“What Evidence,” asks Ronald Bailey’s headline (www.reason.com, April 3, 2015), “Would Convince You That Man-Made Climate Change Is Real?”
The answer: a rational, scientific case rooted in established theory and data would convince me that manmade climate change is a problem. That it is real is not in doubt, for every creature that breathes out emits CO2 and thus affects the climate.
The true scientific question, then, is not the fatuous question whether “Man-Made Climate Change Is Real” but how much global warming our sins of emission may cause, and whether that warming might be more a bad thing than a good thing.
However, Mr Bailey advances no rational case. What, then, are the elements of a rational, scientific case that our influence on the climate will prove dangerous unless the West completes its current self-shutdown?
Here is the mountain the tax-gobbling classes who tend to favor profitable alarmism must climb before they can make out a rational, scientific case for doing anything about our greenhouse-gas emissions.
The tax-gobblers’ mighty mountain
|Step 10. Would the benefit outweigh the cost?|
|Step 9. Can we afford the cost of CO2 mitigation?|
|Step 8. Will any realistic measures avert the danger?|
|Step 7. Will warmer worldwide weather be dangerous?|
|Step 6. Will temperature feedbacks amplify that warming?|
|Step 5. Will greenhouse-gas emissions cause much warming?|
|Step 4. Are humankind raising CO2 concentration substantially?|
|Step 3. Are humankind increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration?|
|Step 2. Is a consensus among climate experts compatible with science?|
|Step 1. Has any climate warming beyond natural variability taken place?|
If the answer to the question at any Step from 1 to 10 on the stony path up the tax-gobblers’ mighty mountain is “No”, there is no rational, scientific basis for climbing any further. Unless one can legitimately reach the top by answering Yes to all ten questions, there is no credible justification for any investment of taxpayers’ funds in trying to make global warming go away.
The mountain that the tax-gobblers have to climb is tall, steep, and difficult. Every policy-maker must climb that mighty mountain, and none can justify shelling out a single red cent on thwarting Thermageddon until he shall have demonstrated, at each step, that there is rational, scientific justification for climbing above that step. Gird your loins, sharpen your crampons, and grip your cromach. Let us climb.
Step 1. Is global warming exceeding natural climate variability?
Step 2. Is consensus among climate experts scientific?
No. And there isn’t one anyway. A recent paper by paid propagandists trying to prove that there was a consensus inadvertently proved that there was not. Cook et al. (2013) claimed that 97.1% of 11,944 papers on “global climate change” endorsed the consensus, which they defined in their introduction as the “scientific consensus” that “most current warming” is anthropogenic. However, setting aside the fact that there has been no “current warming” for getting on for two embarrassing decades, the authors’ own data file shows that they had marked only 64 papers out of 11,944, a dizzying 0.5%, as endorsing the “consensus”.
Step 3. Are we all guilty of increasing CO2 concentration?
No, not necessarily. True, our emissions of CO2 and its atmospheric concentration are rising, but anthropogenic CO2 represents only 3% of the total free CO2 in the Earth-atmosphere system. But in logic – it cannot be repeated often enough – mere correlation does not necessary imply causation.
Professor Murry Salby, late of Macquarie University, Australia, has established that it is the time-integral of temperature changes that causes changes in CO2 concentration, leaving little or no room for any detectable anthropogenic contribution. He is not alone in his findings. If he is right, there is no need to posit any role for CO2 or other anthropogenic influences. On that analysis, climate sensitivity may well be zero.
Cross-correlations by Professor Salby between CO2 change and temperature change. He has found by detailed inspection that the observed record shows CO2 concentration change lagging temperature change by about 8-10 months, approximately the lag that would be expected on the basis of an atmospheric residence time of about 5 years. It is a settled principle of logic that that which occurs second cannot have caused that which occurred first.
Step 4. Is CO2 concentration rising to dangerous new levels?
No. Mr Bailey says CO2 concentration is 30% higher than the 800,000-year peak. So what?
Step 5. Will greenhouse-gas emissions cause much warming?
No – and, on the evidence to date, certainly not as much as the IPCC predicted.
