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Dr Muriel Newman

Global Mitigation or Adaptation?

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The fourth and final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released today. Speaking at the launch, the Secretary General of the United Nations stated that climate change is putting the world on the edge of a global “catastrophe”. Such scaremongering over climate change appears to be par for the course.

Without a doubt, the media love a good scare story: in 1924 the New York Times warned readers that an ice age was coming, but by 1933 rising temperatures were the problem. By 1975 fears of a major cooling had surfaced again, only to be followed by the current panic over global warming. (For more information see “Fire and Ice”, click here )

It is at times like this that the sage words of acclaimed writer Dr Michael Crichton come to mind: “The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age it takes on a special urgency and importance. We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems”. (To read his 2003 speech “Environmentalism as a Religion”, click here )

Climate change has been described as the defining issue of our times. But as we watch our government roll-out its climate change policies, many feel a sense of foreboding – not only over the extent of the propaganda that has become entwined in this global warming issue, but over the substantial damage that these policies will inflict on families and our economy.

Many New Zealanders fervently believe that man-made global warming is a massive con-job, a remarkably clever strategy adopted by modern day socialists to attack economic growth and prosperity using the guise of environmentalism. Others are convinced that climate change is being used by the United Nations as a means of establishing global government. Then there are those that believe that global warming is the biggest threat that mankind has ever faced and that unless governments take decisive action and everyone else does their bit, the world as we know it will be destroyed.

With such a divergence of views, it is useful to ask what is there about climate change that has been largely agreed.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, Lord Nigel Lawson, the former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, is in New Zealand at the present time discussing these very issues. In a lecture on Thursday, A Cool Look at Global Warming, he stated:

“Let’s start with the facts. It is customary to focus on three of them. The first is that, over the past hundred years, the earth has become slightly warmer. To be precise, there has been a rise in global mean annual temperature of some 0.7º centigrade.

“The second is that, over the past hundred years, the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere has risen sharply, by well over 30 per cent, largely as a result of carbon-based industrialisation – in particular, electricity generated in coal- and oil-fired power stations and motorized transport.

“And the third fact is that carbon dioxide is one of a number of so-called greenhouse gases – of which far and away the most important is water vapour, including water suspended in clouds – which in effect trap some of the heat we receive from the sun and thus keep the planet warmer than it would otherwise be”.

Lord Lawson then explained how the IPCC (the organisation established by the UN in 1988 to find evidence of human-induced climate change – see article by Dr Vincent Gray ) had concluded “on the basis of very slender evidence, that ‘most’ of the warming that occurred during the last quarter of the 20th century was very likely due to the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations”.

He then went on to point out the fallacies in this argument – to read Lord Lawson’s speech click HERE.

The reality is that while on one hand, the IPCC is claiming that carbon dioxide levels are rising significantly, on the other hand, we know that the earth’s temperature is no longer warming. The last period of warming started in 1975 and stopped around 1998. Before that, the earth warmed from 1920 to 1940, with records showing that a thousand years ago in the medieval warm period, temperatures were probably higher than today, and a thousand or so years before that, temperatures were probably higher still.

It is clear that these early periods of higher temperatures had nothing whatsoever to do with man-made carbon dioxide. It is therefore difficult to understand how any credible organisation can possibly blame man-made CO2 emissions for causing global temperatures to rise. Similarly, if Lord Lawson is correct and carbon dioxide emissions are now rising quickly as a result of industrialisation, then how on earth can the IPCC explain the fact that global temperatures stopped rising 1998?

The answer is that the scientific models being used by the IPCC are based on carbon dioxide as the driving force of climate change, so even though the physical evidence shows that this assumption is not credible, rather than admitting that it is wrong, the IPCC is continuing to generate its flawed estimates. Further, because of its charter, the IPCC can only look at man-made CO2 as influencing climate change and has therefore ignored key factors such as solar cycles, cosmic rays, magnetic field variations, El Ninos and La Ninas. (For more information see The Global Warming Myth by Prof David Bellamy)

While the present-day focus on the environment serves to remind us all that we should be conservation minded and take all reasonable steps to reduce pollution, we must remember that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant – as many people are now led to believe – but the basis of all food on earth. That is why it is so important that the debate about climate change focuses on science and reason rather than propaganda and hyperbole.

With the science being far from settled, the real question that needs to be asked is what, if anything, should our government be doing about all of this. Should New Zealand be going down the path of mitigation, taking extensive action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, or should we be taking the wait, see and adapt if necessary approach?

Given the massive uncertainties that surround this issue – whether the earth is cooling or warming and whether man-made CO2 is having any affect on that process – the wisest course for our government would have been to wait and see.

Unfortunately for us all, Helen Clark chose the mitigation path, declaring that New Zealand would lead the world in sustainability.

The cost to the country will be enormous. Our liability for the Kyoto Protocol alone is estimated to be as much as $2 billion, yet with Kyoto effectively being a dead duck since the major emitters have refused to sacrifice economic growth by signing up, the best thing that we could do is to enact Article 27 and withdraw at the first opportunity, in February 2008.

Even if every country in the world signed up, the Kyoto Protocol would not make an appreciable difference to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels: the National Centre for Atmospheric Research has calculated that if Kyoto was implemented by all industrial countries only 0.07°C of global warming would be averted by 2050!

In other words, Helen Clark is sacrificing New Zealand’s economic growth to look good on the world stage. Further, her recently announced emissions trading regime is destined to become a massive scam – like all of the other such schemes around the world – which will do absolutely nothing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. And we haven’t even considered the anticipated massive cost to households and businesses of Labour’s flawed energy strategy.

It seems inevitable that in spite of every effort by governments to implement policies to change the climate, mankind will have to do what it has always done and adapt to temperature changes if there are any. After all, we live with enormous temperature variations on a daily basis: in the US alone the average temperature in January in Anchorage in the State of Alaska is minus 13.1º centigrade, while in August in Honolulu it is 31.5º centigrade – a 44 degrees difference! Given that the IPCC is predicting a median rise of 3º centigrade over the next 100 years if global warming occurs, adapting may not be such a big challenge and will bring many benefits to many climates.

To paraphrase Dr Michael Crichton, perhaps a bigger challenge facing New Zealand is distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda, and global warming is just one of the deceptions.

The poll this week asks: Do you believe that New Zealand should withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol after 16 February 2008 as provided for in Article 27?