The Lavoisier Group 2007 Workshop Rehabilitating Carbon Dioxide
'Rehabilitating Carbon Dioxide': An Overview
The papers presented at the Lavoisier Group's Workshop
Rehabilitating Carbon Dioxide held in Melbourne on 29th
and 30th June 2007, covered the two most important scientific
issues at the heart of the current debate over global warming
and its causes. The first is the influence, if any, of atmospheric
carbon dioxide on the earth's climate. The second is the very
well documented correlation between sunspot activity and climate
changes during the last 1500 years or more.
In addition, two papers were given on economic issues that
are consequent to the claims of anthropogenic control of our
climate. The paper by Alex Robson discusses the Shergold Report,
a report commissioned by the Prime Minister from a committee
chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister
and Cabinet, Peter Shergold, on the merits of a cap and trade
scheme of licences required by law to emit carbon dioxide. The
paper by Tim Curtin analyses the Stern Review, a report published
with great fanfare in October 2006 and submitted to the then
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, on the costs and
benefits of introducing a regime of decarbonisation for the UK.
It is noteworthy that Sir Nicholas Stern was released by Gordon
Brown the day after the latter's Budget failed to adopt any of
Stern's recommendations, but Peter Shergold continues as Secretary
This overview will discuss the two key science issues of this
debate; first the influence of atmospheric carbon dioxide on
climate; and second the connection between sunspots and climate.
It has been understood for at least twenty years that the
physics of black-body radiation, described in the Stephan-Boltzmann
black-body radiation curves (which used to be taught in high
school physics courses), coupled with the radiation properties
of carbon dioxide molecules, lead inexorably to the conclusion
that once concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
exceed 50 ppmv, further increments of CO2 have an ever declining
influence on the radiation balance at the outer surface of the
atmosphere, and thus on the earth's temperature. The greenhouse
contribution of CO2, already very small when compared with water
vapour, gives the same small increase in global temperatures
as it increases from 100 to 200 ppmv, from 200 to 400 ppmv, from
400 to 800 ppmv, and from 800 to 1600 ppmv. Each doubling of
CO2 yields a predicted 0.4 deg C increase in temperature, an
increment which can be overwhelmed by changes in cloud cover
in the lower atmosphere.
This understanding of basic physics is briefly discussed in
the 1990 IPCC's First Assessment Report but has not been mentioned
in IPCC publications since.
It was covered at length in David Archibald's paper, in Bill
Kininmonth's paper, in Michael Hammer's paper, and in Tom Quirks'
analysis of atmospheric carbon 14, and the implications are far
reaching. It means that atmospheric carbon dioxide has played
virtually no role in influencing our climate since concentrations
exceeded 200 ppmv during the last glacial maximum 20,000 years
ago, and will play no discernible role in the future, regardless
of the size of any increase of these concentrations. All of the
huffing and puffing at the G8 or wherever these issues are discussed
by heads of government and their officials is completely beside
the point. Whether anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide
are reduced or increased will make no discernible difference
to the radiation balance and thus to global temperatures.
This is so basic a point, and so terminal for the decarbonisation
ambitions of the Environmentalist movement, that it is a matter
of concern and astonishment that it has not been pursued by the
Kyoto sceptics (such as the Lavoisier Group) far more vigorously
than it has been. Whatever our sins of omission in the past have
been, we will be trying to make amends in the immediate future.
If carbon dioxide (once it has exceeded 50 ppmv) has virtually
no impact on the radiation balance and thus on climate (and there
was never any evidence that it did) where can we find some rational
explanation for the climatic changes that have taken place during
the last two millennia, for example the Roman Warm Period, the
Mediaeval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, and the warming which
has taken place since about 1880, the 20th Century Warm Period?
Two papers at the workshop discussed the long-established
connection between sunspots and climate. One of the earliest
learned papers on this topic was written in 1801 by the discoverer
of the planet Uranus, William Herschel, who found an excellent
correlation between the history of wheat prices given by Adam
Smith in the Wealth of Nations and the sun spot cycle
for the same period. David Archibald took his analysis of this
phenomenon to the point where he predicted a repeat during the
next 23 years of the Dalton Minimum of 1796 to 1820, a period
of low temperatures, little sunshine, and severe food shortages
in Europe, particularly in Britain, which experienced a year
without summer in 1816.
Will Alexander discussed the river flow records from the Nile,
which go back to 640 AD, the longest record of its kind, and
the 22-23 year periodicity which characterises that record.
