The theory of Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming is often used to try to explain a phenomenon like the subsidence (sinking) of Venice. It is a futile exercise. Venice has started sinking from the very moment it was founded, and the reasons for this are covered in more detail in another article of this site, Venice Sinking. Furthermore, as will be explained here, such a theory is highly speculative.
People who are so worried about “air pollution” caused by atmospheric CO2 should think of how much more polluting and really – not just in their imagination – detrimental to human health the burning of animal dung and firewood indoors – to which people in the Third World are forced in the absence of the electricity produced by fossil fuels – is. If environmentalists and alarmists have their way, the developing world will be the never-to-be-developed world. One thing is to care for the environment rationally, and another is to treat this subject irrationally.
The problem of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory is in fact many problems.
There are four different layers of hypotheses that are required to be believed in order to support the kind of apocalyptic scenario that Western governments are contemplating as the starting point for their proposed carbon-reduction or even carbon-free economy policies.
1. Is Present Warming Unique?
The first idea that needs to be accepted is that our present climate is actually warming to an unprecedented level. Contrary to popular belief encouraged by media and politicians, there is no scientific consensus about it. Many climatologists indeed think that earlier periods in the earth’s history and even in human history, like the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods, were warmer than now.
Is the global rise in earth temperatures in the 20th century exceptional? If we examine the whole geological historical record, it isn’t. Our planet has experienced much higher temperatures before, when there was no or negligible human production of carbon dioxide.
Even in the last century (1900s), a constant increase in global temperature was present during the period 1910-1940, so well before the highest emissions of CO2 began.
2a. Is Global Warming Caused by CO2 Emissions?
This brings us to the hypothesis at the second level: that the recent warming has been caused by humankind and in particular its carbon dioxide emissions, and not entirely or even mostly by natural causes, including the activity of the sun, the gigantic prime-moving force of our climate.
Looking at the geological historical record shows that the ups and downs of the world’s temperature are not related to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. None of the major climate changes in the past 1,000 years can be explained by CO2.
Sunspots, the increase in the number of which generally means greater solar activity, have been more common in the past 8 decades than at any time in the last 8,000 years, according to a historic reconstruction of solar activity study, led by Sami Solanki of Germany’s Max Planck Institute.
Sunspot activity ebbs and flows in cycles. Research has shown that the earth’s climate has had many considerable changes in the last 11,000 years but, due to lack of scientific knowledge about the sun-earth connection, we still don’t know how and in what measure solar activity influences climate shifts.
Exactly because the effect of the sun on the earth’s climate is still not well understood, we must exercise caution and not jump to conclusions about man-made CO2 being the main cause of global warming, especially when there is so much at stake in terms of consequences, public policies and actions to take.
Climate always changes. If there is something that climate (and its micro-manifestation, the weather) always does is changing.
Closer to our age, the temperature was significantly increasing up until 1940, when CO2 levels were relatively low. CO2 started increasing exponentially in 1940, but the temperature actually began to fall in 1940 and continued to decrease from 1940 until 1975, during the post-war era of economic boom and industrial production intensification. So a rapidly-rising CO2 led to lower temperatures, which goes contrary to the AWG theory. The facts did not fit the theory. In fact, the increase in temperature might have been partly responsible for the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere.
Geologists Lowell Stott, Axel Timmermann and Robert Thunell, for example, published a study in the 19 October 2007 issue of Science showing evidence of oceans warming first – possibly due to higher solar radiation – and then CO2 levels rising as a consequence of the oceans’ trapping and releasing CO2 following warming. The role was reversed – warming first, causing CO2 rise later:
“Deep-sea temperatures warmed by ~2°C between 19 and 17 thousand years before the present (ky B.P.), leading the rise in atmospheric CO2 and tropical-surface-ocean warming by ~1000 years. The cause of this deglacial deep-water warming does not lie within the tropics, nor can its early onset between 19 and 17 ky B.P. be attributed to CO2 forcing. Increasing austral-spring insolation combined with sea-ice albedo feedbacks appear to be the key factors responsible for this warming.”
2b. What Is the Influence of Fluctuating Solar Activity?
Various other planets and bodies of the solar system – Jupiter, Mars, Pluto, Neptune’s satellite Triton and others – have recently experienced “global warming”, which points to the sun activity theory’s being more likely to be correct.
Therefore an alternative theory for the warming that occurred in the 20th century – and now stopped since 1998, despite ever increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 -, a theory that postulates as its cause solar activity, can explain facts that the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory cannot (like those fluctuations in climate in the past in the absence of human CO2 production, in particular the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods) and is much more consistent with current observations.
Even more importantly, since we are here talking about science – hopefully – and not ideology, and therefore theories that should be able to resist the most stringent controls, the solar activity theory has been submitted to rigorous tests and been confirmed by them, something which the AGW theory has not done (quite the opposite).
Since the two rival theories are making contradictory predictions about the global temperatures of the next few years – warming for one, cooling for the other -, we are here facing one of those exciting moments in science, when we can see the results of an experimentum crucis: only one of the two theories will pass the test.
