Climate Change Made Easy: It's the Sun
The Quiet American. Remember
Stephen H. Schneider? The Commission for the Future and CSIRO
brought him to Australia as the drawcard for Greenhouse Action
'88. (Yours truly was also a speaker.) Schneider transfixed
our audience by warning that the "strong opinion" of
climatologists was that the atmosphere would warm as much in the
next 50 years as in the past 15,000. Undaunted by his earlier
scaremongering, CSIRO brought him back in 2001 to present its
annual Priestley Lecture: "Is climate science mature enough
for policy making?"
Earth in the Balance. Schneider
revisited policy-making in his contribution to the Scientific
American (January 2002) attack on "the skeptical environmentalist",
...uncertainties so infuse the issue of climate change that
it is still impossible to rule out either mild or catastrophic
outcomes ... Even the most credible international assessment
body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has
refused to attempt subjective probabilistic estimates of future
temperatures. This has forced politicians to make their own guesses
about the likelihood of various degrees of global warming. Will
temperatures in 2100 increase by 1.4 degrees Celsius or by 5.8?
The difference means relatively adaptable changes or very damaging
Schneider's analysis contains at least two serious flaws. It
assumes that IPCC is, in fact, able to calculate the likely range
of global temperature increase between 1990 and 2100 (1.4--5.8
ºC). And, following IPCC, it accepts that the actual outcome
will depend on how we treat our planet in the interim, in terms
of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. (The main anthropogenic
GHG is CO2, mostly from fossil-fuel use;
and coal is the most carbon-intensive fuel.) Below, I show why
IPCC's projected range of warming is worthless as a guide to policymakers.
Our Common Future. The
underpinning for IPCC's projections is its Special Report on
Emission Scenarios. But the SRES's A1 "storyline",
setting the high end of the range (5.8 ºC), is neither science
nor economics. Instead, it reflects the yearning for social equity
of the SRES economists. A1's basis is the achievement in the century
ahead of a very substantial catch-up of living standards in the
LDCs to those of the developed world. The result is a world where
nearly everyone is rich. There is absolutely nothing wrong with
that, of course; but, it needs an almost-unimaginable increase
in Third World per-capita GDP by 2100. Even the low-end of IPCC's
range (1.4 ºC) is deeply deceptive. It is based on SRES's
slightly less fantastic, but still highly implausible, B1 storyline---where
"the emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social
and environmental sustainability, including improved equity".
This is no 'range'.
IPCC's catch-up storylines yield extraordinary results for
individual countries (see Table). But first, a caveat: for purposes
of approval/publication, IPCC divided the world into four economic
units only. Thus, the down-scaling to country-level is unofficial;
and furthermore, web access to these numbers now has been withdrawn.
But, the country-projections are real in the sense that totals
for the four larger units encompass them. Individually approved
or not, reducing one country's quite incredible GDP growth would
imply increasing that for another.
for IPCC's Highest & Lowest Emissions Scenarios
(National GDP in thousands of 1990 US dollars per-capita, using
market exchange rates)
||2100 high-end (A1)
||2100 low-end (B1)
| United States
| South Africa
| China (PRC)
(More A1 outcomes: S. Korea 653, Malaysia 208,
Russia 170, Canada 88, Zimbabwe 87, Afghanistan 78, Indonesia
68, Turkey 12.)
How can two implausibly-high projections of Third World economic
growth provide bounds to the plausible range? They can't, of course.
IPCC has achieved its range by assuming large or small contributions
by coal to the satisfaction of energy demand in its best of all
possible worlds. Coal production is given as 84 exajoules in its
1990 base-year (about 3.3 billion tonnes on a hard coal heating-equivalent
basis), rising to 600 eJ in the coal-powered A1F1 "scenario",
and falling to 40 eJ in the low-end B1 scenario-family.
