The evidence is clear that natural forces and their feedbacks, not human-caused carbon dioxide, are the primary cause of today’s ‘climate change’
By Ken Wilson, P.Eng. (ret.), Sept. 14, 2023
The IPCC has dominated the funding and development of the anthropogenic global warming narrative since its inception in 1988. The IPCC’s work has been strongly supported by the UN Secretary-General, most Western governments and by most environmental advocacy organizations.
So far, the IPCC has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in modeling studies and research on green energy measures. With the investments that governments have already made in wind turbines and solar panels, the total expenditure to date is in the low trillions of dollars.
To meet the Net Zero by 2050 commitments, the consulting firm McKinsey has estimated a cost of about US$275-trillion. The West’s share of this investment would have an enormous negative impact on Western economies and their competitiveness.
This is especially so if the West pushes ahead first with green energy measures, hoping to set an example for the developing world, but the developing world declines to do so once they see the scale of the damage that the West is inflicting on itself.
Many Scientists and Others Disagree with the IPCC
Many noted scientists, climate modelers, environmentalists, economists, geologists, and engineers have criticized the IPCC’s analysis and its proposed green energy measures.
These include Dr. William Happer, Dr. Richard Lindzen, Dr. William Wijngaarden, Dr. Ross McKitrick, Dr. Christopher Essex, Dr. Henrik Svensmark, Dr. Nir Shaviv, Dr. Steven Koonin, Dr. John Christy, Dr. Judith Curry, Dr. Patrick Moore, Dr. Susan Crockford, Dr. Peter Ridd, Dr. Mark Mills, Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, Dr. Lars Schernikau, Dr. Patrick Frank, Anthony Watts, Tony Heller, Jim Steele, Gregory Wrightstone, Robert Lyman, Michael Shellenberger, Michael Moore, Jeff Gibbs, James Lovelock and, most recently, Dr. John Clauser, co-recipient of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics.
You can Google any of these names for their views, as well as those of Vaclav Smil and the CLINTEL “World Climate Declaration That There Is No Climate Emergency,” with over 1,600 signatories, mostly scientists, from 15 countries.
On the CO2 Coalition website, Nobel winner Dr. Clauser makes the following statement:
The popular narrative about climate change reflects a dangerous corruption of science that threatens the world’s economy and the well-being of billions of people. Misguided climate science has metastasized into massive shock-journalistic pseudoscience. In turn, the pseudoscience has become a scapegoat for a wide variety of other unrelated ills. It has been promoted and extended by similarly misguided business marketing agents, politicians, journalists, government agencies, and environmentalists.
In my opinion, there is no real climate crisis. There is, however, a very real problem with providing a decent standard of living to the world’s large population and an associated energy crisis. The latter is being unnecessarily exacerbated by what, in my opinion, is incorrect climate science.
In January, I posted an essay on the web called The IPCC vs The Facts: The Case for Climate Realism. The essay gives a broad overview of current global warming issues.
Five graphs from the essay are shown below. They illustrate some obvious problems with the claims that the IPCC Executive Council and the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, have been making about the planet facing an imminent global warming catastrophe due to rapidly rising CO2 emissions and the alleged urgent need to rapidly replace fossil fuels with green energy measures.
The Central England Temperature (CET) annual record (red line in Figure 1) is the longest measured temperature record in the world. It began in 1659, and represents temperatures measured in the area bounded by Liverpool, London, and Bristol about latitude 52N. All temperatures before that date have been derived from proxies such as tree rings and isotope measurements of sediment cores and ice cores. The dashed red line shows a linear rising average temperature rate of 0.28 oC/century.
This is a moderate rate of rising temperature. It does not mean, however, that all of these were necessarily benign temperatures. In what is called the Maunder Minimum in the late 1600s, and in the Dalton Minimum in the early 1800s at the depths of the Little Ice Age, it was bitterly cold. Glaciers were still advancing in the Alps, winter fairs were being held on the frozen Thames River, crop failures were severe, and many people starved to death.
In recent years, the higher temperatures in the CET have been causing near-drought conditions in central England, with water shortages in many areas, accompanied by complaints of it getting too hot due to the emission of too much CO2. As long as the CET remains in its present uptrend, we will periodically, but repeatedly, experience new record high temperatures.
The blue line in the figure shows the estimated human-caused emissions of CO2 in millions of tonnes of CO2 since the start of the industrial revolution, about 1750. 91.4% of these emissions have been emitted after 1946. The IPCC modelers’ working assumption is that the rising CO2 level is the primary driver of current and future global warming.
