The warmer the climate, the less extreme the weather. Storms, hurricanes, floods and droughts would lessen in frequency and severity in a warmer world.

If rising CO2 were warming the planet (it isn’t), it would reduce weather extremes, which would be a good thing. If everywhere on Earth, everywhere in land, sea and air, was at exactly 40 degrees C, there would be no weather extremes. In fact, there would be very little weather at all, apart from that caused by the Earth’s rotation.

The benign, healthy weather of the 20th and 21st Centuries is to a considerable extent because the world has warmed slightly in this time. The warmer weather of a thousand years ago was even healthier. A cold climate increases extreme weather, as was shown by the terrible weather extremes of the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, which included the coldest climates in the last ten thousand years. The reasons come from basic thermodynamics.

What a pity that none of the rich, powerful, dangerous charlatans attending the latest tragicomedy at COP27 at a luxury resort in Egypt seem to know anything about thermodynamics. If they understood the simplest thermodynamics of the engines on the expensive private jets that have taken them to the climate conference (where they will denounce air travel for other people), they would know they are talking nonsense when they say that rising CO2 is causing more extreme weather.

Here are the basic thermodynamics. Like everything to do with the climate, full understanding is beyond our reach, but we do know something about its physical principles.

Extreme weather events are not driven by absolute temperatures but by temperature differences. Many weather phenomena such as winds, storms and hurricanes are heat engines. A heat engine is a system that converts heat energy into work. Work is energy that can make solids, liquids or gases change their movement. In a heat engine, heat flows through a heat source (the fire of a boiler, a nuclear reactor) through an engine (a turbine or piston engine) to a heat sink (air or water that cools the condensers at a power station). The bigger the difference in temperature between the heat source and the heat sink, the more efficient the engine is: you get more electricity for each ton of coal or each gram of nuclear fuel.

Heat source

At Koeberg, the heat source is the hot water from the reactor, which is at about 320 deg C, and the heat sink is the ocean, which is at about 13 deg C. If the ocean warmed to 23 deg C, Koeberg would lose efficiency; it would produce less electricity for each gram of nuclear fuel.

Climate change, which is entirely natural, hardly affects the equator at all. The equator receives the most heat from the Sun because there the Sun’s rays pass through the shortest distance of atmosphere and fall squarely in a concentrated manner on the Earth’s surface. By tropical thunderstorms and other mechanisms, the equatorial regions release colossal amounts of heat into space, keeping temperatures steady. The further you move from the equator towards the poles, the bigger the effect of climate change.

Today you hear almost every country on Earth, in search of international funding, claiming that it is warming at “twice the world’s average”. For Canadians that might be true; for Kenyans it is not. When the higher latitudes become colder while the equator stays the same, there is a bigger temperature difference between them, and this produces stronger heat engines of winds and storms, leading to more droughts and floods.

The coldest weather of the last ten thousand years was in the Little Ice Age, from about 1300 to 1850 AD. It produced the worst weather extremes of the last ten thousand years, as can been seen clearly through scientific data and historical record.

In his book, “Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century”, the historian Geoffrey Parker describes in graphic detail how the terrible storms, floods and droughts of that time led to famine and hardship, which in turn led to wars and revolutions. It also led to a frenzy of witch-burning when solemn legal tribunals accused old women with ugly faces of causing crops failure and floods, and ordered them to be roasted alive as a remedy.

(Today those witch-finding tribunals have been replaced by the IPCC – or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Today anybody who tells the truth about climate change is merely shouted down as a “denialist” and has his publication refused and might lose his job.)

In 1704, Daniel Defoe, travelling through England, wrote “The Storm” about the Great Storm of 1703, which seems far worse than anything that has happened in England in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Special circumstances

A hurricane is a type of heat engine. Hurricane, cyclone and typhoon are three names for the same thing. Hurricanes occur under special circumstances in only certain parts of the world. They never occur at the equator or in high latitudes but only in certain areas of the tropics.

