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Derek Mackie

Climate Change – natural phenomenon or man-made “threat”

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So, the Climate Change Commission has produced their final report after careful consideration of the public submissions, and it’s essentially the same as the draft report. The Treaty is mentioned 193 times and the report recommends “a Māori-led approach to ensure an equitable transition” – remind anyone of He Puapua? Barring a miracle, the government will adopt the report in its entirety. 

Of course, the writing was always on the wall, with a woke panel who sang from the same left-wing song sheet, led by a chairman who sports his greenstone pendant at every public appearance. I can’t say I’m surprised but I am disappointed. I wrote a submission against the proposals so I have more than a passing interest. This is another example of our government appointing supposed “independent experts” who embrace the same ideological agenda and guarantee the desired end result. No matter that it flies in the face of a large body of scientific evidence and research. Let’s take a trip back in time and have a look, shall we? 

Man-made climate change, or anthropogenic global warming theory (AGW), became the World’s obsession in the late 90’s and we were subjected to apocalyptic accounts of what would happen if we didn’t massively reduce our carbon footprints in the next 12 years. Humans, being a bit slow on the uptake and conservative by nature, decided to test the theory by waiting to see what happened. Lo-and-behold, everything was pretty much the same 12 years later. 

That didn’t deter our climate warriors and zealots. Like radical preachers quoting from Revelations, they continued to lambast us with ever more extreme predictions of catastrophe unless we changed our ways. All natural disasters were supposedly getting worse, despite the official records of bodies like NOAA and NASA showing there is not a single upward trend in either frequency or intensity. In addition, the planet is about 20% greener, crop yields have skyrocketed and numbers living in poverty have been massively reduced….and polar bears are doing just fine, despite David Attenborough’s doom-laden extinction prophecies. Humans have never had it so good. But in the climate alarmist’s world – good news is bad news, fake news is real news. 

To try and influence us they enrolled woke celebrities, aren’t they all I hear you say, who flew in first class from LA to attend Extinction Rebellion protests in London and lecture us on saving the planet, clearly oblivious to the hypocrisy of living in their huge homes and jet-setting around the world whenever it suited them. Children were recruited to the cause and encouraged to skip school. After all, if we were going to expire from heat stroke soon, what was the point of education? The same applied to having kids, with woke couples boasting that children were a massive carbon burden so they would forgo pro-creation to save us all. Assuming genetics plays a big part in how your offspring turn out, that has to be a good result for the rest of us! 

About ten years ago, I was working as a geologist and something was nagging at me. Specifically, a graph from my university days which showed the relationship, or lack of, between global CO2 and temperature. Thinking back to the mid 80’s, and my halcyon days of study, university life seemed a lot less politicised. The woke culture we endure today was still in its infancy and only practised by eccentrics who provided some light comedy relief for the rest of us. You could hold any view you wanted without being “cancelled on campus” and the main topic of conversation was usually which pub you were meeting in later. Only 10 years earlier, our proto climate alarmists were warning of the imminent return of ice age conditions and how we would all freeze by the turn of the century. 

Getting back to the graph, I did some research and found a very interesting book by a renowned professor of geology [1] detailing the huge body of scientific evidence casting doubt or directly contradicting the AGW theory. Nestled nicely in the middle was my graph. It was like a reunion with an old friend – I was greyer and heavier; the graph hadn’t changed a bit! 

Going back 550 million years (Ma) through geological time, using proxy measurements to derive CO2 and temperature, the graph confirmed my recollections that there is no relationship between the two variables. Indeed, at times of very high CO2 the Earth has been in ice age conditions. Conversely, at times of very low CO2 global temperatures 4 – 6 degrees above today have been common. Although there are some periods when the direct relationship holds, there are far more when there is no relationship at all. As any scientist worth their salt knows, that means the two variables are not related. That negates the AGW theory. 

Some climate alarmists use Venus, with its supercharged greenhouse effect, as an analogy for runaway global warming on Earth. No chance of that!  Our near neighbour has 96.5% CO2 in its atmosphere. Earth currently has 410 parts per million(ppm) or 0.041%. In other words, CO2 is a trace gas on Earth, albeit a very important one critical to life, and certainly not a pollutant, as labeled by many climate campaigners. 

Since 1850, when the current warming episode started, global CO2 has risen from 270ppm to 410ppm, an increase of 50%, which does seem alarming. In the same period the global temperature has risen by just over 1 degree. Now, I can see, on the face of it, how the two would appear to be directly related, especially if all other scientific data is ignored. However, let’s put things in perspective, a rare commodity these days. Earth’s average CO2 level has been 1200 -1500ppm, and at times well over 4000ppm. Even at today’s level, we are living in a very low CO2 atmosphere by comparison. Alarmist talk of imminent irreversible climate change is exposed as complete nonsense when considered in light of the figures above. How can we be at the point of no return when we’re 3-4 times lower than the historical average. It’s scaremongering and hype. 

