Dr. John Happs
It was in Lima, Peru that the United Nations (UN) travelling climate circus met in 2014 for COP 29 in its futile attempt to limit global carbon dioxide emissions which they blamed for (imaginary) global warming. Incredibly, national leaders were told that, by pledging to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, global temperature could be limited to 2oC above the pre-industrial level.
The Lima conference was attended by more than 10,000 delegates, flying in their ministerial jets with another 1,000 observers joining them. Collectively, they created a “carbon footprint” larger than any of the many previous climate jamborees. It was reported that:
“Organisers rejected powering the village with solar panels on the grounds they were too unreliable, while efforts to hook the site up to the national grid – which is half-fed by renewable energy – failed due to technical problems.”
Electricity was supplied to the conference by diesel generators since the available renewable hydro-power couldn’t cope. Curiously, no electric or hybrid vehicles were used by attendees and bicycles were largely shunned due to dangerous driving conditions. Transport came from 300 diesel-powered cars.
Oh the irony!
The 2oC target was widely discussed and promoted by the usual vested interest groups and most likely believed by many of the gullible government representatives. But where did that 2oC target, come from? It has no basis in science and appears to have its origins, not from any empirical data but from a random sentence in a 1975 paper by the economist William Nordhaus.
Nordhaus from Yale University claimed in a Cowles Foundation discussion paper (Nordhaus WD (1977) “Strategies for the control of carbon dioxide” that a 2oC increase in global temperature would be bad for humanity.
Nordhaus’s claim was seized upon by advocacy groups and promoted by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief scientific adviser.
When questioned, Schellnhuber conceded that:
“Two degrees is not a magical limit-it’s clearly a political goal.”
Who would have guessed?
Dr. Hans von Storch agreed, saying that: “The two-degree target has little to do with serious science.”
Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. explained in 2017 that:
“The 2-degree goal is an arbitrary round number that was politically convenient. So it became a sort of scientific truth. However, it has little scientific basis but is a hard political reality.”
On the 6th September, 2007, Dr. Phil Jones, Head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, tried to explain the origin of the 2oC limit to Christian Kremer:
“The 2 deg C limit is talked about by a lot within Europe. It is never defined though what it means. Is it 2 deg C for the globe or for Europe? Also when is/was the base against which the 2 deg C is calculated from? I know you don’t know the answer, but I don’t either! I think it is plucked out of thin air.”
Indeed it was plucked out of thin air but there are so many obvious problems with this figure it is surprising that anybody with a modicum of common sense would take it seriously. So what would happen if we did see a 2oC rise in global temperature?
Not very much it seems.
As a species, modern human beings (Homo sapiens) were thought to have emerged from a predecessor within the genus Homo between 300,000 and 200,000 years ago. Since that time, global temperature has fluctuated dramatically compared to current shifts. Clearly those many fluctuations must have occurred via natural processes.
The last 11,000 years has seen big global temperature swings. Our ancestors survived the last glacial maximum, the Holocene climatic optima 7,000 and 4,000 years ago, the Roman Warm Period 2,000 years ago, the Medieval Warm Period, 1,000 years ago and the more recent Little Ice Age (Approx.1650-1850).
In summary, humans have survived an ice age maximum, with ice sheets covering much of Europe and North America with global temperatures around 8oC lower than today. People have survived and thrived during periods of warming around 4oC higher than today. This has been achieved by adapting to the condition, initially with primitive technology. Today’s technology will enable us to adapt to anything that climate change can throw at us. Alarmism over an imaginary 2oC temperature rise is simply unfounded and silly.
The notion of a “pre-industrial temperature” is simplistic and meaningless since the implication is that the pre-industrial temperature actually had a numerical and static value. We don’t know, with any certainty exactly what is meant by the vague term “the pre-industrial period” let alone what the “pre-industrial temperature” was.
We see “pre-industrial” defined as the period 1850-1899, according to the “Information Reference Document” prepared and adopted by the EU Climate Change Expert Group ‘EG Science’ 9th July 2008, 16:15 Final Version, Version 9.1.9.
In fact the Industrial Revolution is generally recognized as starting around 1760 and extending to between 1820 and 1840 so any reference to “pre-industrial temperature” is meaningless because of such uncertainties.
The climate alarmists also tell us that a 2oC temperature rise above the “pre-industrial temperature” would somehow take the world into “unknown territory” and inevitable disaster. Well that territory is not unknown. The Medieval Warm Period (800-1400 AD) was warmer by up to 4oC. It was global and beneficial for humans. Crops flourished and human populations thrived.
The Earth has warmed from the Little Ice Age to the more pleasant temperatures experienced today. In other words, we have already experienced, survived and thrived with that 2oC temperature rise.
Climate alarmists never explain why being as warm as the Medieval Warm Period will be disastrous when history tells us otherwise. Neither do they tell us why life didn’t come to an abrupt end at anytime over the last 10,000 years when temperatures exceeded those of the Medieval Warm Period. There is no evidence to indicate that a 2oC temperature rise with the added bonus of more carbon dioxide would be anything other than beneficial.
Climate alarmists want us to believe that global temperature can be controlled by adjusting the pitifully small levels of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions yet they cannot explain why satellite and radio-sonde data (and even some surface temperatures) show that global temperatures have remained unchanged over at least the last 20 years despite rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Despite this evidence alarmists, including the political/ideological Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), continually tell us, with no empirical evidence, that doubling the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide would raise global temperature by 1.5oC to 4.5oC and this can be prevented by substantially reducing our use of hydrocarbon fuels.
In 2014, Victor and Kennel showed why the IPCC’s target of 2oC is ill-defined, meaningless and unattainable and that a global mean temperature cannot be linked with human health or the well-being of the planet.
