Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Global Warming is Bunk, Part 11: The Courage to do Nothing

This post stands in place of the Conclusion and end matter of a paper that I wrote three years ago as a critique of the science and politics behind the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) thesis. The paper was peer-reviewed but never published. The predictions that I made in this paper have been universally borne out.


Conclusion: ‘The courage to do nothing’

Over the course of this paper, we have discussed a number of “ugly facts” about the present climate panic.  In chapter 2, for example, it was shown that climate is cyclical, and that – contrary to the thrust and tenor of the past several decades of climate rhetoric – there is nothing at all unusual about the warming that the Earth has undergone since the end of the Little Ice Age.  Chapter 3 noted that observed data show that despite continually increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the Earth has been cooling for at least seven years, contradicting all of the projections of climate models based on the AGW thesis.  Chapter 4 demonstrated that there is no correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and average global temperatures; and while there does appear to be a correlation (over the past 400k+ years, at least) between global temperature and CO2 concentrations, the fact that changes in temperature appear to precede changes in carbon dioxide concentrations by hundreds of years suggests that the former drive the latter, rather than the other way around. 

This chapter also, incidentally, showed that there is no correlation between world fuel consumption and global temperatures over the past century and a half of human industrial activity.  These observed data definitively falsify the thesis that carbon dioxide (much less human-produced carbon dioxide) is the principle driver of climate.  Chapter 5 then highlighted the significant correlation between solar activity levels and average global temperatures, noting that the thesis proposed by Henrik Svensmark – low-cloud nucleation by cosmic rays – suggests that we should be paying less attention to human-produced carbon dioxide, and more attention to what the Sun happens to be doing.  And right now, the Sun is doing nothing.  This fact, rather than the meaningless bugbear of “carbon emissions”, is cause for alarm.

We then turned to a survey of other factors relevant to the climate debate.  Chapter 6 explored historical examples of economic bubbles, and discussed the likelihood that attempts to create a global market for “carbon credits” will lead to another bubble – one that is likely to burst once the falsification of the AGW thesis is widely acknowledged, wiping out the “carbon market” in precisely the same manner as other bubble-based markets have been obliterated in the past.  Chapter 7 examined the logical fallacies inherent in dubbing climate change a ‘threat’, and discussed the strategic dangers of doing so – not least of which is that it distracts governments from actual threats by human agents possessing both the capability and the intent to do harm. [AUTHOR'S NOTE: FOR REASONS EXPLAINED ELSEWHERE, THIS CHAPTER IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE ON-LINE VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE]  And Chapter 8 [here, Chapter 7] investigated how the climate panic has been both created and sustained through the persistent failure to demand that all who purport to speak as scientists conform, as a condition of credibility, to the principles of sound empirical science.

Finally, chapter 9 [here, Chapter 8] looked at how moral panics can supplant reason and drive decision-makers to persist in acts of the most egregious folly – and discussed what can happen when ideologically-driven political folly blossoms into its full, destructive potential.  This final chapter also examined the likelihood and potential consequences of a prolonged period of global cooling; offered some thoughts on how modern society is founded on using energy to produce ever more, and ever more highly-ordered, power; and discussed how attempts to constrain, let alone reduce, energy consumption are likely to lead to potentially catastrophic economic and societal consequences.  This chapter concluded that the quest for “efficiency” is a chimera; historically, more efficiency in consuming energy has always led to more consumption of energy, not less.  Energy consumption, in fact, only decreases when economic activity declines sharply due to a socio-economic catastrophe – a devastating event like the 1973 oil shock, the recession of the early 1980s, or the combination of the dot-com crash and the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.  Those agitating for “reduced energy consumption” should therefore be careful what they wish for.