The paleoclimate and geological data shows that for most of Earth’s history, on the scale of billions of years, the planet has been much warmer than today. In fact, it is estimated that Earth has only had ice caps at one or both poles for 20% of the time. Technically, we are still in an ice age, which started about 2.7Ma ago. Luckily for us, every 80-100 thousand years ice ages are interrupted by short, warmer periods called interglacials, lasting 10-20 thousand years. That’s where we currently find ourselves and have been for about the last 12-14 thousand years. Most recent interglacials have been at least a couple of degrees warmer, on average, than our current one. Using the law of averages we could be thrown back into ice age conditions in the next thousand years or so but in geological terms that’s a blink of an eye so maybe the alarmists weren’t so far wrong back in the 1970s. 

The AGW theory is based on the premise that man-made CO2 is the principal driver of global warming and it has a direct relationship to temperature. With a constant pre-industrial CO2 level, the AGW theory only holds true if the pre-industrial temperature remained stable and cooler in the past, until the rise of human emissions produced our current warming. These conditions are perfectly reproduced in a classic graph contained in the 2001 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which has become an icon amongst climate alarmists. Nicknamed the “hockey stick” graph, it shows the global temperature from 1000 AD and very regular it is too. That is, until you get to about 1850 when the temperature curves upwards to reflect its name. 

Most reputable climate scientists could not believe their eyes. It appeared to completely disregard hundreds of previous scientific papers which reported a much cooler period called the Little Ice Age (1300-1850AD) and a warm period called the Medieval Warming (900-1300AD). We know that back in medieval times the CO2 level was the same as pre-industrial times but the temperature was at least as warm as today. Vikings farmed parts of Greenland and grapes were grown in southern England. That negates the AGW theory

So, how could the Earth have possibly warmed to today’s levels if there were no human CO2 emissions? Alarm bells started ringing at the UN…..Geneva, we have a problem! To support the AGW theory the hockey stick authors had only one choice – to get their ruler and rubber out and erase natural climate change and variability pre-1850. Real climatologists requested the actual data set used to produce the graph but the authors have, to this day, declined to release it – I wonder why? 

Going back before 1000AD would have thrown up even more problems for them. Prior to the Medieval Warming was the Dark Ages Cooling (450-900AD), not a good time to be alive, and before that the Roman Warming (250BC-450AD). Data indicates that temperatures in roman times were at least 2 degrees warmer than today, and all achieved with the same pre-industrial level of CO2. During the current interglacial, the Earth’s climate has undergone regular oscillations between cooling and warming periods, each typically lasting 400 – 1000 years, but all at pre-industrial levels of CO2. That negates the AGW theory

Now, let’s look at our current 20th Century Warming in more detail. Temperature rise has rarely been uniform or matched emission changes. From 1850 to 1920 temperature rose slowly and erratically with very low emissions. In the 1920’s and 30’s the temperature increased more rapidly and there are accounts of large-scale summer melts in the Arctic on a similar scale to those of the past couple of decades. Yet human emissions were still very low. From 1940 to 1975 the temperature fell, despite emissions really cranking up in the post-WWII boom. From 1975 to 1998 temperatures rose more rapidly again, a little faster than the 1920-30 period, and emissions increased further. From 1998 – 2015 the temperature trend flat-lined despite this being the most intense emissions period to date. Our Covid pandemic gave us a great chance to see what a sharp, short drop in emissions would do to the temperature – answer, absolutely nothing! That negates the AGW theory

Since the start of our interglacial, sea level has risen 130 metres, in very dramatic fits and starts at times, and has been up to 2m higher than it is today! And all with the same pre-industrial level of CO2. That negates the AGW theory. The current rate of sea level rise is only 1-2mm/year, as measured by tide-gauges, and has seen little variation since 1850. This is entirely expected with modest warming, due to some ice melt and thermal expansion of surface ocean waters. 

Humans in positions of power are prone to delusions of grandeur and must find the urge to claim credit for climate change irresistible. However, the large body of scientific data which has been collected over the past century and more overwhelmingly shows that climate change is a natural phenomenon which began eons before humans even started using fossil fuels. It is not driven by CO2, although we can’t say for sure that this has no effect. Most climate scientists admit that we still do not fully understand how our incredibly complex climate works and we certainly don’t know what drives climate change but it is, almost certainly, controlled by numerous factors interacting in multiple ways. 

The Sun seems an obvious factor in climate change and we know it goes through different cycles of activity, waxing and waning every 11, 22, 87, 210 and 1500 years.  These cycles can counteract or reinforce each other to produce varying intensities of solar radiation.  When the Sun is weak more cosmic radiation enters our solar system and research shows this seeds low level cloud on Earth which reflects more solar radiation back to space, cooling the planet.  The opposite is true when the Sun is strong.  The Sun and clouds certainly influence global temperature, yet these are effectively ignored in the UN models.  