Near-term projections of warming at a rate equivalent to 2.8 [1.9, 4.2] K/century, made with “substantial confidence” in IPCC (1990), for the 303 months January 1990 to March 2015 (orange region and red trend line), vs. observed anomalies (dark blue) and trend (bright blue) at less than 1.4 K/century equivalent, taken as the mean of the RSS and UAH satellite monthly mean lower-troposphere temperature anomalies.
Step 6. Do temperature feedbacks amplify direct CO2 warming?
No. Measurements suggest feedbacks are negative, attenuating direct CO2 warming.
Furthermore, the range of mean global surface temperature change over the past 810,000 years was just 3.5 Cº either side of the long-run average – about the same as the range of temperatures permitted by an ordinary household thermostat. It is difficult to alter the Earth’s temperature, because the atmosphere is sandwiched between two vast heat-sinks: the oceans below and outer space above.
Global surface temperature change over the past 810,000 years, obtained by halving (to correct the result for polar amplification) the temperature anomalies inferred from atmospheric δ18O ratios in ice cores from Vostok station, Antarctica. Absolute global temperature has varied by little more than ±1%.
Step 7. Will warmer worldwide weather be dangerous?
No. A growing body of papers in the literature finds climate sensitivity low – about 1 Cº per CO2 doubling. That is not enough to be harmful.
Steps 8-10. Will any realistic measures avert the danger?
No. Whether mitigation measures should be attempted in any event is an economic question, answered by investment appraisal. The UK’s $8333-per-auto subsidy for electric cars will serve as an example. The two initial conditions for the appraisal are the fraction of global CO2 emissions a mitigation measure is intended to abate, and the cost of the measure.
Going nowhere slowly: The Chevrolet Volt
Typical gasoline-powered auto engines are approximately 27% efficient. Typical fossil-fueled generating stations are 50% efficient, transmission to end user is 67% efficient, battery charging is 90% efficient and the auto’s electric motor is 90% efficient, so that the fuel efficiency of an electric car is also 27%. However, the electric car requires 30% more power per mile traveled to move the mass of its batteries.
CO2 emissions from domestic transport account for 24% of UK CO2 emissions, and cars, vans, and taxis represent 90% of road transport (DfT, 2013). Assuming 80% of fuel use is by these autos, they account for 19.2% of UK CO2 emissions. Conversion to electric power, 61% of which is generated by fossil fuels in the UK, would abate 39% of 19.2% (i.e. 7.5%) of UK CO2 emissions.
However, the battery-weight penalty would be 30% of 19.2% of 61%: i.e. 3.5% of UK CO2 emissions. The net saving from converting all UK cars, vans, and taxis to electricity, therefore, would be 4% of UK CO2 emissions, which are 1.72% of global CO2 emissions, abating 0.07% of global CO2 emissions of 2 μatm yr–1, or 0.00138 μatm. From eqn. (2), assuming 400 μatm concentration at year end on business as usual, forcing abated by the subsidy for converting all UK cars to electricity would be 5.35 ln[400/(400-0.00138)], or 0.00002 W m–2, which, multiplied by the Planck parameter λ0, gives 0.000006 K warming abated by the subsidy.
The cost to the UK taxpayer of subsidizing the 30,000 electric cars, vans, and taxis bought in 2012 was a flat-rate subsidy of $8333 (£5000) for each vehicle and a further subsidy of about $350 (£210) per year in vehicle excise tax remitted, a total of $260.5 million. On that basis, the cost of subsidizing all 2,250,000 new autos sold each year (SMMT, 2013), would be $19.54 bn.
Though the longevity of electric autos is 50% greater than that of internal-combustion autos, the advantage is more than canceled by the very large cost of total battery replacement every few years. No allowance for this extra cost is made. Likewise, the considerable cost of using renewable energy to bring down the UK’s fossil-fueled generation fraction from the global mean 67% to 61% is not taken into account, though, strictly speaking, an appropriate share of the cost of “renewable” electricity generation should be assigned to electric vehicles.
Dividing the $19 bn annual cost by the warming abated gives a unit abatement cost of $3400 tn K–1. Abating the 0.013 K projected warming by global methods of equivalent unit cost would thus cost $45 tn, or approaching $6500 a year per head of global population, or almost two-thirds of $71 tn global GDP.
