As world leaders and environmental groups gather in war on terror torn Paris to save the world from global warming or, at least, be seen to do so, Matt Ridley took to the pages of Scientific America on Friday with some bad news and some good news about climate change. The bad news is that global warming is real and not a hoax cooked up by politicians and corrupt scientists. The good news is that it is nothing to worry about, at least for about a century, and that we have time to deal with the matter without taking quick, ill-considered decisions that will make matters worse.
Ridley deploys a little science to contradict some of the climate change computer models that predict catastrophic global warming
“In 1990 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was predicting that if emissions rose in a “business as usual” way, which they have done, then global average temperature would rise at the rate of about 0.3 degree Celsius per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2 to 0.5 degree C per decade). In the 25 years since, temperature has risen at about 0.1 to 0.2 degree C per decade, depending on whether surface or satellite data is used. The IPCC, in its most recent assessment report, lowered its near-term forecast for the global mean surface temperature over the period 2016 to 2035 to just 0.3 to 0.7 degree C above the 1986–2005 level. That is a warming of 0.1 to 0.2 degree C per decade, in all scenarios, including the high-emissions ones.”
Why have the models been so wrong? Ridley explains.
“Such lower sensitivity does not contradict greenhouse-effect physics. The theory of dangerous climate change is based not just on carbon dioxide warming but on positive and negative feedback effects from water vapor and phenomena such as clouds and airborne aerosols from coal burning. Doubling carbon dioxide levels, alone, should produce just over 1 degree C of warming. These feedback effects have been poorly estimated, and almost certainly overestimated, in the models.”
In other words, global warming alarmists have not taken into consideration every factor that affects climate. This is not just academic. Policies based on the mistaken models have had real world consequences.
“This ‘lukewarm’ option has been boosted by recent climate research, and if it is right, current policies may do more harm than good. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other bodies agree that the rush to grow biofuels, justified as a decarbonization measure, has raised food prices and contributed to rainforest destruction. Since 2013 aid agencies such as the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank have restricted funding for building fossil-fuel plants in Asia and Africa; that has slowed progress in bringing electricity to the one billion people who live without it and the four million who die each year from the effects of cooking over wood fires.”
In other words, global warming alarmists have contributed to what is, in effect, genocide.
What should the diplomats and activists gathering in Paris be concerned about? Ridley has a suggestion.
“As the upcoming Paris climate conference shows, the world is awash with plans, promises and policies to tackle climate change. But they are having little effect. Ten years ago the world derived 87 percent of its primary energy from fossil fuels; today, according the widely respected BP statistical review of world energy, the figure is still 87 percent. The decline in nuclear power has been matched by the rise in renewables but the proportion coming from wind and solar is still only 1 percent.
“Getting the price of low-carbon energy much lower will do the trick. So we should spend the coming decades stepping up research and development of new energy technologies. Many people may reply that we don’t have time to wait for that to bear fruit, but given the latest lukewarm science of climate change, I think we probably do.”
Of course, one does not hold what many people consider to be the most important conference to be held in Paris since the one that forged the Treaty of Versailles (and we know how that turned out) just to conclude that all that is needed is a few billion dollars or euros spent on fusion energy research. There are legacies to be made and sweeping changes to be enacted. What real world effect they will have is beside the point.