The Greenhouse Gas Fallacy Revisited
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.
Many thanks to those who commented on my web paper "Climate Change not due to Greenhouse Gases.
Special thanks to Ray Evans for giving me a copy of William Kinninmonth's book "Climate Change: A Natural Hazard" (Multiscience Publishing, UK, 2004). This 200-page book, written by a scientist who headed Australia's National Climate Centre for more than a decade, details all the available evidence and would surely have to be accepted as having impeccable credentials.
Kinninmonth comes to the same conclusions as those expressed in my web paper, and goes well beyond them. He shows how the Earth experienced a period warmer than now in the Medieval Warm Period (around 800 to 1300 AD), which was followed by the Little Ice Age (around 1350 to 1850 AD).
The occurrence of these periods ties in closely with what we know from historical records. The Medieval Warm Period saw the Viking colonisation of Greenland (no prizes for why it was described as 'green') and forays as far as the east coast of North America. The Little Ice Age saw the breakdown and abandonment of the Greenland colonies with the advent of increasingly inhospitable weather.
Kinninmonth also goes in great detail into the various Climate Models which are currently in vogue for predicting ever more gloomy outlooks for future climatic conditions. He shows that while these models have undoubtedly improved over recent years, they all attempt to extrapolate into the future on the basis of data from the last 150 or so years.
None of the current models are capable of giving forecasts which could predict the same sort of behaviour as in the two widely-different 500-year periods before 1850, but instead are limited to largely linear extrapolations from the present time ("it's getting bad and it's going to get worse").
A recent newspaper item was headed 'Hottest since 900 AD' and included the text:
A panel of experts has found that the past few decades were warmer than any comparable period in the past 400 years. And there is evidence that temperatures were higher in the past 25 years than at any other quarter-century since the year 900. The report by the National Academy of Sciences was congressionally mandated after another study showed unprecedented warming in the northern hemisphere towards the end of the 20th century. ( full item reproduced as a PDF ).
Now look at this item again and see the conclusion it leads to. In the year 900, average temperatures over the preceding 25 years were HIGHER than in the 25 years to 2000. There has never been any suggestion that the years 875-900 were a period of accumulation of 'greenhouse gases'. Therefore, there is NO reason to suppose that greenhouse gas accumulation is the reason for the present rise in temperatures during 1975-2000.
No scientific expertise is needed to accept this conclusion, it is a matter of simple logic.
Here is an extract from the final paragraph of Kinninmonth's book:
The evidence advanced by the IPCC, that human activity will cause dangerous interference with the climate system, is illusory ... These assertions ignore a large body of paleoclimatic evidence that that points to climate having changed abruptly and relatively frequently in the past ... The theory of 'greenhouse climate change' is conceptually simple, seemingly plausible, but deficient in its consideration and treatment of complex climatic processes. Importantly, there is no evidence that a reduction in global anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases will reduce the incidence of dangerous climate extremes, or reduce the human suffering and community loss that accompany them.
The suggestions in my earlier web article, such as that carbon dioxide accumulation does not cause global warming, and that global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas content in the atmosphere are pointless, thus form only a small part of what Kinninmonth has conclusively demonstrated.
There is a particular point which invites attention. Current efforts to reduce CO2 levels include many projects to store this gas in underground strata (geosequestration) [see, eg, www.abc.net.au/science/features/gasgrave, which contains the banner Global warming has now reached crisis point. To prevent catastrophic climate change, carbon dioxide pollution, especially from coal-fired power stations, needs to be drastically cut].
It is not widely appreciated that when carbon dioxide is subjected to high pressures (as it would be if injected into rocks more than about 400 m below the surface) it forms a liquid with powerful solvent properties, especially for organic materials. This phenomenon, 'Supercritical Fluid Extraction', is actually in use in speciality industrial extraction work (see, eg,
http://sunny.vemt.bme.hu/sfe/angol/supercritical.html). Injecting carbon dioxide into underground strata could thus have unexpected, possibly unfortunate, results.
There remains the interesting topic of the lag in general acceptance of a 'scientific truth', even by the scientific community, however well and completely such a truth is demonstrated. One participant in the current debate has suggested "Consensus will come through the peer review system". My view would be closer to the following:
"The 'Peer Review System' works, in science and elsewhere, only up to a certain level of orthodoxy. Above that, it hits the floor level where live those who would be disadvantaged by a change in the status quo".
There is a valuable review of economic aspects of climate change efforts, 'Climate of Superstition', by Nigel Lawson, formerly Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer (reproduced at www.aoi.com.au/Originals/LAWSON.pdf). This review includes the paragraphs:
"We know for certain only two things. The first is a matter of history rather more than science: namely, that since about 1860, when accurate temperature records were first collected on a comprehensive basis, northern hemisphere temperatures have risen by about 0.6 deg C; and that this coincides with a steady growth in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a significant part of which is a consequence of industrial and other man-made emissions.
The second is that our planet is kept from being too cold for life as we know it to survive by the so-called greenhouse effect, which traps some of the heat from the sun's rays. This is overwhelmingly - somewhere between 75 and 95 per cent - caused by clouds and other forms of water vapour; and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere accounts for most of the remainder. But so great is the uncertainty of climate science that it is impossible to say - and it is hotly disputed - how much of the modest warming that has been experienced since 1860 is due to the man-made increase in carbon dioxide."
Lawson's review is headed by the following quotation from Schopenhauer:
"There is no opinion, however absurd, which men will not readily embrace as soon as they can be brought to the conviction that it is generally adopted."
How much more difficult it can be to displace an opinion which is already entrenched! Somebody who struggled with this, and suggested a possible solution, was Thomas Gold, one of the Terrible Trio (with Fred Hoyle and Hermann Bondi) of cosmological physicists. See The Perth Science Court Project for a lead into this.
Circulated generally 2006 Jul 2
This version on Web 2006 Jul 20