There are glimmerings of hope on the horizon.  As this paper was going to press, pending climate change legislation in the US Senate received a serious blow when Senators adopted an amendment on the 2010 budget resolution “to require that such legislation does not increase electricity or gasoline prices.”[1]  Given that the legislation is designed to reduce emissions principally by reducing energy consumption through economic disincentives, it is by definition impossible to promise that electricity or gasoline prices will not increase (this is particularly true given that Barack Obama, in a 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, admitted on camera that his cap-and-trade proposal would cause energy prices to “skyrocket”). This amendment, therefore, entirely undermines the legislation.  89 Senators (48 of them Democrats) voted in favour of the amendment – including Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, who explicitly stated that “Any kind of cap-and-trade system that comes forward will not raise energy and gas prices” – as mind-bogglingly oxymoronic a statement as can be imagined.[2]  At the end of the day, only 8 Senators out of 99 were prepared to vote in favour of higher energy prices as a means of constraining carbon emissions; 89 voted to “do nothing.”  Thus, while there may be little prospect of a sudden outbreak of scientific rigour or even common sense in the climate debate, we should be grateful that enlightened political self-interest can apparently be counted upon to help stave off a legislative catastrophe. 

None of my arguments should be taken to suggest that there are not real environmental problems that need to be resolved.  Although some will doubtless attempt to portray it as such, this paper is emphatically not an argument against conserving energy wherever possible; improving technological efficiency throughout the fuel production and consumption cycle; taking every reasonable step to reduce and prevent genuine pollution (which carbon dioxide most definitely is not); or engaging in credible, transparent research on the environmental impacts of human activity.  Nor am I suggesting that alternative energy sources should not be explored; the fact that solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy are not at present capable of competing economically with conventional sources does not imply that they will necessarily always be at a disadvantage.  These energy sources could well become more important in the future.  But if history is any guide, it is likely that the most important energy source fifty or a hundred years from now will be something that has not, as of yet, even been identified. As I pointed out in chapter 8, it is impossible to predict the technological future – and anyone purporting to do so is engaging in speculative fiction rather than rigorous scientific analysis.

The entire edifice of Western industrial society has been constructed upon the consumption of energy, much of which is in fact used to acquire low-ordered energy and refine it into the increasingly ordered streams of power necessary to enable our technologically-based civilization to function.  When discussing “alternative energy sources”, it is important to understand that our modern energy economy is predicated upon denser sources of energy displacing less-dense sources, as hydrocarbons displaced carbohydrates, and as nuclear power is gradually displacing hydrocarbons.[3]  Any attempt to force energy consumption patterns in the opposite direction – down the entropic slope towards less-dense energy sources like wind power, solar power, and carbohydrate-derived fuels such as ethanol – is foredoomed to failure.  No matter how efficient these sources become at extracting and ordering energy, they will always be hobbled by inescapable upper limits, ranging from the amount of sunlight that falls on a given patch of ground (which can be increasingly efficiently captured, but which can never be increased unless the Sun’s irradiance increases or the Earth’s orbit shrinks), to the maximum sustained speed of winds and the ability of plant DNA to turn disordered chemicals and light into ordered sugars. 

These diffuse, low-ordered energy sources will never supply the hundreds of gigawatts churned out night and day by power plants that measure fuel consumption in megatonnes, or that generate more power within a few slugs of enriched uranium than the entire human race was capable of generating three centuries ago.  Nor will they provide the exajoules of concentrated potential energy necessary to deliver humans to their places of work, to put food on their tables, and to engage in all the myriad activities deriving from the manner in which our oil-powered, motorized civilization has evolved over the past century.  Alternative energy sources may one day transform some small sectors of our energy economy; but market forces will accomplish this transformation, if indeed it can be accomplished.[4]  To attempt to do so by government fiat, against the historic fact of ever-increasing consumption, and the inexorable logic of supply and demand, is to court disaster.

The international pursuit of planet-wide political measures to “combat climate change” is a textbook example of Tuchman’s definition of folly – of political leaders clinging to a failed idea, and adamantly refusing to be deflected by the facts.  There is no “climate crisis”.  The warming that we have experienced is neither unusual nor unexpected.  There is no evidence of a causal correlation between human industrial activity and atmospheric temperature, and much evidence that the Sun is the primary driver of terrestrial climate.  Warmer and colder periods have happened before, without human intervention (indeed, without humans); and there is every indication, based on historical climate cycles and current patterns of solar activity, that the Earth is about to enter a prolonged, possibly multi-decadal, cooling phase.  To persist in costly and economically damaging attempts to regulate, control or tax carbon dioxide emissions in the face of these “ugly facts” would be a violation of reason, and a folly of epic proportions. 

