The greatest folly of our age is the belief that mankind is changing the climate in a dangerous way. It has no basis in science, as I shall show below.

It is essentially a rejection of science in favour of apocalyptic religion. It is a return to a previous age of irrationalism. It reached a new low last week when hysterical children around the world, led by a rich Swedish schoolgirl prophetess, howled that the end of the world was nigh. They did so during the most benign climate in at least seven centuries, at a time when world health has improved dramatically, and when world food crops are reaching high after high.   

Climate alarm is based on three facts. First, CO2 (carbon dioxide) is a greenhouse gas – one which stops some radiant heat leaving the Earth, thus causing warming. Second, CO2 has risen from about 280 ppm (parts per million) since the 19th Century to about 415 now, mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels. Third, there has been an increase in global temperatures of about 0.80C in this period. Therefore, say the alarmists, the rise in CO2caused the warming and more rise will cause dangerous warming. Wrong on both counts. 

Let me go through some science quickly. CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas. Simple theory shows that it ought to have a small warming effect but in practice none has ever been seen – in over 550 million years of observation. The reasons are perhaps negative feedback (where the system counters change) or overlap in CO2’s only significant absorption band with the far more important bands of water vapour, which accounts for 90% of the greenhouse effect.

CO2, a wonderful, natural, safe, life-giving gas, has little if any effect on the climate but a profound and benign effect on plant life. It has averaged about 2,000 ppm during the last 550 million years but dropped to very dangerous lows about 5 million years ago. By increasing it, mankind has done the planet a power of good, and the Earth is greening.

During the Mediaeval Warm Period, about 900 to 1200 AD, temperatures worldwide, on all five continents, were rather warmer than now while CO2 was lower than now (about 280 ppm). This is confirmed by over a thousand scientific papers and a great mass of historical record. Previous warm periods were even warmer, while CO2 was at 280 ppm. From about 1450 to 1850, temperatures dropped to a ten-thousand-year low in the awful Little Ice Age, when the Thames froze over. CO2 remained at 280 ppm.

It is clear that CO2 is not driving global temperatures. What seems to be driving them is solar activity, especially the emission of charged particles. The Sun was very active in the Mediaeval Warm Period and the 20th Century, when it was warm, and very quiet in the Little Ice Age, when it was cold. The Sun has now gone quiet, and I predict some global cooling if she remains quiet. Predictions of a rise of 30C or more are complete nonsense.

In the last 50 years, there has been no increase in extreme weather events, including hurricanes, storms, droughts and floods. They happen all the time, down the ages. Sea levels have been rising slightly over past centuries, almost certainly a natural recovery from cold times in the past. They are rising now at about 3 mm/year, which will result in a rise by 2100 of about 245 mm (less than 10 inches). Ice at the North Pole has diminished somewhat since 1979 (when satellite measurements began) and increased at the South Pole. Neither behaviour is unusual compared with previous centuries.

In response to a great mass of data and science showing no dangerous manmade climate change, the climate alarm industry – extraordinarily rich and powerful, thanks to political influence – fought back with intimidation, vilification, obfuscation and censorship. “Global Warming” became “Climate Change” when it was obvious the world was not warming as predicted. Scientists were cowed or corrupted. Anyone who told the truth about the climate was shouted down as a “denialist!” and might lose his or her job. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was captured by green activists and political bureaucrats, who perverted its scientific papers into messages of doom and fear. (The more fear, the more funding.) The IPCC has a disgraceful record of distorting science, including the fraudulent “Hockey Stick” graph of its 2001 report, which denied that the Mediaeval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age existed.

A recent desperate ploy is to pretend that “97% of scientists” believe in dangerous manmade climate change. Actually, of the scientific papers surveyed in this case, fewer than 1% of the scientists thought so.

We have many problems in the world today. Manmade climate change is not one of them. But the denial of good science and the embrace of irrationalism is one, a huge one – as we saw last week.

Andrew Kenny is a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal. 

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the IRR.

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