This is the tenth anniversary of a sombre event in the history of ideas. The event itself was shocking enough, but more shocking was the aftermath. It showed that mankind does not always progress from darkness to enlightenment, and can revert to the dark.

In November 2009, some whistle-blower released a series of emails that scientists behind climate alarm were sending each other from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, England. These scientists are central to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN advocacy group promoting the fear that mankind is changing the climate in a dangerous way.

Until then, the data showed that rising CO2 was having little if any effect on the climate, and the warming of the last 150 years was no different from previous natural warm periods. The ‘Climategate’ emails revealed the alarmists to be hiding and distorting those data.

Climategate was preceded by a worse scandal in 2001, in the IPCC’s 3rd Assessment Report. Scientists and historians had known there was a worldwide Mediaeval Warm Period, about 900 to 1200 AD, when temperatures were rather warmer than now, while CO2 was lower than now, and the Sun very active. The Vikings had a colony on Greenland growing crops where it is now too cold. Then the Sun went quiet and temperatures dropped, while CO2 stayed the same. The Little Ice Age, about 1300 to 1850 AD, saw the worst cold of the last ten thousand years, accompanied by awful weather extremes. The Thames used to freeze over, shown in paintings of ‘Frost Fairs’. In 2001, the IPCC denied that this had happened.

The IPCC showed a graph – six times! – of the infamous ‘Hockey Stick’. On it, temperatures were steady from 1000 to 1900 AD (the handle of a hockey stick) and then shot up to unprecedented highs in the 20th century (the blade). The Mediaeval Warm Period had been abolished! The Little Ice Age had been disappeared! The Hockey Stick was brandished around the world as positive proof of dangerous manmade global warming. Its main author, Michael Mann, had presented his graph to Nature Magazine, where it was instantly accepted. The IPCC, equally uncritically, published it to tremendous acclaim. It was nonsense, and quickly exposed. But it remains the bedrock of climate alarm.

Steve McIntyre, an expert statistician, asked Mann for his data and methods. Mann refused to reveal his computer codes but grudgingly gave his data. They were terrible. The whole graph depended on a single file of tree-ring data known to be wrong. The statistical methods were blatantly wrong. McIntyre and a colleague published the rebuttal of the Hockey Stick (which I can send to anyone). The Hockey Stick was fraudulent.

Here are some Climategate emails. Prof Phil Jones had ‘just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline’. He wrote to Mann, ‘If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone’. Showing they knew the Hockey Stick was nonsense, Keith Briffa wrote: ‘For the record, I do believe that the proxy data do show unusually warm conditions in recent decades. …. I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1000 years ago.’ In public the alarmists denied the lack of warming for over a decade (contrary to their predictions). But, in private, Jones wrote: ‘The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.’ Many emails showed their attempts to silence, vilify and ridicule anybody who told the truth about climate change, to prevent their getting published and to tarnish their reputations.

Worse than Climategate itself was the disgraceful cover-up by the climate alarm establishment. Sweetheart tribunals treated the culprits with kid gloves. No hard questions were asked. The expert witnesses who could have damned the culprits were not called. The verdict was that some scientists might have been a bit sloppy but that they were all jolly good chaps, and the real villains had been anybody who exposed their deceit.

Ten years later, the BBC, the Guardian and the rest of the climate alarm gang have repeated these exonerations, and say the real evildoers were those who questioned the scare. Climate alarm is the biggest funding gravy train in history, providing lucrative jobs and grants for a multitude. More important, it feeds an ancient, religious need by the privileged classes to believe that certain naughty people have sinned, and the world will be visited with great punishment. Today the sin is capitalism and the punishment is dangerous global warming. So we descend into the irrationalism of a past dark age, such as the 17th Century, when witches were blamed for droughts and famines, and burnt alive by the righteous establishment.

Climate hysteria

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 0.8 deg C in this period. Therefore, say the alarmists, the rise in CO2 caused 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 3 deg C 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 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, less 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.

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

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