Humans have little choice but to adapt and take a practical approach, instead of chasing a half-baked theory that focuses almost exclusively on one causal factor, and fails to hold up to rigorous scientific examination. This is in contrast to what we are told by our political masters, much of the media and the mainstream scientific community, who are more interested in consensus than in real debate. Woke culture has infected our tertiary institutions and stifled independent thought in favour of groupthink. This largely explains the dearth of scientific discovery in the last 30 years. We are advised that the science is settled, but science, by its very nature, is never settled because it comprises theories that can never be proven beyond doubt. The best you can do is match actual data and experiment with your theory. The AGW theory fails on both counts! 

The only thing AGW agrees with is the UN’s suite of climate computer models which were developed specifically to promote the theory and have always over-predicted actual temperature rise, yet have never been modified or scrapped altogether. 

With the exception of the elites driving the process, we will all have to make massive changes to our lifestyles and certainly see a reduction in our standard of living and freedom of choice to accommodate the hugely expensive and inefficient “green solutions” that are being promoted to save the planet. On closer examination, these intermittent, unreliable renewables require huge amounts of land, raw materials and government subsidies. If adopted on a large scale they would cause considerable environmental damage, plastic waste and toxic waste, largely from the turbine blades, solar panels and batteries which are an intrinsic part of renewable power generation. 

“Clean and green” doesn’t apply to renewables such as wind and solar. They are completely dependent on coal, oil, heavy metals and cement for their constituent parts and last only half as long as conventional generation. Mining would have to increase massively to produce the eye-watering number of wind turbines and solar panels needed. In fact, known reserves of several key metals used in renewable components are woefully short of what would be required for large scale transition from fossil fuels. Critical reserves are sometimes located in only one or two countries leading to probable conflicts over security of supply. 

Due to no wind, light winds or very high winds, a wind farm only produces 30%, on average, of its nominal generating capacity. That means that for every 100MW of conventional generation you will need 330MW of wind generation to produce the same amount of power. On calm days you will likely get zero. Solar farms only generate at optimal capacity in the middle of sunny days during summer. Time of day and year, cloud and rain all affect generation and, of course, you get nothing at night. The only real way round this is to have conventional backup generation on standby, which is very costly and inefficient but feasible with small amounts of renewables. It would be cripplingly expensive with large amounts. After over 20 years of promotion and large subsidies, wind and solar combined only meet about 3% of the global energy needs – that’s because they don’t work nearly as well as other fuels and types of generation. 

Your average green supporter is ignorant of these hard facts and prefers only to think of the emission free wind and sun powering our future. The truth is that all the mining, emissions and environmental problems are encountered up front and at the end of their relatively short, unreliable generating life. And due to the very low energy density of wind and sun, compared to higher density fossil fuels and super-high density nuclear fuel, many times more materials and energy goes into building a wind or solar farm compared to a power equivalent conventional station. 

Keeping the national grid stable using a baseload of wind and solar would be almost impossible due to their intermittent and fluctuating generation and lack of flexibility. Brownouts and blackouts would be a common occurrence. Try running a modern, high-tech, energy dependent society on a majority of renewable generation and you better have a good book and a candle ready to fill in the gaps when the lights go out. 

But is this really about the climate, or is AGW just a front to fool us into signing up to a flawed, ideological crusade, driven by our political elite to change Western society to a more centrally controlled, technocratic UN-style of socialism? Whatever the reason, the reality is that our current green solution is just a dream! It could easily turn into a nightmare as we blindly try to enact a plan which is completely unattainable. We have chosen to turn our economies upside down and prematurely ditch the energy sources that have given us wealth, security and reliability for over a century. 

Instead, it is time for governments to listen to real experts who use real data to produce real solutions that apply sound scientific, engineering and economic practices. All of this is tried and tested – it just needs acting on. Climate change happens slowly, as we have seen over the past 170 years, despite all the scaremongering from the climate crazies. Reacting in a measured and responsible way will result in much better outcomes for us and the environment. Of course, new energy technologies should be researched and developed, but only adopted when they become the most cost-effective and best practical solutions for our needs. Wind and solar fail both tests! 

Follow this approach and we will get the optimal result, whether our current climate warming is a natural phenomenon or not. Although most of the evidence, and all my money, is on the former. Sadly but predictably, NZ is following Europe and the US down a road which will lead to evermore government control, prescriptive regulation and intrusion into all aspects of people’s lives as they persist in trying to validate a theory that just doesn’t stack up. 

[1] Ian Plimer – 2009: Heaven + Earth – Global Warming:The Missing Science. Connor Court Publishing.