Monckton put it best: “The correct policy approach to a non-problem is to have the courage to do nothing.”[5]

There is therefore an urgent need for a comprehensive reassessment of climate change from a perspective of rational risk analysis based on objective, transparent, peer-reviewed empirical science.  Any such reassessment must begin by acknowledging both the weakness of predictive methodologies in the face of complex, interdependent non-linear systems like climate, and the utter inadequacy of linear trend projection as a means of predicting mankind’s technological future.  It must acknowledge mankind’s vanishingly small contribution to the terrestrial energy budget, and work upwards from there to attempt to determine whether human activities have a measurable impact on climate (rather than, as the AGW theorists have done, assuming a human impact and then extrapolating from that empirically unfounded assumption to a whole array of projections ranging from the mundane to the fantastic).  It must recognize the historical susceptibility of moral panics and economic bubbles to manipulation by opportunists for pecuniary or political ends.  And it must be alert to, and steer clear of, the exaggeration, misrepresentation of science, and demagoguery that have been the principal tools of those who, for the past two decades, have been force-feeding the AGW thesis, and all its multifarious, nonsensical derivatives, to the world.

Governments should reflect carefully before taking costly and irrevocable action in an attempt to alter a global phenomenon that according to all available evidence is largely if not exclusively natural, and that does not in any case appear to be susceptible to human intervention.  It would be inadvisable to attempt to identify, let alone implement, policy options designed to influence climate before a thorough, and thoroughly scientific, understanding of the sources, mechanisms and consequences of climate change has been reached.

If these principles are scrupulously observed, the outcome of such a reassessment would prove a far better basis for policy than the acrimony, alarmism and hyperbole that have thus far characterized, and will forever stand as the shameful legacy of, the great climate panic.



Anthropogenic Global Warming
(Advanced) Microwave Sounding Unit
General Circulation Model
Goddard Institute of Space Studies
Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Little Ice Age
Medieval Warm Period
Natural Gas Combined Cycle
Remote Sensing System
Third Assessment Report (IPCC, 2001)
Total Solar Irradiance
University of Alabama at Huntsville


The following selected bibliography contains some of the references that were used in the preparation of this paper.  Only books and academic papers are included.  Where possible, a URL is provided in order to allow the reader to check the original source.

Any discussion of the science underlying climate change must perforce involve a great many internet-based resources, both for access to data, and for the publication of results.  This is particularly true if one wishes to garner an adequate appreciation of the scope (enormous and growing) and credibility (equally enormous) of the opposition to the “global warming” orthodoxy.  The battle to extract the study of climate from the grasp of politics and return it to the realm of science is taking place on the Internet.  This is due in large part to the difficulty that some sceptics have experienced getting their papers published in “mainstream” journals.

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[1] US Senate website, 2 April 2009 [ vote_cfm.cfm?congress=111&session=1&vote=00117].
[2], 1 April 2009 [].
[3] Huber and Mills, The Bottomless Well, 167-70.
[4] In March 2009, Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s second-largest non-state owned oil company, announced that it was scaling back its “renewable energy” programme, noting that wind and solar power “struggle to compete with the other investment opportunities” in the corporation’s portfolio.  Robin Pagnamenta, “Anger as Shell reduces renewables investment”, Timesonline, 18 March 2009 [http://business.timesonline.].  Needless to say, the “anger” cited in the title of the piece came from environmental groups, not from Shell’s shareholders.
                Similarly, declining concerns over the price of gasoline have led, between mid-2008 and early 2009, to a decline of two-thirds in the sale of hybrid vehicles.  As one industry analyst pointed out in the context of this story, the auto-makers are themselves on the horns of a painful dilemma; they have to satisfy the green-mania of the politicians who are deciding whether to provide bail-out funds, but their financial situation is unlikely to improve if, in response to political demands, they build vast fleets of hybrid cars that customers do not want to buy.  Ken Bensinger, “Hybrid car sales go from 60 to 0 at breakneck speed”, LA Times, 17 March 2009 [,0,6682265.story]. 
[5] Monckton, “Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered”, Physics & Society, July 2008 [ fps/newsletters/200807/monckton.cfm].