Since its election in 2007, the federal Labor Government has endorsed the agenda of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), spent hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds to counter human-induced climate change, promised an emissions trading scheme which has morphed into a carbon tax, and established a Climate Commission of people who believe that human beings are causing uncontrolled global warming.
In light of all this, it is no surprise that the Climate Commission’s latest report, The Critical Decade, should have repeated its earlier statements — and those of the Government’s climate adviser, the academic economist Ross Garnaut — that rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere are creating dangerous climate change which must be addressed now.
The fact is that the world’s climate is constantly changing under the influence of many factors. Scientists know that, apart from the possible impact of CO2 and other trace gases in the atmosphere, the climate is influenced by the seasonal and long-term changes in solar radiation, heat transfer between the oceans and the atmosphere, volcanoes, mountains, cloud cover, as well as variations arising from periodic events such as El Niño and La Niña, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and many other factors.
The Climate Commission’s report scarcely considers these complications. It says, “Over many decades thousands of scientists have painted an unambiguous picture: the global climate is changing and humanity is almost surely the dominant cause. The risks have never been clearer and the case for action has never been more urgent.”
It goes on to say: “The atmosphere is warming, the ocean is warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps and sea levels are rising. The biological world is changing in response to a warming world. Global surface temperature is rising fast; the last decade was the hottest on record.”
These statements are either incomplete, untrue or involve the selective use of data to buttress the report’s conclusions. In any case, the fact that much of the earth’s surface is covered with snow and ice while other parts are desert means that the concept of average temperatures of the earth or the oceans is meaningless, although trends may be important.
What do independent scientific researchers say? Over the past decade, a period in which CO2 levels in the atmosphere have risen by about 5 per cent, American meteorologist Dr Roy Spencer reports that satellite measurements show that there has been no increase in atmospheric temperatures in the lower atmosphere (www.royspencer.com).
As seas cover about 80 per cent of the earth’s surface, this indicates there has been little change to sea surface temperatures over that period.
As regards “ice being lost from glaciers and ice caps”, there are massive variations in ice in both the northern and southern hemispheres every year, due to seasonal changes. Every year, satellite measurements show that the Arctic sea ice-cap varies from about 15 million square km down to about 5 million square km, while the area of the Antarctic covered with snow and ice varies from about 32 million square km down to about 17 million.
There are small variations from year to year, but no clearly discernible trend.
As the world is not warming significantly, it is untrue that “global surface temperature is rising fast”. To claim that “the last decade was the hottest on record” is a reflection of the fact that global temperature records have only been available for the past 30 years, and there has been a small rise in average temperature over that period, believed to be about 0.5ºC.
To point to the bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef since 1979, and claim “no known such events prior to that time” is simply a reflection of the fact that research on the Great Barrier Reef is in its infancy.
Temperature reconstructions based on ice cores and tree growth rings show that many times in the past, including the Medieval Warm Period, temperatures were higher than they are today. It is possible that they were the same in the 1930s and early 1940s, before a cooling phase commenced.
But throughout most of the earth’s history, temperatures have been far colder than they are today, and many scientists believe that the earth is due to enter another glacial period about now.
One interesting aspect of the report is that the Climate Commission is forced to recognise the widespread scepticism of their agenda. But predictably, the Commission dismisses it.
Four of Australia’s leading climate scientists, Bob Carter, David Evans, Stewart Franks and Bill Kininmonth, have published an independent evaluation of the Climate Commission’s report. It is available on the Quadrant Online website (www.quadrant.com.au).
They concluded: “The scientific advice contained within The Critical Decade is an inadequate, flawed and misleading basis on which to set national policy. The report is emotive and tendentious throughout, ignores sound scientific criticism of IPCC shibboleths that has been made previously, and is shotgun in its approach and at the same time selective in its use of evidence.”
Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.