Garth George

Garth George is a Herald columnist

Garth George: Climate hysteria won't last test of time

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Reports of inaccuracies with global warming data will one day be a source of mirth for us

I am indebted to a reader for sending me a copy of an article which appeared in this newspaper and which I hadn't read.

Under the headlines "Man is making the earth too warm, Threat of melting polar caps", it quoted a prominent physicist as saying that the levels of the oceans could rise 12m and flood vast areas of the Earth in the next half century unless atmospheric temperatures were controlled.

The physicist, Dr Joseph Kaplan, professor of physics at the University of California, said such flooding could occur as a result of accelerated melting of the polar ice caps.

Should the oceans rise by 12m, their waters would roll through parts of New York, London, San Francisco and many other coastal cities.

Dr Kaplan said the melting of the ice caps was being speeded by man's tremendous use of oil and gas which was "changing the Earth's atmosphere".

The burning of fossil fuels was of such great magnitude that discharged gases were creating a "greenhouse" effect over the Earth.

The gases were warming the atmosphere as far up as 26km, and would have a great effect on the Arctic and Antarctic ice masses.

Dr Kaplan said heat control was an answer to the threat. "We are now working on a method of controlling man's environment and the temperature of the world. We have already fired rockets into the upper atmosphere and discharged chemicals that affect the temperature of the atmosphere.

"Control by man of the Earth's weather and temperature is within the realm of practicability now. The end result of our studies of temperature control will be more important to the survival of man than atomic energy."

Now the reason I missed that story is that it appeared in this newspaper on Tuesday, April 9, 1957, at which time I was 16 years old and preparing to travel by ship to the United States on an American Field Service scholarship.

Dr Kaplan, meanwhile, was head of the National Committee for the 1957-58 International Geophysical year. He died in 1991.

The copy of the Herald containing his predictions was discovered during house renovations when some old carpet was lifted.

Since I last wrote on the subject, the activities of the International Panel on Climate Change have come under deep suspicion for their unscientific "research" basis and questionable sources of temperature data.

Last weekend, the London Sunday Times reported that more and more scientists are now persuaded that the IPCC's assessment, that the evidence of warming is "unequivocal" and by 2100 would have devastating impacts on humanity and wildlife, could no longer be sustained.

In fact, the Sunday Times report said new research, including work by British scientists, is casting doubt on such claims and some even suggest the world may not be warming much at all.

Their concern - as it is with the data provided by our own National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) - is about the thousands of weather stations around the world which have been used to collect temperature data over the past 150 years.

These stations, they believe, have been seriously compromised by factors such as urbanisation, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved from site to site. This, of course, is the charge that has long been levelled at Niwa by a significant section of New Zealand's scientific community.

The Sunday Times report says that Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Canada, who had been invited by the IPCC to review its last report, had after reading it become a strong critic who has since published a research paper questioning the IPCC's methods.

"We concluded, with overwhelming statistical significance, that the IPCC's climate data are contaminated with surface effects from industrialisation and data quality problems. These add up to a large warming bias," Professor McKitrick told the Sunday Times.

Meanwhile, Terry Mills, professor of applied statistics and econometrics at Loughborough University in England, looked at the same data as the IPCC. He found that the warming trend it reported over the past 30 years or so was just as likely to be the result of random fluctuations as to the impacts of greenhouse gases.

And an American study has revealed that many weather stations are sited in places where their readings are distorted by heat-generating equipment.

Some have been found near air-conditioning outlets; some on waste treatment plants including one next to a waste incinerator. And then there's the weather station at Rome airport, which catches the hot exhaust fumes emitted by taxiing jets.

So, just as Dr Kaplan's predictions came to nought, so I believe will the scaremongering global warming predictions of today's climate doomsayers.

Perhaps 53 years from now someone will find an ancient copy of the Herald and laugh at the climate change paranoia which afflicted the world in 2010.

- NZ Herald

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