Yet the large rise in CO2 in Figure 1 is shown as having a nearly negligible effect on the CET linear trend. If CO2 really were a strong causative factor in global warming, then the CET curve should be showing a strong exponential rise over the past 74 years. It isn’t.
In fact, there is a negligible correlation between the rapidly rising CO2 levels and the largely linear trend of the CET curve. This lack of correlation contradicts the IPCC’s modelers key assumption that rising CO2 levels are causing the temperature rise in our current Modern Warming Period.
Sea Level Rise
Figure 2, below, shows that the global sea level has been rising about 20 mm (less than an inch) per decade since about 1860. The IPCC’s computer models predict unprecedented, escalating global warming after 1946 due to rising CO2 emissions, leading to unprecedented melting of glaciers, and to an unprecedented rate of rise in the global sea level.
The observed data, however, shows the opposite: a relatively orderly, linear rise in sea level from about 1860 through to 2014. There is no alarming change in the rate of rise in the global sea level after 1946, which is what we should expect if increasing CO2 emissions were the sole cause of the current and future sea level rise. This further invalidates the IPCC’s modeling hypotheses that rapidly rising CO2 emissions are causing an unprecedented recent escalation in sea level rise.
If the global sea level continues to rise at about its current rate, this rise can be readily dealt with by relatively modest adaptation measures such as raising flood-protection works and discouraging development in vulnerable areas.
IPCC Models Run Too Hot
All IPCC computer models assume that the strongest evidence of rising CO2 levels causing global warming will be found in the tropical troposphere, 18 kilometers up in the atmosphere.
The red line in Figure 3 shows the average temperature rise of 102 IPPC climate model runs through to 2014 in the tropical troposphere and the estimated temperature increase to be expected in future years.
The blue circles show the observed high-elevation balloon data for the same region of the troposphere. The green squares show the observed satellite data for the same region. It is clear that the IPCC computer models are running too hot, and that these models are not providing the reliable data that governments need if they wish to formulate prudent climate policies for the future.
The IPCC and its supporters claim that the planet is experiencing unprecedented recent changes in extreme weather. Figure 4 shows the annual variability in the frequency of tropical storms in the upper curve and of hurricanes and typhoons in the lower curve.
However, the observed data does not show any noticeable change in trends over the 51 years of record that would support the contention that rapidly rising CO2 levels are creating a new existential climate threat to the planet.
The cost of hurricanes is increasing over time, but that is due to more people and infrastructure being located in vulnerable areas. This is a land-use issue, not a rising CO2 issue.
Forest management practices brought wildfires largely under control after 1930 with a combination of early fire suppression measures, logging of old growth forest, and controlled burns of slash and forest litter (Figure 5). During the 1980s and 1990s, thinking changed and opposition grew to logging and to the controlled burns of forest litter on a regular basis.
At the same time, in semi-arid areas like California and South Australia, more subdivisions were created in forested areas. Forest litter, which acts like kindling, was allowed to accumulate in these subdivided areas. When fires do occur in these built-up areas, property damages and loss of life can be very high. This is primarily a land-management issue, not a CO2 issue.
The five graphs clarify several key issues.
Figure 1 and Figure 2 provide strong evidence that the rising CO2 level from fossil-fuel emissions is not the primary driver of our current Modern Warming Period. Instead, natural forces and their feedbacks, which have not been adequately incorporated into the IPCC’s computer models, are the primary driving forces of climate change.
Figure 3 shows the large disparity between the IPCC’s computer modeling estimates of what the temperature should be in the tropical troposphere due to rising CO2 emissions, compared to the actual temperatures observed by weather balloons and satellites.
The claims by the UN Secretary-General, the IPCC Executive Panel, and supporting environmental advocacy groups that the planet is facing an imminent risk of a global-warming catastrophe are based on the IPCC’s deeply flawed modeling results. When the IPCC released its AR5 Summary Report for Policymakers in 2014, it stated:
Human influence on the climate system is clear. It is extremely likely (95-100% probability) that human influence was the dominant cause of global warming between 1951 and 2010.
This is an extraordinary claim considering the discrepancy between the modeling results and the observed data. It is also extraordinary, given the weakness of the IPCC’s claims, that Western governments are trying to suppress or eliminate the use of reliable, efficient, affordable fossil fuels and trying to replace them with unreliable, regressive green energy measures.
The folly of these Western policies is clearly evident in the energy, financial, and political chaos that they have already caused in the European Union, United Kingdom, and Sri Lanka, as well as in the role that they played in the decision of Russia’s President Putin to invade Ukraine.
