Year in Review: The Country kicked off 2018 with this controversial opinion piece from Dr Doug Edmeades that proved to be one of the most popular articles of the year.
OPINION: The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has recently said that she would like her administration to be remembered by two things; the elimination of poverty and climate change – I assume that means a zero carbon economy.
Although I am not a rabid socialist I can understand the need for and hence can agree with policies which result in a more equitable distribution of wealth. I cannot however get my head around the idea of a zero carbon economy.
You see – I am a sceptic. But let me be very clear about what I mean. The word sceptic means "a person unconvinced by a particular fact, theory or hypothesis" And the hypothesis I am sceptical about is "That global temperatures are rising mainly due to mans activities, specifically via an increase on greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide)."
Yes the climate on earth is changing and indeed has always changed both up and down and long before mankind discovered fossil fuels, suggesting that some other mechanism(s) is (are) at play.
This is consistent with the fact that the ice core data shows that temperature increases about 600 to 800 years before CO2 concentrations increase. CO2 does not, it appears, determine the earth's climate.
These facts are fatal to the dangerous man-induced (anthropogenic) global warming theory. And I could add to them many other contingent but relevant arguments. Yes CO2 is a greenhouse gas but water vapour makes up about 90% of the greenhouse effect and - this is important in the context of the supposed consensus - scientists are still arguing as to whether water vapour reduces or increases the CO2 warming effect.
Yes, since civilisation as we know it began about 10-12,000 years ago, it has been warmer (the Medieval Warm Period) and cooler (the Little Ice Age) than the present with ne'er a bag of coal or barrel of oil to be seen.
Yes sea levels have risen and glaciers have retreated as the earth has emerged from the Little Ice Age (approx. 1600-1800 AD) but there is no evidence that the rate of change in these processes has increased over the last 50 years, despite the fact that the CO2 concentrations have increased significantly.
More recently the satellite data shows that there has been no increase in global temperatures since 1998 – almost 20 years now - despite an increase in global CO2 concentrations.
I became exposed to this issue because I work with farmers and they would say to me – "you are a scientist – what do you think about global warming." Initially I would say "sorry not my specialty."
I came to see this as a cop-out and started reading. To clarify my thinking I then wrote a paper outlining the 10 reasons why I am a sceptic and I sent this paper to people on both sides of the argument, specifically inviting them to consider if there were any flaws in logic in my arguments. None were raised.
I continue to keep an eye out for any evidence that would contradict my logic. If anything I find that what is being offered to the public as evidence of human induced global warming is becoming increasingly fragile.
White plumes of gas from smoke stacks are not CO2, which is colourless and odourless. Pictures of air pollution in China are evidence of poor air quality and not CO2 induced global warming. The fact that polar bear numbers are increasing removes the emotional implication held in pictures of lonely isolated bears on ice flows.
And I am left infuriated (pre-whiskey) and bemused (post whisky), at the never ending pictures of extreme storm events, whether snow storms on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA or heat waves in NSW, purporting to be further evidence of man–induced global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that there is no evidence that extreme weather events are increasing as a consequence of global warming. Where is the fourth estate when we most need them?
And beware. The press is full of stories of a particular form: For example: an issue is identified – it may be to do with sea level rise, an endangered species, climate refugees, retreating glaciers or ice sheets breaking up. It is then predicted that the problem or issue will get worse because of global warming. The claims, if you read carefully, will, in all likelihood, be based on a desktop studies using predictions from climate models.
But remember models are not evidence. Models can be useful tools if they accurately predict the empirical (actual) evidence and none of the 90 odd climate models developed by scientists to date, have predicted the 20 years hiatus in warming that we are now experiencing. The normal practice in science in such circumstances is to set the models aside.
Finally I will leave you with a prediction: Because of the views expressed above I will be accused of being a "denier" and/or a "rejectionist". Just what it is I am rejecting or denying will not be spelt out but Mark Twain, that irascible American wit provides some comfort: "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."
Dr Doug Edmeades, MscHons, ONZM (Services to Agriculture), is an independent soil scientist based in Hamilton.