Guest post by David Archibald
Next week I am hosting a dinner party at which a Fellow of the Royal Society will be guest of honour – one of the Gang of Four who got the Society to tone down their position of global warming alarmism. So it is apposite to consider the outlook for energy and food supply in the UK. Peak coal production in that country was 100 years ago at 292 million tonnes. The UK’s peak oil production was in 1999 with production continuing to fall rapidly. The UK is now importing almost all of its fossil fuel requirements. It decided to switch to relying upon wind power, but recently found that turbines were lasting only about half as long as the wind industry said they would. The Climate Change Act, effectively de-industrialising the country, was passed in the House of Commons in October 2008 by 463 votes to three, even as snow was falling outside. The winters since that act was passed in 2008 have been particularly bitter, but that is only a taste of what is to come.
The UK imports 40% of its food requirements but is still accepting immigrants while having a high unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent. With respect to the 60% of the food requirement grown in country, the length of the thermal growing season for crops has been calculated back to 1772. The longest growing season in the 241 years back to 1772 was 300 days in 2000. The average growing season in the mid-19th century was 240 days with the shortest growing season being just 181 days in 1859. The world is returning to the climate of the mid-19th century as a best case outcome, as will the UK.
Figure 1: Length of thermal growing season in central England
The Dalton Minimum, caused by Solar Cycles 5 and 6, is evident as well as the 1970s cooling period.
So how much less food will the UK be able to grow when the length of the growing season is reduced by 45%? That is something for the sceptred isle to ponder on. 1859 is significant in that it is the year that glaciers started retreating worldwide in response to a Sun that was becoming more active. One measure of solar activity, the Aa Index, which is an index of the Sun’s geomagnetic activity, began increasing from a low of five in the mid-19th century to a peak of 37 in 2003. It has now fallen back to a level of about 9, even though we are near the peak of Solar Cycle 24. We should draw inferences from natural phenomena, and we should choose wisely from the phenomena available to interpret. The fact that the temperature of the planet has not increased for 16 years is not important in itself, the fact that the Sun has entered a deep sleep is very important.
Figure 2: Aa Index 1868 – 2013
The 1970s cooling period was associated with an interval of a low Aa Index. The Aa Index has returned to the levels of the late 19th century.
There has already been an increase in winter deaths in the UK as some pensioners have not been able to afford to heat their houses. Starvation, on the other hand, is something you can do all year round, irrespective of the season. As the prices of fossil fuels that aren’t oil converge towards the oil price as the oil price itself rises, physically doing anything in the UK will use energy priced as if the energy source was oil. The UK will find itself bidding for the shrinking supplies of oil and grain, the two basic commodities that keep machines and men fed, on international markets as the decade progresses. It can’t do much about what happens beyond its borders, but it could refrain from doing things that harm itself and it could also be trying to move beyond fossil fuels to an energy source that is less ephemeral than the wind. Never mind, the next 20 years will be a cathartic experience for those living in the UK, and character-forming, and testing. It will be a large scale version of the Darwin Awards in which everyone gets to participate by virtue of voting for politicians who vote for things like the Climate Change Act 2008. Choosing politicians via the ballot box always has consequences for one’s standard of living. As basic commodities become scarcer and the planet cools, that choosing may affect whether or not one gets to live at all.
In a way, what is in store for the UK is their just rewards for a lack of faith – a lack of faith in the religion that their forebears gave them courtesy of the King James Bible, a self-loathing of the culture that gave them a high standard of living, even though that was a relatively brief period in the Thatcher years, and a reversion from the scientific flowering that began with Newton to the witchcraft and voodoo that is modern climate science. Individuals with faith are more successful than individuals without faith. That is also true of nations. Just as the Israelites in the desert began worshipping a golden calf to Moses’ consternation, the scientific establishment of the UK reverted to a form of animism, seeing spirits in living things. The high priest of that movement is a scientist by the name of James Lovelock, who recanted upon receiving a bill of £6,000 for his winter heating. The UK nation as a whole is repeating Professor Lovelock’s personal experience – both the bill and the epiphany.