So-called “record temperatures” often referred to by alarmists to over-hype their case are taken from limited terrestrial thermometry which any first year university student studying climate science would point out is notoriously unreliable.
Land-based thermometers tell us little about average continental temperatures since coverage is extremely sparse – especially over large land-masses such as Australia, Africa and South America where sampling is patchy at best. Additionally there is little confidence in the way data are collected and homogenized (adjusted). The large gaps in continental temperature measurements are either ignored or filled in with “guessed” data.
An additional problem is that land-based thermometers are typically placed in urbanized areas with little cooling from vegetation but often with artificial heating from buildings due to the Urban Heat Island Effect as Kukla et al. (1986) have observed:
A paper published by Wu and Yang (2013) reported evidence showing how urbanization is responsible for up to 68% of the total regional warming. They concluded that 100% of the so-called trends in the number of hot days and “record temperatures” is due to poor siting of temperature stations, and has nothing to do with imaginary anthropogenic global warming.
Temperatures vary geographically, mainly with latitude and altitude, and also with season, time of day, and local weather conditions. The idea of a pre-industrial temperature is vague and has been deliberately linked to industrialization despite global temperature being controlled by many factors.
Global temperatures change with solar activity and are influenced by natural fluctuations such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Arctic Oscillation, El Nino – La Nina cycles, The Indian Ocean Dipole, the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide can only have a trivial impact.
There are factors we know influence global temperature and some are reasonably well understood. There are factors we know influence global temperature that are poorly understood. There are also likely to be other factors that influence global temperature that are unknown. As Donald Rumsfeld famously said in 2002:
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Rumsfeld could well have been talking about the many factors that influence the Earth’s climate and to argue that the minute level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is the principal driver of climate is to ignore the vast amount of literature pointing to other more influential factors.
There is no cause for alarm over temperature rise. We have seen how adaptable we are as a species and this is further exemplified by population distributions across Australia and around the globe.
Populations living in parts of Australia, such as Marble Bar in Western Australia and those living in parts of Siberia, such as Oymyakon experience a temperature difference of +41oC to -68oC. That is a difference of more than 100oC yet the alarmists go into paroxysms over an imaginary 2oC temperature rise.
How can anyone take such concerns seriously?
An individual can move from their living room into a nearby room that is several degrees cooler or warmer and they will scarcely notice the difference yet we are expected to believe that a 2oC global temperature rise, even if it could be measured, would destroy life on Earth.
Why don’t politicians take heed of the hopeless climate predictions that have been made in the last few decades by crusading celebrities, politicians and scientists who should know better? There have been so many climate alarmists contesting the title of “Clown Prince of Climate Predictions” it’s difficult to know who to vote for.
Apart from our very own Dr. Tim Flannery, a front-runner must be Al Gore who predicted in 2006:
“We have 10 years left to save the planet from turning into a total frying pan.”
At short-odds, Canadian Greens politician Elizabeth May predicted in 2009:
“We have hours to act to avert a slow-motion tsunami that could destroy civilization as we know it.”
UK’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown also has good form, predicting in 2009:
“We have 50 days to save the world from global warming.”
Fortunately, Prince Charles gave us a little more time before disaster would strike, predicting in 2009:
“Nations are at a defining moment in world history — we have 96 months to save the planet.“
Perhaps Charles and other crusading celebrities will cut back on their lavish lifestyles and stop flying around by private jet. They might even sell a few of their properties to lower their carbon footprint and help save the planet.
We can understand why such silly predictions are made by scientific illiterates but such unfounded alarmism about (imaginary) global warming from scientists is inexcusable.
In March, 2000 an equally foolish prediction was made by climate scientist Dr. David Viner when he said that, within a few years:
“Winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event and children just aren’t going to know what snow is.”
In 1988 former NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen predicted that much of lower Manhattan would be under water by 2008 because of sea level rise. He said:
“The West Side Highway (which runs along the Hudson River) will be under water and there will be tape across the windows across the street because of high winds. And the same birds won’t be there.”
“There will be more police cars – well you know what happens to crime when the heat goes up.”
Our very own Australian climate scientist Dr. Andy Pitman predicted that:
“The weather events that have not even been imagined yet will become common and we will be seeing events unprecedented in our region’s history.”
“I expect by 2050 … people just don’t go outside.”
So according to one of our “best and brightest”, in a mere 30 years from now, we will not be able to venture outside because of that 2oC temperature rise.
This is the same Andy Pitman who, in 2013, famously told the audience in the University of Western Australia’s Alexander Lecture Theatre that the IPCC’s AR4 (2007) expressed:
“Considerable confidence that climate models provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at continental scales and above, 50 to 100 years away.”
Except that those models have proved to be spectacularly wrong:
For the university grant-seekers, the promoters of unreliable, inefficient wind and solar devices, those radical environmentalists wanting to stifle economic growth and prosperity and the other vested interest groups, a 2oC temperature rise is really not the issue, rather it is the pretext.
The 31 page Paris Agreement from COP21 will be remembered as a recipe for unfounded alarmism. Fortunately, it is not legally binding and politicians with just a modicum of commonsense should see through this political/ideological manifesto and distance themselves from such nonsense.
Dr. John Happs M.Sc.1st Class; D.Phil.
John has an academic background in the geosciences with special interests in climate, and paleoclimate. He has been a science educator at several universities in Australia and overseas and was President of the Western Australian Skeptics for 25 years.
Now retired from academia and consulting work, Dr. Happs frequently writes to scientists, journalists and politicians, providing evidence-based information about climate change whilst exposing the ways in which the issue has become captured by politics and ideology. He has had one of his letters, detailing IPCC malfeasance, tabled in the Canadian Parliament. He gives regular talks on climate change to community groups such as Probus, U3A and Rotary since he believes that the public has essentially obtained its information about climate change through the media and political commentary.