Sizzling miscalculations

The election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States is something I welcome because it gives an opportunity to see if basic change is possible in the policies of the United States – if, in particular, issues of poverty can be realistically tackled. He will find many obstacles barring his way, but I wish him the very best.

Climate change played little part in the election, because neither Obama nor McCain was prepared to challenge the consensus that human-produced carbon dioxide is to blame. It would be political suicide to do so in an atmosphere where the media has swallowed the whole mea culpa scenario – and, to be fair, I have no reason to believe that either candidate disbelieves it.

So nothing is likely to change in that area, and no doubt Mr Obama will surround himself with the usual suspects as advisers and therefore not hear any other views. I will continue to make observations that cast doubt on the reality of human-generated climate change because I believe it important to be aware that the thing is not settled.

Surprisingly, my local UK paper, the Norwich-based Eastern Daily Press, has held up its hands and admitted that it is to blame. Its front page at the end of last month contained a huge picture of the world and read: “The proof – it’s our fault”. While the EDP is to blame for many things – not giving the full picture on climate change, for instance – it probably isn’t to blame for climate change itself, or even for the creation of the world.

The accompanying story reveals that the writer does not know the difference between evidence and proof and is in fact taking a rather gullible view of a paper in Nature Geoscience about polar warming. The paper suggested “for the first time” that there was a discernible human influence on both Arctic and Antarctic, but this is based on climate models that “don’t have the variability that nature provides”, according to atmospheric scientist John Christy. Climate models, basically, can’t prove anything.

The report looked mainly at the Antarctic peninsula, which accounts for about two per cent of the continent, whereas most of Antarctica is cooling. And just 1,000 years ago the Arctic was warmer than today – with no greenhouse gas contribution. A further article in Science magazine points to wind-induced circulation changes in the ocean as the dominant cause of recent ice losses from glaciers draining both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets. Little of this kind of thing reaches the popular media.

Nor does the recent record of the Met Office, which likes to promote human-induced climate change. Association of British Drivers environment expert Paul Biggs points out that on 4 January 2007 the Met Office predicted: “This is likely to be the warmest year on record globally, beating the current record set in 1998.” On 11 April they got even more enthusiastic: “There is a high probability that summer temperatures will exceed the 1971-2000 long-term average.” The Guardian joined in: “Britain set to enjoy another sizzling summer.”

On 31 August the Met Office announced that summer 2007 was the wettest on record, with “normal temperatures”.

On 3 April 2008, the Met Office had another shot: “Summer temperatures across the UK are likely to be warmer than average, and rainfall near or above average.” The summer of 2008, as most of us will remember, was one of the wettest and most miserable on record.

The Met Office predicts a 0.3C rise in temperatures by 2014, despite recent cooling, but what about those sunspots? Or rather, the lack of them? For more than 200 days this year the sun has shown no sunspots at all – unique in the last half century. Since a low number of sunspots is believed by many climatologists to lead to cooling of the earth, where does this leave us?

A recent scientific paper says: “Future behaviour cannot easily be predicted – even in the short term. Recent activity has been abnormally high for at least eight (11-year) cycles.” Such activity is often followed by a minimum solar activity, so it might reasonably argued that we are due for a cooling influence from the sun.

Elsewhere I read that the world is now colder than in 1940. On 29 October, the United States beat or tied 115 low-temperature records for the date. Alaska, which was unusually warm last year, recorded -31C that night, beating the previous low by more than 2C. London had snow in October for the first time in more than 70 years.

The 2007-08 temperature drop wasn’t predicted by the global climate models, but it had been predicted by the sunspots since 2000. Both the absent sunspots and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation now predict a 25-30-year global cooling.
Well, we shall see. In the meantime, we will spend huge amounts of money curbing CO2 emissions and taking other futile measures to combat change. Whatever we do, let’s not talk about the possibility that it may be pointless.