A new ice age is due now, but you wont hear it from the green groups, who like to play on Western guilt about consumerism to make us believe in global warming.
THE Earth's climate is changing in a dramatic way, with immense danger for mankind and the natural systems that sustain it. This was the frightening message broadcast to us by environmentalists in the recent past. Here are some of their prophecies.
The facts have emerged, in recent years and months, from research into past ice ages. They imply that the threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind. (Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, in International Wildlife, July 1975)
The cooling has already killed thousands of people in poor nations... If it continues, and no strong measures are taken to deal with it, the cooling will cause world famine, world chaos, and probably world war, and this could all come about by the year 2000. (Lowe Ponte, The Cooling, 1976)
As recently as January 1994, the supreme authority on matters environmental, Time magazine, wrote:
The ice age cometh? Last week's big chill was a reminder that the Earth's climate can change at any time ... The last (ice age) ended 10,000 years ago; the next one — for there will be a next one — could start tens of thousands of years from now. Or tens of years. Or it may have already started.
The scare about global cooling was always the same: unprecedented low temperatures; the coldest weather recorded; unusual floods and storms; a rapid shift in the world's climate towards an icy apocalypse.
But now, the scare is about global warming. To convert from the first scare to the second, all you have to do is substitute "the coldest weather recorded" with "the warmest weather recorded". Replace the icicles hanging from oranges in California with melting glaciers on Mt Everest, and the shivering armadillos with sweltering polar bears. We were going to freeze but now we are going to fry.
Even the White House is making cautionary sounds about warming.
What facts have emerged to make this dramatic reversal? Well, none really. The most reliable measurements show no change whatsoever in global temperatures in the past 20 years. What has changed is the perception that global warming makes a better scare than the coming ice age.
A good environmental scare needs two ingredients. The first is impending catastrophe. The second is a suitable culprit to blame. In the second case, the ice age fails and global warming is gloriously successful. It is not the destruction itself of Sodom and Gomorrah that makes the story so appealing but the fact that they were destroyed because they were so sinful.
One of the real threats to mankind is the danger of collision with a large asteroid. It has happened in the past with catastrophic effect, and it will probably happen again. But there are no conferences, resolutions, gatherings, protests and newspaper headlines about asteroid impacts. The reason is that you cannot find anyone suitable to blame for them. If you could persuade people that President Bush or the oil companies were responsible for the asteroids, I guarantee there would be a billion-dollar campaign to "raise awareness" about the asteroid danger, with sonorous editorials in all the papers.
Global warming has the perfect culprit: naughty, industrialised, advanced, consuming, Western society, which has made itself very rich by burning a lot of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas). This, so the scare goes, is releasing a lot of carbon dioxide, which is dangerously heating up the world.
THERE are two facts in the scare. First, it is true that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas one which traps heat on Earth. (Without it, the Earth would be 'too cold for' life.) Second, it is true that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising. The rest is guesswork.
The global warmers said the most accurate measure of climate change would be air temperatures. For the past 20 years or more, air temperatures have been measured with extreme accuracy. They show no warming whatsoever.
Surface temperatures are much less reliable since the recording stations are often encroached on by expanding cities, which warm the local environment. The curve most often used by the global warmers is one showing surface temperatures rising by about half a degree in the past 100 years. (The curve, incidentally, is a bad match against rising carbon dioxide but a good one against solar activity, which suggests the sun might be the reason for the warming.)
However, there are accurate methods of measuring sea temperatures going back much further. Past temperatures for the Atlantic Ocean have been found by looking at dead marine life. The isotope ratio of carbon-14 in their skeletons tells you when they lived. The ratio of other isotopes tells you the temperature then. Thus we are able to know temperatures in the Atlantic and northern Europe going back thousands of years. They make nonsense of the global warming scare.
The last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago. Temperatures rose to the "Holocene Maximum" of about 5000 years ago when it was about l.5°C higher than now, dropped in the time of Christ, and then rose to the "Medieval Climate Optimum" in the years 600 to 1100, when temperatures. were about 1°C higher than now. This was a golden age for northern European agriculture and led to the rise of Viking civilisation.
Greenland, now a frozen wasteland, was then a habitable Viking colony. There were vineyards in the south of England. Then temperatures dropped to "The Little Ice Age" in the 1600s, when the Thames froze over. And they have been rising slowly ever since, although they are still much lower than 1000 years ago.
We are now in a rather cool period.
What caused these ups and downs of temperature? We do not know. Temperature changes are a fact of nature, and we have no idea if the claimed 0.3C heating over the past 100 years is caused by man's activities or part of a natural cycle.
What we can say, though, is that if Europe heats up by 1°C it would do it a power of good. We can see this from records of 1000 years ago. Moreover, increased carbon dioxide makes plants grow more quickly, so improving crops and forests.
