By Yen Makabenta
Dec 4 2018 (Manila Times)
The climate change debate has become more complicated as the United Nations continues to double down on its forecast of climate catastrophe in response to near-global rejection of its warning.
The situation will intensify this December as nearly 200 countries meet for COP 24 in Katowice, Poland (the curious acronym stands for Conference of the Parties) to discuss a global plan of action against climate change.
To defend against widespread skepticism and criticism of the UN climate agenda, climate alarmists are turning to former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher for much-needed intellectual support in selling their program to scare humanity about climate catastrophe. She is a formidable figure to lean on (she was a major world leader during her time; and she got her training partly as a scientist).
In particular, they are quoting Thatcher’s words in a 1989 speech at the United Nations, wherein she sounded a call about the danger of global warming. The lady said then: “The danger of global warming is as yet unseen but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices so we may not live at the expense of future generations… No generation has a freehold on this Earth; all we have is a life tenancy with a full repairing lease.”
Hot air and global warming
But there is a problem here. Thatcher, in fact, became a skeptic on global warming and climate change, and became even more so about the apocalyptic warnings that it engendered.
She devotes a chapter in her book Statecraft (HarperCollins, New York, 2002) to the subject. And she titled it “Hot Air and Global Warming.” She called Al Gore “ridiculous” for his “apocalyptic hyperbole” about the climate.
What a pity she is no longer around to brand the current surreal stewards of the United Nations!
Questions of a climate skeptic
Mrs. Thatcher left behind a lucid and knowledgeable exposition on global warming and the harebrained solutions that can help non-experts like yours truly in understanding the intricacies and implications of climate change.
She shows that skepticism is the sensible attitude to adopt towards the fevered claims and warnings of the UN and climate alarmists. It is a must once one is confronted with the grandiose claim that global warming is settled science.
Thatcher breaks everything down point by point.
The lady raises five key questions about global warming:
1. Is the climate actually warming?
This may seem obvious because of the media hype and climate politics. But the facts are in doubt. There seems to be a long-term trend of warming but, according to some experts, it is such a long-term trend that it is not relevant to current concerns.
A warming trend began about 300 years ago during what is called the Little Ice Age, and this has continued. It is recent developments which are more disputable.
Ground-based temperature stations indicate that the planet has warmed by somewhere between 0.3 and 0.6 degrees Celsius since about 1850, with about half of this warming occurring since World War 2. But against this, the temperature taken from weather balloons and satellites over the past 20 years actually show a cooling trend. The indirect evidence from rainfall, glaciers, sea levels and weather variability, often adduced to prove global warming, is similarly ambiguous.
2. Is carbon dioxide responsible for whatever global warming has occurred?
Here too the uncertainties are formidable. CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas. Methane, nitrous oxide, aerosols and water vapor — the most abundant greenhouse gas — make major contributions. So, exclusive concentration on CO2 either in analysis or in policy prescription is bound to mislead.
Still more important is the role of solar activity. Studies have suggested that increased solar output may have been responsible for half of the increase in temperature from 1900 to 1970 and a third of the warming since 1970.
Whatever we manage to do about CO2 and other greenhouse gases, we are not likely to be able to do much about the sun itself.
Human-induced global warming
3. Is human activity, especially human economic activity, responsible for the production of carbon dioxide which has contributed to any global warming?
The facts are unclear. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in 1955 that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate…However our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited.”
Actually, not all scientists agree with the IPCC’s view. It is a great deal more tentative than some alarmist assertions.
In any one year, most CO2 production is not related to human beings. In fact, less than 5 percent of the carbon moving through the atmosphere stems directly from human sources.
4. Is global warming quite the menace suggested?
To doubt this is of course rank heresy, but one should at least start out with an open mind. In an ideal world, we would want a stable climate.
It is necessary to keep a sense of proportion. The world climate is always changing and man and nature are always, by one means or another, finding the means to adapt to it.
Earth temperatures today are probably at about their three-thousand-year average. And we have known periods of warming before. The Dark Ages and the Early Medieval period — about 850 to about 1350 — for example saw a sharp increase in temperature of 2.5 C.
There is only one thing worse than getting hotter — and that is getting colder. In the 1970s, after two decades of unusually cold weather, there was a minor scare about global cooling. Some of the same people now worrying about global warming offered broadly the same program of international controls to deal with the problem.
5. Can global warming be stopped or checked at an acceptable price?
At Kyoto, the United States answered “No,” at least to the proposals on offer. Perhaps the answer will always be “no.”
It will be necessary to resolve many remaining uncertainties before risking action that makes the world poorer than it would otherwise be by restraining economic growth.
If there were clear evidence that the world is facing climate catastrophe, that would be different, but such evidence does not so far exist.
What is far more apparent is that the usual suspects on the left have been exaggerating dangers and simplifying solutions in order to press their agenda of anti-capitalism.
Worries about climate should take their place among other worries — about human health, animal health, modified foods and so on. All require first-rate research, mature evaluation and then the appropriate response.
But no more than these does climate change mean the end of the world; and it must not mean either the end of free-enterprise capitalism
Lessons from predictions of global disaster
Thatcher ends her discussion of global warming with what she calls “the lessons from past predictions of global disaster.” They must be learned in considering the issue of climate change.
These lessons are:
1. We should be suspicious of plans for global regulation that all too clearly fit in with preconceived agendas.
2. We should demand of politicians that they apply the same criteria of common sense and a sense of proportion to their pronouncements on the environment as to anything else.
3. We must never forget that although prosperity brings problems it also permits solutions — and less prosperity means fewer solutions.
4. All decisions must be made on the basis of the best science whose conclusions have been properly evaluated.
Many new articles and commentaries on the UN climate agenda have jibed with Mrs. Thatcher’s critique of global warming. When taken together, these have combined to shape my skeptical view of global warming and the UN doomsday forecast.
I shall discuss in detail these articles and commentaries in my next column.
If the world is going to fade away in my lifetime, I figure that it is important to know what is happening than to just act surprised.
This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines