Climate Scepticism: What it is (and isn?t)

?Climate change denier? is a misnomer. The climate is constantly changing. Ice ages come and go, sea levels rise and fall, and this has been happening for millions of years, long before humans and their industrial revolution.

It would be hard to find a sceptic of climate alarmism who actually believed that the climate was constant and unchanging.

Is the real point of issue with sceptics then whether climate change is being caused by humans? Are sceptics denying that Anthropogenic Global Warming exists? No, sceptics actually agree that humans have been increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels.

Sceptics also believe in the Greenhouse Effect. Without its atmospheric gases that absorb and radiate heat coming from the Sun and the Earth, the Earth would drop to unbearably cold temperatures at night, and become unpleasantly hot during the day. The main greenhouse gas is water vapour, H2O. There are differing theories about the significance of CO2 as a greenhouse gas. It seems that there have been periods millions of years ago when CO2 has been higher, even 2,000 or more ppm, and temperatures cooler. There are also grounds for querying the role of CO2, in that over the past 500 million years increased CO2 levels seem to have followed rather than preceded temperature rises.

But even granting that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that increasing its levels in the atmosphere might as a consequence contribute to increasing temperatures, i.e. cause Anthropogenic Global Warming, one can still be a sceptic.

What many are still sceptical of is the ?alarmist? position. The alarmists, like Bill Nye the unscientific guy, Bill McKibben or copycat preachers of apocalyptic doom like our New Zealand politicians, keep telling us that we are on the tipping point of climate catastrophe and that we are doomed unless we immediately sign up to and implement X, Y, and Z.

One can be sceptical because the computer models have been consistently wrong. One can be sceptical because the Climategate emails showed that ?scientists? behaved in very unscientific ways. The infamous ?hockey stick? graph model produced a nice upward curving hockey stick shape no matter what data you put into it.

When we are told that 97% of scientists agree, we should ask what exactly they agree on (runaway destructive climate change, or just some slight warming that might even be beneficial?) and who those scientists were. You’re not likely to receive an answer, as the 97% claim is the same technique used by advertisers when they bring on someone in a lab coat to sell a product.

Actual sea level measurements show that sea levels in New Zealand have been increasing for the last one hundred years by around 2 to 3 mm per year. The rate of increase shows no signs of increasing. 3 mm per year is 30 cm in one hundred years. Not very alarming. For alarming figures, you need to go to the projections of computer models. Yes, the same models that have been consistently been wrong.

In the 1855 Wellington earthquake, the land was uplifted by several feet. This happened also along the Kaikoura coast in the 2016 earthquake. It will take centuries for sea-level rise to match the degree of uplift of the land caused by these earthquakes. New Zealand is a geologically active country, and what with land subsidence in some areas, and earthquakes periodically uplifting land, the rate of mean sea-level rise is almost immeasurably small.

Sea-levels in New Zealand were about 125 meters lower (that is 125,000 mm) during the height of the last glacial period 20,000 years ago (In Search of Ancient New Zealand?by H. Campbell & G. Hutching. Auckland: Penguin, 2007, p. 217.) This was when the three islands – North, South, and Stewart – were one land mass. The average change over those 20,000 years is 6.25 mm per year or more than double the present rate. Those Neanderthals living before recorded history must have had some massive industrial revolutions going on!

Or maybe, as with earthquakes, there were unusual natural events that triggered changes in climate ? super-volcanoes clouding the sun, supernovae hitting particles in the atmosphere, sun cycles, who knows what else?

Extreme and unusual events, including weather events, are the norm throughout history?The three most destructive tropical cyclones on record occurred in 1970, 1737, and 1881. Extreme weather events will happen again in the future. When each new one occurs, commentators will belie history and real science and attribute the cause to Anthropogenic Global Warming. Storm damage is becoming more expensive in recent events, but this is a result of greater coastal development compared with past centuries.

People sometimes argue that human-caused change to the climate today is happening unnaturally fast, but there is evidence that climate can change catastrophically due to non-human events too. Siberian mammoths have been found flash-frozen in the tundra, with undigested grass still in their stomachs. Levels of iridium (an element found on asteroids) from about this time indicate there may have been a catastrophic asteroid impact at this time which caused a sudden ice-age. (The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes?by R. Firestone. A. West & S. Warwick-Smith. 2006.)

We could spend trillions of dollars on trying to make the Earth cooler, and then a super-volcano could come along and do the job for us and then some. A super-volcano can produce an ash cloud that fills the whole atmosphere for years, blocking sunlight, and bringing on another ice-age.

Why doesn?t the IPCC consider these bigger geological, epochal, and extraterrestrial influences like solar cycles? It is because they have a mandate to research climate change only for the last few hundred years since the Industrial Revolution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is fundamentally not a scientific body, but a political lobby group.

In the USA, climate scepticism is prevalent among most Republicans. In Australia, a good proportion of their Liberal Party, including past PM Tony Abbott, are climate sceptics. In New Zealand, we do not have any elected MPs advocating the cause of climate scepticism, as being a climate sceptic seems to be an even greater social taboo than being a Trump supporter!


by Malcolm Moncrief-Spittle

Malcolm Moncrief-Spittle is a Dunedin bookseller.

He can be found on Twitter at @malmoncrief