The Earth's climate is immensely complicated, far beyond our present powers of understanding and the calculating powers of modern computers. Changes in phase from ice to water to vapour; cloud formation; convection; ocean currents; winds; changes in the sun: the complicated shapes of the land masses; the ability of the oceans to absorb carbon dioxide — all of these and a thousand other factors operating with small differences over vast masses and distances make it practically impossible for us to make predictions about long-term climate patterns, and perhaps make such predictions inherently impossible. The computer models that the global warmers now use are ludicrously oversimplified, and it is no surprise they have made one wrong prediction after another.
If the global warming scare has little foundation in fact, the ice-age scare is only too solidly founded. For the past two million years, but not before, the northern hemisphere has gone through a regular cycle of ice ages: 90,000 years with ice: 10,000 years without. The last ice age ended 10,000 years ago. Our time is up. The next ice age is due.
We do not know what causes the ice ages. It is probably to do with the arrangement of northern land masses and the path of the Gulf Stream, but we do not know.
However, a new ice age, unlike global warming, would be a certain calamity.
It may be that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are actually warding off the ice age. In this case, we should give tax relief to coal power stations and factories for every tonne of carbon dioxide they release.
When the global warmers tell us the stakes are high, they are quite right. Global warming has become an immense international gravy train worth billions of dollars. It is now one of the largest recipients of government research money in the world.
It finances jobs, grants, conferences, international travel and journals. It not only keeps a huge army of people in comfortable employment but also fills them with self-righteousness and moral superiority. It enables the green movement to say:
"The end is nigh unless you give us more funding, repent, and do what we say."
Behind these exhortations is the vision of Rousseau, of a retreat from the evil industrialised world of motor cars and electricity back to the simpler, nobler world of nature (except for the green priesthood who will still be allowed to fly in jet planes to conferences).
When President Bush denounced the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases, the global warmers said: "It's payback time". They were referring to the oil companies which had supposedly made big donations to his election campaign.
But if Al Gore had won and given even more funding to the warmers, it would have been payback time in a more pointed way. The oil companies can easily diversify out of oil and into other forms of energy — they are already doing so; BP is the world's largest producer of solar panels.
The global warmers are a more constrained vested interest. They depend on frightening the public and need global warming. This is why they get so furious when anyone dares to challenge the scare. The fraud of the warming scare is seen most vividly when the warmers propose their remedies for it. The best technology for avoiding the emission of carbon dioxide is nuclear power. In operation, nuclear power plants release no carbon dioxide and over their whole cycle (construction, fuel processing and decommissioning) they release the least carbon dioxide of any energy source, including wind and solar power. Half of the 272 million tonnes of man-made carbon dioxide that South Africa produces comes from coal power stations; South Africa could halve its total emissions simply by turning to nuclear power for electricity generation.
Nuclear power has by far the best safety record of any large-scale source of electricity. The worst accident at a nuclear power station in the West, at Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979, killed no one, injured no one and had no ill effects afterwards. By contrast gas, oil, coal and hydro accidents almost routinely kill thousands of people every year. The Chernobyl accident, which after 16 years has killed about 40 people, was caused primarily by bad reactor design, which would never be allowed in the West. The waste from nuclear power is small, solid, stable and of finite life. Nuclear power is the only large-scale source of electricity that has procedures for disposing of its waste (which is easy to do). The waste from coal stations is enormously larger, much more dangerous and longer lived; it includes heavy metal toxins, which last for ever, and radioactive elements such as thorium, which has a half-life of 14 billion years.
COAL waste is simply thrown on to open ash tips or hurled into the air we breathe. But the global warmers fiercely resist nuclear power. They do not want it precisely because it offers the world bountiful electricity. What they want is to turn away from the modern world of plenty to a primitive world of scarcity. They do not want people in the poor countries to obtain higher living standards; they want them mired in noble poverty.
One of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide is motor vehicles. If your speed doubles, you emit four times as much carbon dioxide. Some European politicians, especially in Germany, are very concerned about global warming. So how about imposing a 80km/h speed limit on all roads in the European Union and limiting engine size to 1000cc? Ask German politicians who back the warming scare, which is more important, the future of the world or an infantile desire to travel at high speed. The answer is clear: speed. So much for serious debate.
The global warming scare uses almost every propaganda device. There are continual appeals to scientific authority. The propagandists pretend there is scientific consensus that man's activities are definitely changing the climate in a dangerous way.
This is an outright lie. You will find no reputable scientist who says so. Graphs are carefully edited so that parts showing cooling are removed and those showing warming are kept. Cooling incidents, such as thickening of ice caps, snow in Saudi Arabia and record low temperatures, are ignored. Warming incidents, such as breaking ice shelves and record high temperatures, are headlines. This is not a co-ordinated conspiracy but a fashion in which self-interest and ideology combine, and green activists, politicians and journalists help each other to get more funding, more sensational stories and more enemies to blame.
The climate of our planet is far too important for this nonsense. What we need is more genuine scientific research. If we do decide on the "precautionary principle" of keeping carbon dioxide levels stable, we can turn to those many technologies, proven or in prospect, which release no or little carbon dioxide. Nuclear power is the obvious first choice.
There is no reason the world economy cannot continue to prosper with lower greenhouse emissions. But, for heaven's sake, let's start by telling the whole truth and giving all the facts.