Of the low-end case, we are told that "the central elements
of the B1 future are a high level of environmental and social
consciousness combined with a more globally coherent approach
to a more sustainable development". Crucially, no believable
level of economic growth has had applied to it successful decarbonisation
initiatives such as dominate the B1 family. Instead, this implausible
'range' stems directly from the assumption that social equity
Limits to Growth. IPCC's
SRES analysts found that, in 1990, the developed world had a per-capita
GDP some 16.7 times that of the LDCs. Their laudable wish that
the ratio be reduced to 1.8 by 2100, calls for a projected increase
of GDP in the 'have-not' regions by an incredible 65 times between
1990 and 2100---because GDP in the 'have' nations keeps growing.
(Remember, Japan barely achieved x20 per-capita growth in the
20th Century. No others came close.)
Ian Castles (former Australian Statistician) finds that these
analysts used market exchange rates to compare inter-country GDPs
in 1990. In his expert opinion, they should have used purchasing
power parities. Correct analysis would have revealed that the
1990 gap was not 16.7 times but x6.2. Thus the GDP increase necessary
to shrink the gap to x1.8 would have been x24.5 rather than x65.
If IPCC should surprise us by re-working its flawed economics,
policymakers may still have to wait until its Fourth Assessment
Report (due in 2007) for the results. In the interim, I rely entirely
on IPCC's current numbers. Also, as IPCC's range of temperature
projections lacks a credible low-end, I will confine my analysis
to the origins of its high-end 5.8 ºC.
Future Shock. Atmospheric
CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa is known
since 1958 (315 ppm); and in 2002, an increase of 2.0 ppm brought
it to 373 ppm. During the cooler years until 1976, the average
annual increase was only about 1 ppm; and since the Great Pacific
Climate Shift of 76/77---with its abrupt increase of sea-surface
temperature---the average is still below 2 ppm. In fact, annual
increase correlates better with SST variation than with human-caused
From IPCC's "fossil intensive" AIFI scenario is derived
a CO2 concentration of 970 ppm in 2100,
to which then is added 30% for "uncertainties"---thus
yielding an amazing 1260 ppm. This outcome would mean an average
annual increase of 9 ppm for the next 98 years!
Animal Farm. But more insidious
than inexpert economists, is the fixation of IPCC's modellers
with radiative forcing as the principal driver of climate change.
Bad science = bad models.
The theory goes: greenhouse is a phenomenon of the atmosphere,
because that is where human-caused greenhouse gas emissions will
accumulate. GHGs in the atmosphere are transparent to incoming
short-wave radiation from the Sun; but trap long-wave returns
to Space. Hence, the lower atmosphere warms up because of the
increasing GHG concentration. The extra warmth is then redistributed
in turn---some upward as before, and some back to Earth's surface
(IPCC's "radiative forcing"). The resultant surface
warming is the "greenhouse effect".
IPCC's general circulation models (having radiative forcing
as their driver) tell us that: the lower atmosphere warms up because
of GHG emissions (obviously, the greenhouse effect warming at
the surface can't be faster); as more outgoing heat is now trapped
in the lower atmosphere, less than previously escapes to Space;
and the consequent near-surface warming is greatest in polar regions
(eg. Greenland up to x3 the global average). IPCC invokes seven
models with varying responses to increasing GHG concentration,
from which it selects 1.7--4.2 ºC warming as its range of
sensitivities for atmospheric CO2 doubling.
It combines the highest CO2 concentration
with the highest sensitivity to conjure-up 5.8 ºC of projected
But weather-balloon records, supported by a global coverage
from weather-satellites since 1979, show that the lower atmosphere
is warming less than half as fast as the surface; and more (not
less) heat is now escaping from the top of the atmosphere. Also,
the Poles are not warming as fast as the on-land temperate regions
of the Northern Hemisphere. The simplest explanation is: most
surface warming since the 76/77 Climate Shift was not caused by
the greenhouse effect. Furthermore, 20th Century surface warming
(0.6 +/- 0.2 ºC) was in two roughly-equal tranches---before
1945, and after 1976. Therefore, much warming preceded
the sky-rocketting fossil-fuel use which is claimed as its cause.
There can be no doubt: IPCC's models are fatally flawed. Policymakers---you
are on your own now. (But, what did cause the warming?
Presumably, some comes from land-use-change, urban-heat-island,
and emission (soot/sulphate/GHG) effects; but most is unrelated
to human activities. It is still the Sun which drives our climate.)