So the connection between sunspots and climate change has
long been observed but, up until 2005, never been explained.
And here we introduce Henrik Svensmark, the Danish physicist,
who in December 2004 began his experiments in the basement of
a university building in Copenhagen which eventually proved that
cosmic rays from far beyond the solar system, called galactic
cosmic rays, were primarily responsible for initiating cloud
formation in the lower atmosphere.
This was the missing link in the chain of causation between
sunspots and climate. The first step in the chain is the realisation
that sunspots are a manifestation of dramatic changes in the
Sun's magnetic field. This immense field, which projects solar
influence far out into space, and which envelopes the earth,
exhibits a 22-23 year cycle, the Hale cycle, or two sunspot cycles
back to back. (Each sunspot cycle of approximately 11 years is
called the Schwabe cycle.) When the solar magnetic field is strong,
it protects the earth from galactic cosmic rays, and thus cloud
formation is greatly diminished. When it is weak (as during the
Dalton Minimum) then cosmic rays penetrate easily into the lower
atmosphere and cloud cover is correspondingly increased.
Clouds are the big influence on our climate. When abundant,
they reflect the Sun's radiation back into space and the earth
gets cold. When sparse, the Sun's radiation travels unimpeded
to the surface of the earth and the earth warms. Cloud cover
is the driver of climate, and cosmic rays determine in large
measure the extent of that cloud cover.
The General Circulation Models, which are used by the IPCC
to predict the response of the earth to increasing atmospheric
carbon dioxide, describe cloud behaviour very badly. The representation
of clouds is largely statistical and thus ignores interaction
with terrestrial radiation and the energy exchanges of the hydrological
cycle. More recently, it has been shown that the computer models
underestimate the variation of surface evaporation and precipitation
with changing surface temperature, a fatal flaw in the projection
of changing surface temperature with radiation forcing.
These computer models, then, which have soaked up billions
of dollars in programming and computer time, are worthless.
Svensmark should win the Nobel prize for his pioneering work
in this field and the basement which housed his big box containing
atmospheric gas will become as famous as the squash court at
the University of Chicago where Enrico Fermi built the first
atomic pile and demonstrated the first nuclear chain reaction.
Having completed the chain of causation from sunspots to climate,
the next big step forward is in predicting the future behaviour
of the Sun's magnetic field. David Archibald presents a number
of different forecasts, but on the basis of empirical rules opts
for a repeat of the Dalton minimum.
Svensmark himself is much more cautious. In the book co-authored
with Nigel Calder The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate
Change, published in Australia by Allen and Unwin, they
write (p 222):
Cosmic rays conform only loosely with the sunspot count.
Although generally high when sunspots are few, and reduced when
there are many, there is no simple one-one connection.
The next few years will be exciting for those who are involved
in this field of scientific activity. If we experience something
like a repeat of the Dalton Minimum the anthropogenists will
have a lot of crow to eat, but that will be of small consequence
compared with the economic upheavals caused by loss of agricultural
production in the grain growing regions of North America and
Northern Europe. Australian agricultural production will become
more important in such a situation.
It is important at this time that Australia does nothing to
impede its economic growth and its potential to play an increasingly
important role in the global economy. The Shergold endorsement
of a carbon emissions trading scheme is arguably one of the most
lunatic documents in the history of official advice to Australian
governments, and it should be buried without delay. If the next
twelve months give us continuing cool weather, high rainfall
and consequent flooding, then there is a real chance that such
burial can take place without too much fuss.
Climate change has played a pivotal role in human history.
During the Mediaeval Warm Period (850-1300 AD) European civilisation
made huge progress in the arts and sciences, in agriculture,
in technology, and in the formation of cities such as Florence,
Milan, Genoa, and Venice, where the foundations of our market
economies were established. With the advent of the Little Ice
Age, Europe suffered a massive loss of population and it was
not until 1550 that the population recovered to pre-1300 levels.
The belief that mankind can 'stop climate change' by decarbonising
our economy is as irrational a belief as one can find in any
primitive religion. But in legislating for carbon emission trading
schemes we are declaring our commitment to superstition of the
most primitive kind. If the recent discoveries of the power of
galactic cosmic rays to influence cloud formation become more
widely known, faith in anthropogenic carbon dioxide as the controlling
force on climate will become a joke and Australia will be able
to build urgently needed power stations, and develop major natural
gas fields, without the burden of sovereign risk now attending
such investments. Let us achieve this ambition as soon as possible.