Stern (2006) wrote that the cost of allowing the then-projected 3 K warming to occur over the 21st century would be 0-3% of global GDP. IPCC (2013, WGII) puts the cost at 0.2-2% of GDP. Assuming that 1 K 20th-century global warming would cost as much as 0.5% of GDP (in fact so small a warming would cost nothing), global mitigation by methods of equivalent unit cost to the UK’s subsidy program for electric vehicles would be 128 times costlier than adaptation.
In general, the cost of mitigation is 1-2 orders of magnitude greater than that of adaptation (Monckton of Brenchley, 2012). Affordable measures are ineffective: effective measures are unaffordable. Too little mitigation is achieved at far too great a cost. Since the premium is 10-100 times the cost of the risk insured, the precaution of insurance is not recommended.
Mr Bailey’s evidence
With that background, let us look at the evidence Mr Bailey adduces. He concedes that the warming rate since 1979 is 0.12-0.16 Cº decade (RSS and UAH respectively). But that is half of the rate predicted by the IPCC in 1990. He asks how we can be sure that the rise in greenhouse-gas concentration just happens to coincide with an entirely natural increase in mean temperature. But that is not what skeptics say. For it is possible that CO2 has contributed to the slight warming of the past 260 years, but it is not likely that CO2 is the major cause of the warming. Absence of correlation necessarily implies absence of causation, and the mismatch between the fluctuations in CO2 concentration change and temperature change demonstrates absence of correlation and hence of causation, at least in respect of the fluctuations.
Mr Bailey asks, “What about converging daytime and night-time temperatures?” That indicates two things: first, that there has been some warming, which is not denied; secondly, that the likelihood of severe storms outside the tropics is diminished, for it is temperature differentials, not absolute temperatures, that drive the intensity of storms. Sure enough, the IPCC admits in its 2013 report that there has been no increase in extra-tropical storminess (and none in tropical storminess, either).
Next, Mr Bailey cherry-picks a couple of months of the year and says that in those months northern-hemisphere snow cover is less by about a tenth than it was in the 1970s. Well, we had no means of measuring snow cover reliably till right at the end of the 70s; and besides, in the rest of the year there has been little, if any, decline in snow cover. Northern-hemisphere snow cover shows little change in the satellite era.
Next, Mr Bailey – who has certainly picked up all the talking-points – talks about Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, but without noticing that neither the extent nor the trend of global sea ice has changed much in the entire 35-year satellite record.
Next talking-point: Greenland, where Mr Bailey excitedly tells us the ice mass has been melting at 215 billion tons a year. However, he somehow fails to point out that the summit of the Greenland ice sheet was 2.5 Cº warmer than today a few thousand years ago, and the ice did not melt; and that from 1992-2003 a vast study area on the Greenland ice-sheet showed the ice growing at a rate of 2 feet per decade; and that even if we could measure accurately how much Greenland is gaining or losing ice 215 billion tons a year would cause an annual increase in sea level 0f – wait for drum-roll – half a millimeter.
Next, Mr Bailey, still on message – just the wrong one – says “most of the world’s 130,000 mountain glaciers are also disappearing”. No, they’re not. Actually there are more than 160,000 of them and nearly all of them are in Antarctica, which has not warmed in the satellite era, so there is no particular reason for the glaciers to vanish, and they haven’t vanished. One of them is 40 miles wide and 250 miles long.
In those parts of the world where there has been some recession of mountain glaciers, such as the Alps, researchers are finding long-lost medieval forests, mountain passes and even an entire silver mine. Besides, the retreat of the mountain glaciers began in many places in 1880, long before we could have had any influence.
And there is evidence that all but the very highest peaks of the Cordillera de Merida in the Andes were ice-free thoughout most of the Holocene. They are not ice-free now.
Next, water vapor. Mr Bailey cites a couple of studies that say there has been some increase in column water vapor in the atmosphere since 1982. However, the ISCCP satellite data, probably the most accurate way of determining this tricky variable, do not show column water vapor increasing.
Mr Bailey has his science wrong here. He says, “As temperatures increase by 1 Celsius degree, global average water vapor in the atmosphere is expected to increase by around 7%. No, the carrying capacity of the space occupied by the atmosphere for water vapour is expected to increase by 7% per Celsius degree, in accordance with the Clausius-Clapeyron relation. Just because the atmosphere can carry more water vapor, that does not mean it will. The atmosphere is not 100% saturated.