Figure 4 shows a 51-year record of tropical storms and hurricanes. There is no evidence of any significant uptrend in frequency that could be attributed to rising CO2 levels. Graphs with similar behavior are also available for other extreme weather events such as tornados, droughts, and snow cover.
Figure 5 deals with the complicated interactions between climate, forests, fires and humans. Large fires were common in the 1700s and 1800s. In the 1920s, sustained efforts began to reduce property damages from forest fires.
These efforts were largely successful through to the 1990s, after which fire-suppression efforts were eased due to growing opposition to logging and controlled burns of forest litter. The success of the previous decades of fire suppression efforts was now taken for granted. The long-term consequences of subdividing forest land for residential development were not appreciated.
Lax power line maintenance a major source of fires
Fires in recent years have often been caused by human carelessness and sometimes by arson, but now a new fire hazard has been recognized. Power utilities have come under strong pressure from government regulators to convert rapidly to green energy measures, to keep their energy grids stable, to avoid blackouts for their customers, and to keep their electricity rates low.
To achieve these conflicting priorities, power utilities in California, and more recently in Maui, reduced their spending on maintenance of power line right-of-ways and on the replacement of ageing electrical equipment. This has proven to be a false economy.
In hot, dry summers with strong winds, sparking from downed high-voltage electrical equipment has ignited fires that spread rapidly, causing devastating damages and loss of life. This is primarily a man-made problem driven by political and administrative decisions, not a CO2-caused problem.
2023 was expected to be a hot year because of El Niño but this naturally occurring phenomenon appears to have been further boosted by the large Hunga-Tonga volcanic eruption in the South Pacific last year. That eruption injected large amounts of water vapor, which is the strongest greenhouse gas, into the upper atmosphere, adding to global warming. It may take several years for the heat-creating Hunga-Tonga effect to fully dissipate.
The primary causes of current global warming are natural forces, not CO2 emissions. Scientists and governments have neither the knowledge nor the means to control the earth’s climate, at least not at this time.
Further efforts to impose green energy mandates on the world, if they are continued, will only result in the destruction of more wealth, reduced standards of living, reduced food supplies, and deeper social divisions within societies. This will likely lead to more aggressive interactions between nations and alliances as billions of people begin to see their hopes for a better world and a better life disappearing.
And what will be achieved from all this destruction? Very little. Since CO2 is not the primary cause of climate change, we can expect that floods, droughts, and fires will continue to occur much as before, with natural forces and local adaptation measures determining which areas will be impacted most.
These likely outcomes are a result of the drumbeat of fear that has been emanating from the UN Secretary-General, the IPCC Executive Panel, and most large environmental advocacy groups over the past 35 years, with their claim that the planet is facing an existential climate catastrophe due to rising CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
The long-term climate records and the inherent limitations of the minor greenhouse gases (CO2, methane and nitrous oxide) to cause such a catastrophic warming do not support such fears.
Better adaptation measures needed in the future
What is urgently needed at this time is an open and honest debate about the many shortcomings of green-energy measures such as wind and solar, as well as the lack of evidence for the claim that the planet is facing an imminent risk of a global-warming catastrophe in the foreseeable future.
In the decades ahead we will need to identify significant new threats to life and property as they arise and to devise the necessary institutional adaptation measures to minimize losses; we must also ensure that these measures are adequately funded and maintained for as long as they are required.
This is the most effective way for countries to deploy their available economic and intellectual resources where they are most needed. This approach will also encourage countries to find ways of cooperating with one another, as they are now beginning to do, to share their resources to, for example, fight forest fires around the world.
We are in an Ice Age
What few people realize is that, on a technical basis, the Earth remains in the grip of an ice age that began about 3 million years ago. We have had about 50 major cycles of ice-age advances and retreats in that period. We are currently in what is known at the Holocene Interglacial. Interglacials are brief warm periods in a long-term ice age.
Recent interglacials have lasted for about 10,000 to 15,000 years before a new ice-age advance, which usually lasts about 100,000 years, begins to form. We are about 11,000 years into our current Holocene Interglacial.
Some long-term natural forces have already turned negative. If this trend continues, future generations will likely have to contend with much more challenging conditions on the temperature downside than we are currently experiencing on the upside.
We should relish the warmth of the present, not bemoan it. The recent Little Ice Age is only a minor foretaste of what the planet will likely experience further into the future.
To learn more about some of the natural forces that drive climate change, or why the minor greenhouse gases are having only a minor effect on temperature rise, or about past climate changes, or about the greening benefits that the Earth is gaining from the current rise in CO2 levels, you can download a copy of ‘THE IPCC vs THE FACTS, The Case for Climate Realism’, at Climate Realists of Victoria.