This piece appeared in the Methodist Recorder, 9 Oct 15, and is republished here by permission of the editor and Howard Curnow.
Both the Pope and the President of the United States seem to regard climate change as the greatest problem facing the human race. They seem to believe that there is no doubt that this is a massive problem, which human beings have caused by the use of fossil fuels, thereby increasing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Furthermore, they seem to be convinced that, as many assert, the science is settled.
In truth the only bits of the science which can truly be said to be settled are (a) that CO2 is a so-called greenhouse gas (so, too, is water vapour, and there is much more of that in the atmosphere) and (b) that the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased over the last century.
Let's consider a few further points, which few would dispute.
During the last century, the earth experienced a period of warming in the 20s and 30s; then it had a period of cooling (approximately 1940 to 1970), at the end of which some scientists were warning of a new ice age. Then came another period of warming and it was in the middle of this that we first began to hear about anthropogenic global warming (AGM).
Looking at the period 1970-1998 (approximately) it may seem a plausible theory that the increase in CO2 was causing the warming of the earth, but looking at the situation over the whole of the 20th century should be enough to convince anyone that whatever the relationship (if any) between CO2 levels and global temperature might be, it was not a simple linear one of cause and effect.
Then, of course, for the last 20 years it seems that there has been no continued warming (what has been referred to as a hiatus or pause), although CO2 levels have continued to rise.
Various computer models have been used to try to predict future rises in temperature (all, to a greater or lesser extent, assuming that CO2 is the driver of warming); and the models have all predicted temperatures which are higher than those which have, in fact, been experienced this century. The models are only really concerned with warming, but they have been used by some to make dire predictions of more hurricanes, droughts and floods, which have hardly been justified by the facts.
At some point in recent years we stopped hearing about 'global warming' and began to hear about 'climate change'; and although the reality of the last 20-odd years made it more difficult to go on claiming that CO2 was causing warming, somehow "climate change" was all the fault of human beings and CO2.
It needs to be realised that "climate change" is not something that has suddenly happened for the first time: the climate is always changing. There have been periods over the last 1,000 years when the climate has been warmer and periods when it has been colder; and neither can be said to have been caused by human beings.
Those who want to lay the blame on human beings for all changes of climate over the last 50-odd years seem to assume that all non-human factors which affected climate in the past have ceased to exist; a totally unreasonable assumption.
It seems to me that the basis for believing CO2 is causing "catastrophic climate change" is decidenly shaky and it follows that enormously expensive policies which are concerned solely with reducing levels of the gas (sometimes by unproven methods, such as carbon capture and storage) are unlikely to make a great deal of difference to the climate.
Instead of spending vast sums of money trying to stop the climate changing, might it not be better to use the funds in helping to mitigate the worst effects of weather events, wherever they may occur in the world?
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