Some like it Hot. Why not
curtail CO2 emissions anyway?
Surely, all pollutants are bad. But this gas is not 'dirty'; on
the contrary, it is a natural atmospheric constituent. Many extant
plant families evolved when its concentration was x5 or more that
of today. Commercial growers enrich the atmosphere in their greenhouses
by adding CO2---to make their plants grow
better. Greening of the extra-tropical Northern Hemisphere over
the decades of satellite observation, further attests to the benefits
of CO2 fertilization. There is no known
justification in terms of atmospheric 'pollution', or climate
'stabilisation', to limit the CO2 output
of (for instance) coal-fired power generation. What about CO2 sequestration? It offers no environmental
benefit which could justify the increased cost of electricity.
In fact, without the presence of this vital plant food in the
atmosphere, we would not even be here.
Although the US (25% of the world total), Russia and China
have larger coal reserves, Australia, with its easily-accessible
low-sulphur steaming and coking coal, is the largest exporter.
It won't help 'stabilise' global climate; but denying citizens
and export customers ready access to our world-class resources,
will hurt jobs and living standards. Habitat destruction continues
on a vast scale in our region: Queensland, Kalimantan, Melanesia---while
we divert environmental effort to building wind farms. Remember,
these bird-killers are only competitive with our low-cost coal
because Government has rigged the market for electricity so produced.
Worlds in Collision. It
is an un-amazing fact that solar/planetary/galactic influences
are the dominant driver of our Ice Age climate---from the 100,000-year
cycle of 90,000-year Glacials, and 10,000-year Interglacials (such
as that we now enjoy), right down to El Niño and La Niña
episodes recurrent within a single decade. The Mediaeval Warm
Period (AD800-1200) and Little Ice Age (1300-1900) are manifestations
of a warm/cold cycle of intermediate length at a variable period
of roughly 1500 years. Subsequent to the desperate depths of the
Little Ice Age (Maunder Minimum, 1650--1710), I am happy to report
a renewed warming trend.
But climate continues to fluctuate; and overprinted on this
trend is a shorter 50/80-year cycle. The Shift of 1976/77, the
most prominent climatic event of the 20th Century, introduced
the latest warmer phase. It began with an abrupt warming of the
NE Pacific sea-surface (because of the reduced up-welling of cold,
deep water); and its influence now extends far beyond the Pacific
Basin. This striking event was associated with a change in the
rate-of-change of length-of-day; hence, it was momentum-related.
Absent a surge of continental ice into the sea at that time, the
attendant major changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulation---which
directly influenced climate---were most probably the result of
solar/planetary inertial forcing.
The Sun is not at the precise centre of rotation for our Solar
System, but bobbles around it as tweaked by the giant planets.
Consequent momentum changes in the Sun induce solar eruptions,
and hence cause wide variations in solar magnetic output. These
in turn vary the degree to which the solar wind provides shielding
to Earth from the incidence of climate-influencing galactic cosmic
rays. (The Sun's radiant-heat output also varies, but recent changes
in solar radiative forcing appear not large enough to be the main
direct driver of contemporary climate change.)
Some claim climate is chaotic, and hence, prediction is impossible.
IPCC claims that climate is now driven by human-caused GHG emissions,
and change can be modelled---if emissions can be predicted. But
the Sun has not resigned from the climate-change game. Furthermore,
behaviour of the Solar System is not chaotic; and a well-resourced
analysis of the relationship between the solar torque cycle and
climate might enable us to do what IPCC cannot do---predict climate
change. (Theodor Landscheidt has enjoyed notable success in predicting
El Niño events by this means---search "Landscheidt"
for his innovative work.)
A Time to Choose. No amount
of "doing the right thing" about greenhouse gas emissions
can stop climate from changing; and devastating weather extremes
will keep coming. Applying the precautionary principle to climate
or weather is a waste of money and zeal. Now is the time for policymakers
to abandon their futile and costly efforts to 'stabilise' climate,
and choose instead to concentrate on the mitigation of human misery
and environmental degradation.
|Lavoisier the Man|
Bio and Image
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