Then we are told precipitation is increasing. Well, the IPCC did not quite say that in its latest assessment report. It said confidence was high that precipitation had increased over northern-Hemisphere land areas since 1901, but that confidence in rainfall gains or losses elsewhere was low.
So let us look at the longest northern-Hemisphere mid-latitude rainfall record we have, to get some idea of how much the change in precipitation has been. Here goes.
Less than two inches more rain per year after a quarter of a millennium. Not at all easy to distinguish that from natural variability.
Mr Bailey is no Pause Denier. He admits there has been little or no warming recently, and cites Roy Spencer’s analysis of 102 models that found they had all exaggerated the warming trend by a factor of 2-5. Yet he trots out the ClimComm talking-point about the “missing heat” having gone into hiding in the ocean.
So let us look at the rate of ocean warming, measured by the 3600+ ARGO automated bathythermograph buoys.
Much of Mr Bailey’s reasoning is based not on the observed data nor on theory but on predictions. For instance, he cites an article in Nature Climate Change, a less than reliable rent-seekers’ rag, predicting that the warming rate will rise to 0.25 Cº per decade by 2020. But the IPCC predicted short-term warming at 0.28 Cº per decade as far back as 1990, and the warming rate since then has been half what it predicted. Why should we now believe predictions that have proven exaggerated by double?
Mr Bailey says the main reason for his conversion to the Temple of Thermageddon is that some researchers think climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 concentration might be as high as 6 Celsius degrees. But the main reason for these high-sensitivity estimates was the belief that the Bode feedback-amplification equation would apply unmodified to the climate, and that in particular no homeostatic asymptote would bound the output temperature.
The graph of the Bode equation shows that if feedbacks are strongly net-positive the equation would lead us to expect rapidly increasing climate sensitivity. But it does not apply to the climate. Researchers had wandered into a field with which they were not familiar, and had made the huge mistake of assuming that an equation that represents the behavior of dynamical systems such as an electronic circuit is applicable unmodified and undamped to dynamical systems such as the climate. Well, it isn’t. And without it, high sensitivity vanishes.
Mr Bailey concludes by asking:
“If generally rising temperatures, decreasing diurnal temperature differences, melting glacial and sea ice, smaller snow extent, stronger rainstorms, and warming oceans are not enough to persuade you that man-made climate is occurring, what evidence would be?”
Well, if Mr Bailey does me the courtesy of reading the above, he will realize that temperatures are not rising by much, glacial ice-melt (if occurring) is on too small a scale to raise sea level by much, global sea ice extent shows little change in two generations, ditto northern-hemisphere snow cover, there has been little increase in rainfall and (according to the IPCC) little evidence for “stronger rainstorms”, and the ocean warming is so small that it falls within the considerable measurement error.
The evidence he adduces is questionable at best on every count. The Temple of Thermageddon will have to do better than that if it wants to convince us in the teeth of the evidence.
I have presented much of the evidence in the form of simple graphs. Do readers like the way the graphs are presented, many of them with a small “Post-It note” highlighting the main point?
Back we go, down the tax-gobblers’ mighty mountain to base camp. Our attempt to climb it has failed at every single step. Even with the aid of CO2-emitting helicopters to lift us and our equipment to each new step as we fail to climb the one below it, no rational scientific or economic case can be made for taking any action whatsoever today in a probably futile and certainly cost-ineffective attempt to make global warming that is not happening as predicted today go away the day after tomorrow.
The correct policy to address what is likely to prove a non-problem – and what, even if it were every bit as much of a problem as the tax-gobblers would wish, could not by even their most creative quantitative easing be cost-effectively solved by any attempt at mitigation – is to have the courage to do nothing now and adapt later if necessary.
The question is why, in the teeth of the scientific and economic evidence, nearly all of the global governing class were so easily taken in or bought out or both by the strange coalescence of powerful vested interests who have, until now, profited so monstrously by the biggest fraud in history at such crippling expense in lives and treasure to the rest of us, and at such mortal threat to the integrity and trustworthiness of science itself.