In a hurricane, the heat source is warm sea water and the heat sink is cold air above. If, for some reason, a patch of low pressure occurs at sea in these regions, moisture-laden air from outside flows towards it. Because of the rotation of the Earth, the air begins circulating (clockwise in the southern hemisphere, anti-clockwise in the northern). The warm moist air rises in the centre – the eye – and meets the colder air above, and condenses, releasing heat and rain, and decreasing pressure. This dynamic can feed on itself, producing a stronger and stronger hurricane. In the eye wall, the circle of weather surrounding the eye, you can get violent winds and torrential rain.

Hurricane strength is measured by wind speed and pressure in the eye (the lower the pressure, the stronger the hurricane). In the last hundred years or so, there has been no noticeable increase in either the frequency or the severity of hurricanes and, if anything, a decrease, perhaps caused by the slight warming of this period.

In the diaries of his four famous journeys to America, Christopher Columbus wrote of the terrible storms that wrecked many of the ships in his fleets. This was in the years 1492 to 1504. In America, the Great Hurricane of 1780 is believed to have killed 22 000 people, and the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is said to be the worst natural disaster in American history. In 1902, Joseph Conrad wrote his famous story, “Typhoon”, based on his previous experience in a terrible tropical sea.

The ghastly gathering of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh represents extreme wealth, extreme ignorance and extreme danger. The danger comes in two fronts: the corruption of science and the damage to humanity and nature if the rich politicians actually enact the ruinous policies they are proposing. Climate alarm has corrupted science in a frightening way, replacing scientific scepticism with blind faith, removing the need to provide testable data, replacing experiment with consensus and rational analysis with fear.

Climate alarmists

Not only have most climate alarmists no understanding of thermodynamics, heat transfer and fluid mechanics (the basis of climate science) but feel no need to acquire such understanding. They believe all they need is to chant a few slogans that must never be challenged: “97% of scientists”; “It’s worse than we thought”; “We’ve only got ten years to prevent catastrophe”; and so on. Science is what has changed the world enormously for the better, and I sometimes wonder if that is why the greens hate science so much.

The second danger lies in their proposals to reduce CO2 emission and get rid of fossil fuels. CO2 is a wonderful, clean, safe gas, essential for most life on Earth, and now at very low levels in her history. Rising CO2 has had no effect on the climate but has greatly benefited plants, so that many of them can now grow in arid regions such as the Sahel – therefore benefiting and not harming the poor people who live there. (Increased CO2 makes plants grow better and reduces the time they lose water through their stomata.)

Trying to cut CO2 emissions would be bad for the planet. It would be disastrous for most humanity, especially the poor, since it is fossil fuels that have dramatically reduced poverty over the last two hundred years. Fortunately, most politicians are such liars and hypocrites that they haven’t the slightest intention of reducing fossil fuels if it damages their own prospects.

Joe Biden was adamant in the 2020 election campaign that he would stop all drilling for oil and get rid of fossil fuels. When the rising cost of petrol and diesel produced huge uproar by the American people, so potentially losing votes for him, he rapidly changed his mind, and now blames the oil companies for not drilling enough.

When will this wretched nonsense end? I have never understood how the witch-burning frenzy ended. I think it had something to do with The Enlightenment. Let us pray for a second enlightenment.

Brilliant, magical world

(I must just boast that I visited Sharm el-Sheikh in 1985. A girlfriend who was a keen diver dragged me there unwillingly. We arrived at a flat, grey, rather grubby beach with nothing much around it. I started sulking, but duly hired a snorkel, flippers and goggles, and went reluctantly into the water. And there I saw one of the greatest wonders of my life. It was quite astonishing, a brilliant, magical world, like something dreamt up by a Walt Disney cartoonist on LSD. There was an extraordinary profusion of fish of all shapes and colours and sizes set in wonderful corals. Most of the fish were very friendly and would come up to you or even nuzzle you. I’ve never got over it. But now I see the place has been converted into a palatial resort, fitting for the opulent kings and queens of climate alarm. I hope they leave those dear fish alone.)

[Image: Joe from Pixabay]

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