Commonwealth conference climate change exaggerations just a prelude to next week’s UN extravaganza

Batten down the hatches – Climate fear-mongering to get worse

By Dr. Richard S. Courtney—— Bio and Archives--November 27, 2007

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The Commonwealth conference just completed in Uganda provides a preview of the rhetoric we can expect from delegates at next week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference on the island of Bali, Indonesia.

Britain’s Prince Charles, now a devoted climate campaigner, told the Commonwealth conference, “Climate change has become the greatest challenge facing mankind… It has become a question literally of survival for Commonwealth members like Tuvalu and Kiribati.”


Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon of New Zealand assured attendees: “One way or another, climate change is happening.  To all of us.”  McKinnon seems to think climate change is a new phenomenon and that climate was constant in the past, an assertion that would fail a grade school student.
The language of the final communiqué of the Commonwealth event, the Lake Victoria Climatic Change Action Plan, was classic, “We are conscious that climate change is a direct threat to the very survival of some Commonwealth countries, notably small island states.  We recognize that the cost of inaction on mitigation and adaptation is far greater than the cost of early action.”
The communiqué of the Commonwealth “Youth Forum 6” echoed this sentiment, “We recognise that rapidly changing climatic conditions are a direct result of the lifestyles, actions and decisions of the human race.” The youth believe that “Climate change is having distorting effects on the health of young people, accelerating the spread of water born diseases and other illnesses.” Although such fears are ill-founded, the Youth Forum did include a small concession to their science teachers, an admission not dared by most adults.  “The climate is constantly changing”, they started sensibly before returning to political correctness later in the same sentence. 
Today’s Commonwealth leaders are generally beyond hope when it comes to developing sensible climate policy, except, that is, in a few areas, one being the need for improved adaptation to climate change. On this topic the final communiqué of the event called for “increased financial flows for adaptation, and their improved effectiveness.” Yet, even this uncommonly sensible conclusion didn’t meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s approval. “I am not for adaptation, to adapt like the beaver adapts to winter in Australia.” exclaimed Museveni.  “I think climate changes can be reversed.”
Of course, reversing ‘climate changes’ makes about as much sense as beavers having to adapt to survive Australia’s mild winters (if, that is, beavers were actually found in Australia, which they aren’t – they are indigenous to North America and Europe only).  Humanity has no chance of ‘stopping climate change’ and, like the ‘Australian beaver’, ‘reversing climate changes’ falls completely into the realm of science fiction. 
But politicians never let facts get in the way of a good sound bite so we can expect much more of these sorts of assertions in Bali.  For citizens actually interested in climate science reality, here are some before-the-fact corrections to the upcoming UN conference.
The case for anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW) is getting weaker and weaker, not “stronger and stronger and stronger” as Dr. John Stone of the IPCC’s Working Group II told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this month.  To date, no convincing evidence for AGW has been discovered. And recent global climate behaviour is not consistent with AGW model predictions. Mean global temperature has not again reached the high it did in 1998 (an El Nino year) and it has been stable for the last 6 years despite an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of by 4% since 1998.   Global temperature has not increased since 1998 because, while the northern hemisphere has warmed, the southern hemisphere has cooled. Global warming was supposed to actually be global, not hemispheric.
Nobody knows why the global temperature has stabilised recently nor if and when this stabilisation will cease, but the stabilisation does not support assertions that the science of AGW is ‘settled’, despite what UN spokespeople in Bali will want us to believe.
Of course, there are some facts that are consistent with AGW; e.g. warming of the globe over the last century, and recent Arctic warming.  But there are other facts that are not consistent with AGW; e.g. lack of warming of the globe since 1998, and recent Antarctic cooling.  In general, there is no meaningful evidence that AGW is, or is not happening.
A claim that human-caused global warming exists is merely an assertion: it is not evidence and it is not fact. And the assertion does not become evidence or fact by being voiced, written in words, or written in computer code.  Even a finding of global warming is not evidence of AGW because warming of the Earth does not prove that human activity caused it.  At issue is whether human activity is or is not affecting the changes to the Earth’s temperature that have always happened naturally.  
Nothing is constant in nature: everything changes all the time. And the Earth must have warmed or cooled over the past 100 years if its temperature were not constant over this period. The modest warming that has happened during the last century is well within natural climate variability that has occurred previously. Recent warming could easily be a completely natural recovery from the Little Ice Age that is similar to the recovery from the Dark Age cool period to the Medieval Warm Period.  Indeed, all observed current global climate changes are within the range of natural climate variations that are known to have happened in recent millennia.
In science, an hypothesis that something has changed is merely a speculation unless evidence for the change exists. The fact that global climate shows no unprecedented changes recently means that there is no meaningful evidence that anthropogenic activity has had, or is having a detectable effect on natural changes to global climate. Hence, assertion of AGW is mere speculation.
Many explanations for varying climate are known and proven realities although no complete explanation for natural climate variability is yet understood by science. The absence of such a complete explanation affords the possibility of speculation of AGW but it is not evidence that AGW exists. This is because an inability to fully explain one observed thing is not evidence for the existence of some other not-observed thing (e.g. lack of a full explanation for why some people feel a cold shiver in certain old buildings is not evidence for the existence of ghosts).
In these circumstances, the only valid scientific conclusion from the available data concerning AGW is:

There is no reason to suppose that the causes of global climate changes have altered within recent centuries, and there is no evidence to support the speculation that AGW may have altered them, however the speculation of AGW cannot be conclusively refuted.

Governments need to prepare for possible climate changes whether those changes have an anthropogenic or natural cause. Simply, the cause of the changes has little implication for appropriate policies needed to cope with the climate changes that can be anticipated. And the climate variations that can be anticipated include the full spectrum of changes that have occurred in the past, not only the changes predicted by promoters of AGW.  Scares of hypothetical “tipping points”, run-away sea level rise, massively increased storms, floods, pestilence and drought are simply that, unjustified and unjustifiable scares.  Of course, that won’t stop the UN from issuing even more sensationalist claims of impending disaster in Bali next week.  But then, there’s nothing to stop sensible people from completely ignoring them either.
Tom Harris is an Ottawa-based mechanical engineer and Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (http://www.nrsp.com). Dr. Richard Courtney is a UK-based climate and atmospheric science consultant, IPCC expert reviewer, and an ‘allied scientist’ to NRSP.


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Tom Harris Dr. Richard S. Courtney -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition.

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