FIRST WORD
THE WORD ON HUTCH
A FEW WORDS
BUY WORDS
FROM THE SOAPBOX
HAVE THE LAST WORD
A FEW WORDS
ARTICLES, COLUMNS, ESSAYS & STUFF LIKE THAT
Here is a taste of Hutch’s columns. If you want more, you can always buy his books.
1. I’d Diet for my Country
2. Creativity and Open-Heart Surgery
3. Immutable Laws of Holidays
4. Futile Bureaucracy
5. P-E-T-E-R
6. From Cradle to Criminal
7. Pestilence and Doom
8. Christmas Cards

Pestilence and doom

A mate of mine reckons hysteria over global warming and CO2 emissions indicates that mankind still remains in the grip of a deep-seated "divine retribution and pestilence syndrome".

"It’s a good thing there aren't too many virgins around" he says "they'd be sacrificing them on the altar of ecology, instead of the motorcar."

He was referring to times in history when, if rivers ran rampant, volcanoes erupted or the earth trembled, a rabble would gather at the nearest temple to be severely berated by priests for not providing enough grain, goats or nubile young females with which to appease the gods.

Weeping and wailing, fearful that they had incurred the wrath of Baal, Ra or Osiris for being particularly bad or for failing to make the appropriate sacrifice, the crowd would offer up a hapless goat or demure virgin to be ceremonially slaughtered in obeisance.

By being flung into boiling lava, slit from ear to ear, or buried alive, the sacrificees would terminally atone for the wicked behaviour of the masses.

The effectiveness of this would be obvious to all and sundry. Eventually, the volcanoes would stop erupting, the ground stop shaking and the floodwaters would inevitably recede. What more proof did the hoi polloi need of the success of priestly intercession and the necessity to keep up a regular supply of grain, goats or frightened young females.

My mate reckons that in our secular age nothing much has changed, except, since women got the vote, it's no longer fashionable to sacrifice virgins for ecological purposes.

Instead we're offering up industry, cars and farting cows as scapegoats.

My mate's interest in global warming was piqued after his daughter asked him not to drive her to school, in order that the atmosphere might be saved the addition of a small amount of greenhouse gas.

You have to understand that my mate isn't an apologist for global capitalism or exploitation of the planet. Far from it, he's an economist and amateur conservationist with a keen interest in things ecological.

He's an intelligent man who reads widely and well. Worrying what his children were being taught he started learning what he could of man's influence on the environment. I should also point out my mate's a strong proponent of sustainable management, and an opponent of ecological vandalism. But he's deeply sceptical of the popular view of global warming.

He doesn't say that climate isn't changing, on the contrary, it's obvious that climate changes all the time, but he's convinced that fluctuations in the sun's radiation have a lot more influence than does man-made CO2. It’s interesting to note that Mars is warming up too – and the Martian polar caps are melting – but it’s hard to argue it’s as the result of rampant capitalism and gas-guzzling SUVs.

As we all know the Kyoto Protocol seeks to restrict or compensate for emissions of ''greenhouse gases,'' chiefly carbon dioxide - blamed for causing increases in Earth's surface temperatures.

Predictions of 'global warming' are based on computer climate modelling, a branch of science still very much in its infancy. Being an economist my mate knows too well the failings of computer models. Global warming doomsayers claim the earth's temperature will increase by between 1 and 5 degrees over the next century. My mate doesn’t trust any projection with a margin of error of 500%.

Empirical evidence also disputes the climate modelling. Indeed, the best evidence shows over the past two decades, when CO2 levels have been at their highest, global average temperatures have actually cooled slightly.

And of course throughout history there have been huge variations in temperature.

For example, about 300 years ago, the Earth was experiencing the ''Little Ice Age.'' It had descended into this relatively cool period from a warm interval about 1,000 years ago known as the ''Medieval Climate Optimum.'' During this period, temperatures were warm enough to allow the colonisation of Greenland by Vikings. Then, for the past 300 years, global temperatures have been gradually recovering, but are still a little below the average for the past 3,000 years. In all that time the human historical record does not report any climatic catastrophes, even though temperatures have been far higher during much of the period.

My mate came across this view in the Petition Project, coordinated by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. (You can read the full paper with charts and diagrams at; www.oism.org/pproject) A review of the research literature concerning the environmental consequences of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to the conclusion that increases during the 20th Century have produced no deleterious effects upon global weather, climate, or temperature. Increased carbon dioxide has, however, markedly increased plant growth rates. Predictions of harmful climatic effects due to future increases in minor greenhouse gases like CO2 are in error and do not conform to current experimental knowledge."

