts”.

The Conference participants concluded: “Many important economic and social decisions are being made today on long-term projects – major water- resource management activities such as irrigation and hydro-power, drought relief, agricultural land use, structural designs and coastal engineering projects, and energy planning – all based on the assumption that past climatic data, without modification, are a reliable guide to the future. This is no longer a good assumption since the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are expected to cause a significant warming of the global climate in the next century. It is a matter of urgency to refine estimates of future climate conditions to improve these decisions.”

Following the Villach Conference. Many countries, including Australia through its Commission for the Future and the CSIRO, organised national and international conferences to warn of the alleged danger from industrial carbon-dioxide emissions. In 1988 the UN established a specialised entity, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to assess “how human activities may be changing the Earth’s climate through the Greenhouse Effect – potentially the greatest global environmental challenge facing mankind (sic)”.

The focus of climate change was further narrowed when the UN, in establishing the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, defined climate change as: “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.” The introduction of this legal device in effect made all other potential causes of climate change of no policy consequence, and hence to be ignored.

All governments are formally represented in the IPCC (that is, it is an intergovernmental process) and thus bound to the findings of its periodic assessments. Similarly, all governments are parties to the UN FCCC and represented at its annual meetings of the Conference of the Parties to coordinate global action for reducing industrial greenhouse-gas emissions. It is not surprising, then, that governments exclusively fund science programs, policy initiatives and infrastructure that conform to the objectives of the UN FCCC.

After more than three decades of concerted UN and individual government actions to decarbonise the industrial landscape, serious questions about the underlying scientific paradigm of dangerous anthropogenic (that is, human caused) climate change and its impacts continue. Moreover, the transition to what is claimed to be a sustainable future based on renewable energy is proving to be more costly and fraught than initially promised.

Climate Change: The Facts 2017 is a selection of 22 essays that examine some of the questions raised against the dangerous anthropogenic climate-change paradigm. Few of the authors could be classified as “climate science experts” because it is doubtful that such a person exists – the climate system is too complex to be mastered by one person. Each author deals with a facet of climate change relating to their profession, whether this be the science, public policy or media commentary.

Uncooperative data

In her introduction, editor Jennifer Maro­hasy lays out the demarcation between the official orthodoxy, as promoted by the UN and governments, and an increasing body of data that challenges the orthodoxy. There have always been sceptics to the orthodoxy but for a long time they have been drowned out by alarmism and seemingly authoritative statements asserting that “the science is settled”. Given the complexity of the climate system, the opaqueness of the computer models used to project future climate states, and promotion of the orthodoxy by governments, adherence to the orthodoxy can only be faith-based for most. New data, as outlined in this volume, are now testing that faith.

The volume does not cover the full gamut of climate change. Rather each author surveys a particular issue. Early essays deal with aspects of science: doubt is cast on some of the more extraordinary claims of environmental impact, such as the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef; the natural variability of climate, including potential solar and planetary linkages; the veracity of claims of unprecedented global warming are questioned; and accounts of the potentially beneficial outcomes from increasing carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere are offered.

The later part of the book contains essays on sociological and community issues associated with climate-change policy: the impact on the poorest people if denied cheap, reliable and effective fossil-based energy sources; the impacts on free speech and freedom generally from imposing specific technological pathways; and the limiting of investigative diversity consequent on policy directed funding.

The concluding essays return to the questions surrounding carbon dioxide: the contribution of carbon dioxide to global warming; historical variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide; and the geological context of carbon dioxide.

The final essay, by author and social commentator Clive James, is itself worth the ticket price of the volume. Writing from the perspective of a non-scientist but keen student of logic, James pillories the fatuous stance adopted by leading, self-styled experts promoting the UN orthodoxy. The subjects of James’ barbs will surely feel uncomfortable, but well they might for the speculation and misinformation they have promoted while putting ego ahead of reason.

Climate Change: The Facts 2017 does not demolish the case for carbon-diox­ide emissions leading to dangerous climate change. But, then, neither do the series of IPCC reports over the last 25 years convincingly make the case for action to mitigate industrial emissions. The hypothesis that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide will warm the Earth’s surface is generally agreed. The disagreement is about the magnitude of likely warming (the sensitivity) and will that warming be dangerous.

One of the merits of the book is that it highlights that climate is not static. In the past, climate has been ever-changing, with wild swings from glacial to warmer interglacial conditions over the last half-million years. Even during the 10,000 years of the current interglacial, or Holocene period, climate has undergone variations that have impacted on humankind – for 300 years now Earth has been emerging from the Little Ice Age, a period of cold that was surely highly detrimental to life on Earth.

Despite the apparent certitude about future climate as projected by the UN and its computer models, the reasons for past climate fluctuations are contested. It is heroic to base public policy on computer models that have not been validated against independent data. In the third assessment report of the IPCC (2001), the claim is made that it is sufficient to replicate the temperature history of the 20th century.

This claim has three serious shortcomings. First, the temperature record of the 20th century is contaminated by heating associated with urbanisation and local land-use change; consequently, replicating the temperature record introduces a warming bias to the models. Second, we cannot be sure that the warming of the 20th century was not largely of natural origins as Earth continues to emerge from the Little Ice Age. Third, the temperature history of the early 21st century (independent data) has significantly fallen short of the warming projected by the computer models.

Weather bother

Then there is the excited public discourse associated with severe weather events and transient climate anomalies. It is as if tropical cyclones, flooding rain events and heatwaves had not been part of recorded climate history. Even teenage poet Dorothea MacKellar, in 1908, was sufficiently prescient to note Australia was “a land … of drought and flooding rain”. Nevertheless, the alarmists assert, making tenuous links to modelling, that “this is what we expect from climate change” and promise more and worse in the future.

As several contributors to the volume point out, self-styled experts have been proclaiming the imminent destruction of the Great Barrier Reef for at least 50 years, but each cyclone destruction or bleaching event proves temporary.

It is appropriate to conclude this review on the optimistic note elaborated by Craig Idso. Carbon dioxide is an essential component of photosynthesis, the building block of life; it is plant food and should not be regarded as a pollutant. Numerous experiments on a variety of plants and in different localities establish that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide generates greatly enhanced plant production – the foodstuff of land and marine animals. A warmer, wetter Earth with more atmospheric carbon dioxide will surely be beneficial in producing more food for an expanding global population.

Jennifer Marohasy and her contributors are to be congratulated for putting together this concise, easy to read volume. It assembles data and information otherwise ignored, if not wilfully suppressed, in the general media.

William Kininmonth is the author of Climate Change: A Natural Hazard (Multi-Science, 2004). He has represented Australia at international and intergovernmental meetings and carried out training programs for the World Meteorological Organisation.


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