Guest opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
I learned in school that King Canute (990 – 1035 AD) was the most stupid King in English history (Figure 1). He was so ignorant and arrogant he believed he could stop the tide. World leaders in Paris led by President Obama, who promised to stop sea level rise in his election campaign, are the modern day equivalent of Canute’s mentality.
Later historical research discovered documents that changed the entire story. People believed Canute was the greatest King and capable of doing anything. He obviously was a great King because he realized the limitations of his power and the need to lower people’s expectations. He staged an event to show there were things he could not control. He sat on his throne by the ocean and ordered the tide to stop rising. It is great leaders who know the limits of their power. It is necessary to remind others.
It was the historians of subsequent Kings who wrote the false Canute narrative. They did not want to compete with the people’s view of Canute, so they chose to get ahead by pushing him down rather than pulling themselves up.
The modern day Canute’s are not great leaders. They demonstrated their limitations in Paris where they planned to stop climate change. Figure 2 shows a symbol we can use to represent their stupidity. It shows the range of temperatures and climate variability over the last 420,000 years. Temperatures range is over 12°C, as the Earth swung naturally between very cold glacial periods and very warm interglacial periods. Three of the last four warm interglacial periods were warmer than today.
The temperature variations in Figure 2 are the result of thousands of variables all interacting to create the weather, of which climate is the average. To achieve their “stop climate change” objective the world leaders gathered in Paris must control all the variables.
Figure 2: Stop Climate Change.
Source: The author.
Stopping climate change means creating a “flat line” temperature record but that, like on a heart monitor, would mean the patient died.
They are like the original interpretation of Canute ignorant and arrogant enough to think they have that power. They did not look at the IPCC reports because if they did they would discover what Klaus-Eckart Puls found.
“One day I started checking the facts and data—first I started with a sense of doubt but then I became outraged when I discovered that much of what the IPCC and the media were telling us was sheer nonsense and was not even supported by any scientific facts and measurements.”
They didn’t read what Puls wrote, especially his comment that
”Scientifically it is sheer absurdity to think we can get a nice climate by turning a CO2 adjustment knob.”
They believe that by turning the knob, like Canute held up his hand and ordered the tide to stop, they can stop climate change.
Which variables must they control to stop climate change? The answer is simple, all the ones deliberately ignored by the IPCC. The list is very long because the IPCC list was deliberately shortened by the definition given to them in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Article 1
“Climate change” means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.
The IPCC authors know the limitations of their work, but the politicians don’t know. By the time the IPCC Assessment Report 4 (AR4) was written, under pressure from skeptics about the limitations, they inserted a broader definition.
Climate change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.
It was apolitical ploy. It did not and could not change anything because of the cumulative format of their Reports. To apply that definition requires scrapping the entire process and starting over. They wanted to be able to say they knew of the problem, so they put it as a footnote in the Summary For Policymakers (SPM) of AR4.
The long list of variables they must control is all those omitted by the IPCC. Their short list appears in the “Forcings” diagram from the 2001 IPCC TAR Report (Figure3).
The right-hand column labeled LOSU, which stands for Level Of Scientific Understanding, underscores the challenge they face. Seven of the nine are medium or low, and if you act without understanding, the chances of disaster are greater than not acting. For example, when global cooling was the consensus from 1940 to 1980 people demanded action. One proposal involved building a dam across the Bering Straits. The idea was to reduce cold-water flows to the North Pacific to create warmer water and raise temperatures in the middle and higher latitudes around the globe. What would that have done to temperatures in the warmer period from 1980 to 1998? If you want to play God, you need to know what you are doing.
The point of Canute’s exercise was to show there were things well beyond his control. The leaders in Paris and the IPCC scientists and bureaucrats who advise them don’t recognize the limitations.
This is not an argument for a religious answer or, necessarily, the need for a God. It is a result of the vacuum left when a belief system is removed. As G. K. Chesterton said
“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”
There is a reason why books, like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion or Christopher Hitchen’s God is Not Great, are part of today’s wider discussions. It began with science choosing to defeat Christianity using Charles Darwin. Although he was an atheist, he was, like Copernicus, a reactionary not a revolutionary and realized the implications of his ideas.
Before Darwin, western universities comprised two faculties, The Natural Sciences and The Humanities. Once science used Darwin’s theory to replace God as the Creator it left a void. It required an answer to the question of who created the Universe, but more important the question of who put humans here and made them so markedly different from all the other species. It was a question that Alfred Russel Wallace (Figure 4) posed to Darwin directly.
The academic world filled the void created by removing God as the answer by creating the Social Sciences. Many believe the name is an oxymoron while others think that applying science to humanity is dehumanizing. As mathematician and philosopher, A.N. Whitehead said,
“There is no more common error then to assume that, because prolonged and accurate mathematical calculations have been made, the application of the result to some fact of nature is absolutely certain.”
Darwin also crossed the line into the social sciences when he took Thomas Malthus’s Essay on Population with him on the Beagle, declaring it the most influential material on his thinking. Darwin’s ideas captured the thinking of Herbert Spencer, who coined the phrase “Survival of the fittest.” In turn, Darwin was taken by the idea and included it in the 1872 Sixth edition of Origin of Species.
In western society people began to view science and technology as the source of solutions to all human problems. Science and technology were also credited with all major advances inhuman history. Parallel development of the new paradigm of environmentalism provided a new form of religion for young people looking for Chesterton’s “anything”.
In this political and social environment, 190 world leaders met in Paris to advance the belief that they can stop climate change. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led them as the modern day Canute (Figure 5). He set the stage for his demands when in 2014 he said that
“…climate change has been one of his top priorities since taking the office in 2007. He noted that progress has been made but warned the time for decisive global action is now, else the world risks climate chaos.”
Figure 5: Ban Ki-moon in Paris holding up his hand and asking the tide to stop, but failing.
Source: The author
Consider the challenge they face with just one variable – the Sun. Astronomers define our Sun as a variable Yellow Dwarf Star that is approximately half way through its 10 billion-year cycle. It is the major source of energy in our climate system. It is so dominant that the IPCC ignore one other source, geothermal heat from the nuclear activity within the Earth as inconsequential. To stop almost all of the variability of temperature and climate change that are shown in the graph in Figure 2 they must stop changes in the Sun. This is a much greater challenge than stopping the tide for the modern ignorant and arrogant Canute’s.
Ban Ki-moon said,
We are also the last generation that can fight climate change.
Hopefully, future historians will report that his was the last generation that ignorantly and arrogantly believed they could stop climate change and sanity finally prevailed, but I won’t wait for the tide to come in.