3. Will Climate Change Consequences Be Catastrophic?
At the third level of hypotheses that need to be confimed before their acceptance, it has to be shown that, even if (and it’s a big “if”) anthropogenic global warming were a reality, its consequences are going to be more negative than positive, and that these negative effects are of a cataclysmic nature.
4. Is Decarbonisation the Only or Even the Best Solution?
Finally, and this connects with the third level, it has to be shown that the vast costs of carbon reduction are preferable in economic, human and environmental terms to alternative use of the same money for different purposes, like adapting to the new climatic conditions, helping nonhuman animals to cope with them, and the development of the Third World.
We are very far from having reached such a degree of evidential, empirical and logical support for the idea that the price of decarbonising our economy is clearly the lesser evil, we are as far from it as the 13.3 billion light-years which represent the distance from the earth to the remotest known galaxy in the universe.
The so-called scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming is largely artificial and fabricated, partly because of non-climatologists drawn in (you’ll be surprised of how few of the scientists drawn in to form the “consensus” are actual climate scientists, most of them come from the most disparate specialisations of science – and even social science – that have nothing to do with climatology and don’t know about it more than the ordinary layman does), and partly because scientists who disagree with it are fired from university posts.
The Preface of the book Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know (Amazon USA) (Amazon UK) , by American climatologist Patrick Michaels and former director of the Office of Climatology of Arizona State University Robert Balling, gives a long list of State Climatologists of various US states, including Patrick Michaels himself, subjected to that fate for speaking their unorthodox mind on global warming. Their papers are not published in scientific journals, they are not given space in the media, their reasearch is not receiving funding, they are ridiculed, isolated by their colleagues, losing their status, becoming pariahs, in short obstacled and ostracised in every possible way. No wonder the other scientists, witnessing what happens to their outspoken colleagues, toe the line of the “consensus”. Punishment is an effective method to discourage dissent and so give the impression of consent.
The computer models based on AGW theory have failed to predict global temperatures for the last 15-18 years, as the atmospheric CO2 has been ever increasing.
There are many scientists who have produced refutations of AWG, but they are emarginated, lose jobs and funds. Science – like everything else – is politicised, and AGW more than most other scientific areas.
Do you know what happened to many hypotheses dear to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and AGW supporters, like the Hockey Stick? They got discredited.
A scientific theory must stand empirical control, there is no question about it. Without predictability science doesn’t exist. It’s always possible and easy to find explanations for past events, hindsight is the easy part. A good, valid scientific theory must offer explanations on the basis of which it’s possible to predict future events. If we logically deduce from the theory propositions about observable events and these do not occur, the theory is refuted.
Even if we try to keep the theory afloat by introducing further hypotheses – which the greatest philosopher of science of our time, Sir Karl Popper, previously with the London School of Economics, calls ad hoc hypotheses to indicate their short-term self-serving purpose – , these must be empirically testable independently of the main theory. AGW predicted that, with increasing CO2 emissions, temperatures would go up: this is what the computer models constructed on the basis of the theory and initial conditions concluded. The levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are now the highest they’ve ever been in at least 800,000 years, yet temperatures haven’t risen at all (or, even in the best – or worst – case scenario, have hardly risen) in 15, some say 17 years. The theory, if it’s scientific, should be considered refuted. If it’s political, though, people will cling to it, as believers in Marx theory didn’t accept its refutation even after Stalinism.
Scientific consensus about climate, strictly speaking, covers only very uncontroversial issues. There is no consensus at all, for instance, that there is any impending catastrophe that can be prevented.
The greatest international body supporting catastrophic man-made global warming, namely the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), produces documents of three types. Two of these three types are the original scientific reports, written by teams of climatologists, and the Recommendations for Policymakers, which translate the original reports into practical actions.
The media and politicians only see and read the latter. But these are not written by scientists, but by people like environmentalists and others who have a political and ideological agenda. The Recommendations for Policymakers often don’t reflect what the scientists had written in their reports, so much so that there have been cases of scientists who have complained, repudiated the Recommendations document supposedly – but not really – based on their report, and even left the IPCC.
All this is strangely reminiscent of and analogous to a completely different situation, possibly better known to the general public, at least in Britain: the so-called “sexing up” of the UK intelligence report on Iraq. The journalist Andrew Gilligan explains:
“And what we now know is that, contrary to his campaigning certainty at the time, Blair admits in his memoirs that he privately saw the case for war against Iraq as “finely balanced”. No wonder a little tipping of the scales was needed – or, as Blair also put it in his book, “politicians are obliged from time to time to conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it, where the interests of the bigger strategic goal demand that it be done”.”
Now compare that quotation with this, by scientist Stephen H. Schneider, who believes in human-induced global warming:
“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. … On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. … To avert the risk (of potentially disastrous climate change) we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public imagination. That of course means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. … Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective, and being honest.”
As far as Venice is concerned, there are several factors influencing its sinking, both natural and man-made, owing much to the fragile environment of the Venetian Lagoon and going back to Venice origins, but global warming due to CO2 emissions is not going to figure high on that list.