The petition has been signed by more than 19,000 scientists, almost all of whose names have been verified. Some names were added by environmental hoaxers and used as an excuse to scoff at the petition, but my mate has noticed in his own work that ad hominem attacks are a common tactic of leftists when faced with unfavourable evidence. If they can't play the ball they play the man.

But I digress.

He suggests a little game you might like to play with your family or colleagues. Especially if they're not of scientific bent. Ask how much carbon dioxide they think there is in the atmosphere? You'll be amazed at the range of answers. He's heard everything from 7% to 50%. Guess what, the answer is about 350 parts per million - about one third of one per cent. The atmosphere is mostly made up of nitrogen, (78%), oxygen, (21%),with all other gases (including argon, water vapour and CO2) accounting for the remaining 1%. The major contributor to the Greenhouse effect is of course H2O in its gaseous form. The technical term being, wait for it - clouds. He's not heard anyone suggest we should stop using water.

The next obvious question, what is the critical level of atmospheric carbon dioxide? Guess what? No one really knows.

Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are reported to have varied significantly over geological time, with peaks, according to some estimates, 20 times higher than at present and dropping to around 220parts per million during the last ice age

In any case, what effect will a rise in CO2 have upon the global environment? The temperature of the Earth varies naturally over a wide geographical and chronological range. Sea surface temperatures of the Sargasso Sea, for example, are estimated to have varied by about 3.6 degrees Celsius during the past 3,000 years.

The current increase in carbon dioxide follows a 300-year warming trend. Both surface and atmospheric temperatures have been recovering from the unusually cold period known as the Little Ice Age. The increase is of a magnitude that can be explained by oceans giving off gases naturally as temperatures rise. Recent CO2 rises have shown a tendency to follow rather than lead global temperature increases.

So what causes such variations in Earth's temperature? The answer probably lies with the sun. It's clear that even relatively short, half-century-long fluctuations in temperature correlate with variations in solar activity. When the cycles are short, the sun is more active, hence brighter; and the Earth is warmer. These variations in the activity of the sun are typical of stars close in mass and age to the sun.

The other telling set of statistics comes from the sky. Since satellites have been recording atmospheric temperatures, tropospheric levels have trended downward during the past couple of decades, by about 0.05 C per decade. It has been reported that global surface temperatures trended upward by about 0.1 C per decade, but surface temperatures are subject to large uncertainties due to influences like the urban heat island effect. In other words temperatures are often taken near cities which create their own heat zones.

Then my mate also looked at the bogeys of rising sea levels and increasing storms. He reckons the evidence points more to sinking land-masses and short memories. Historical records in the 20th century show no acceleration in sea level rise. And claims that global warming will cause the Antarctic ice cap to melt and sharply increase this rate are not consistent with experiment or theory. It's more likely due to change in the temperature of deep sea currents - the effects of El Ninos or La Ninas , rather than Fiat Tipos or Nissan Sentras.

Similarly, claims that hurricane frequencies and intensities have been increasing don’t coincide with the facts. The devastation caused by the New Orleans hurricane was more about where it hit, than what it was.

As temperatures recover from the Little Ice Age, the more extreme weather patterns that characterised that period may be trending slowly toward the milder conditions that prevailed during the Middle Ages, which enjoyed average temperatures about 1C higher than those of today. That just means you have to travel further north or south or climb higher into the mountains if you want to see a glacier.

Accordingly it seems to my mate, despite the dire predictions of computer modelling, man's use of fossil fuels has not measurably warmed the atmosphere, and current trends don’t show it'll be much different in the foreseeable future. Such fossil fuel use does, however, release CO2 from below the ground in to the air, which not only accelerates the growth of plants but enables them to grow in drier regions. Vegetarians should be ecstatic.

The Petition Project report continues, "The computer climate models upon which ''global warming'' is based have substantial uncertainties. This is not surprising, since the climate is a coupled, non-linear dynamical system - in layman's terms, a very complex one."

So next time you read a pronouncement about how bad we have all been, uttered by a priest of the Temple of Doom and Woe, or a bureaucrat from The Ministry For Frightening Children, remember it's probably just their hard wired superstition genes talking.

If they're reporting on some research that shows were ruining the planet and we now have to start using public transport, remember they get paid for convincing us they have the answer. No one gets government funding for saying it’s a natural cycle and man has precious little influence.

Some people seem to think we have a special place in the cosmic scheme of things and that we can somehow control the rhythms of the universe. Sadly, it may require a jolly good super nova or a collision with a passing asteroid to disabuse them.

Meanwhile keep your car locked up and your daughters hidden just in case they resort to old traditions.


The Magazine Awards

Business Columnist of the Year 2012

Powered by &some
[copyright 2012]
GET IN TOUCH WITH HUTCH