A sense of due proportion
From The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, snowed in at his country seat on the shore of Loch Rannoch
It is a glorious day outside the window of the Library at Carie. A foot or two of snow is on the fields and forests and on the distant Grampian Mountains. It is so cold that Loch Rannoch, the watery remnant of a mighty glacier that once swept majestically down from Rannoch Moor to distant Dundee 110 miles to the east and now placidly laps at the foot of our graceful lawns, is giving off a pearly mist, through which occasional darts of sunlight strike diamond fire from the fresh snow on Beinn Mhorlach, the little mountain on the far shore.
We cannot go anywhere, and no one can come to us. The roads for 30 miles around are impassable, and there is nothing the gallant roadmen of Perth and Kinross Council can do to keep them clear. So there is time to think a little, after the pandemonium of the collapsed Copenhagen climate conference.
The glaciers were here as recently as 9000 years ago. Then, by little and little, they went. Did they go because of manmade “global warming”? No, of course not. There were too few humans. There had been no Industrial Revolution. Our ancestors’ few, puny fires did not emit enough CO2 to make any measurable alteration to the composition of the atmosphere. Yet the glaciers went. There are greater forces acting upon our planet than we yet understand, and a little humility from the climatological/political community would be in order.
How is it that anyone, even for an instant, can seriously imagine that the doubling of today’s CO2 concentration that the IPCC predicts for this century will have a major and potentially catastrophic influence over the climate? Humankind is too insignificant to make any real difference to global temperature, as anyone with a sense of due proportion can see at once.
The ancient Greeks had a nifty aphorism – panta metrios. This means, “All things in due proportion”. Every great civilization has a sense of due proportion: every failing civilization loses it. Our classe politique, worldwide, has lost it big-time.
The rhetoric at Copenhagen – even by the generally lacklustre standards of the TV age – was deplorable. The bombast, braggadocio, and rodomontade of politician after peculating politician was out of all proportion to the non-problem that the conference was supposedly addressing. The dictator of Venezuela received a standing ovation for a 20-minute rant against the imagined evils of capitalism – the system of economic liberty that has given prosperity to all those nations that have embraced it. The world’s bureaucrats and politicians hate capitalism, for it gives independence to the people, and diminishes the power of central government. So they leapt to their feet and thunderously acclaimed the posturing ninny from Venezuela.
For the first time, half of the world’s heads of government met in one place. And what did they talk about? Ending poverty? Nah. Making free trade freer? Nopenhagen. After 15 straight years with no statistically-significant “global warming” on any measure, they talked about the need to Save The Planet from – er – “global warming”. After nine straight years of statistically-significant, rapid global cooling, culminating in a snowstorm of unprecedented severity and extent that swept right across Europe and North America, they tried to tell each other, and us, how urgent the “global warming” problem was, and how necessary it was to reach a legally-binding deal to shut down the economies of the capitalist West wholesale.
We did not, and do not, believe them. In those countries which still have the right to make and unmake their own governments by secret ballot, public opinion still matters. And, in those countries, the opinion polls – for years – have shown a galloping decline in the number of voters who trust politicians, scientists, corporations, academics, teachers, or the media to tell them the truth about “global warming”. In what is left of the free world, people are no longer buying the Great Lie.
In Canada, in Australia, in New Zealand, in the United States, and even in once-free Britain, now ruled by the dismal, alien, unelected Kommissars of the hated European bureaucratic-centralist dictatorship, the opinion pollsters are telling the same story. “Global warming”, as a problem, isn’t. It ranks at the very bottom of everyone’s list of things that politicians ought to be doing something about. Even the Washington Pest, which has relentlessly inflicted the crudest and most childish of propaganda upon its readers in the hope of getting them to believe the New Superstition, has published – albeit through gritted teeth – an opinion poll showing a sharp and dramatic drop in the number of voters who think that President Obama is exercising wise leadership in tackling “global warming”.
The unspeakable BBC, which was one of the first news media to gobble up and gabble out the New Superstition hook, line and sinker, is wringing its collective, collectivist hands and threatening us with more and better and bigger propaganda to explain to people how dire the non-threat of non-warming is. The Times, echoed by our hapless soon-to-be-ex Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, says the same, and snipes at those of us who have refused to be taken in by the nonsense, quoting with approval the Marxist president of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, who says that in a global village there are always global village idiots, and we “climate skeptics” are the village idiots.
What the mainstream instruments of propaganda have entirely failed to grasp is that, even if politicians and bureaucrats and environmental correspondents are fatally stupid, the people possess an innate common sense, known to Catholic theologians as the sensus fidelium, which prevents propaganda from influencing them except in the very short term. In the long run, the people can always be relied upon to hold fast to that sense of due proportion that the ancient Greeks at once admired and exemplified. That is why the pusillanimous propaganda of our ruling elite – far too shrill of late to be in the least convincing – has not convinced.
So let us, the people, demonstrate the due sense of proportion that statesmen ought to exhibit. Let us tell the political elite how to make serious policy on the “global warming” question.
First, we need just a few facts. These have been depressingly absent in this debate. Instead, various fictions and inventions have held sway. Lies, whatever propaganda value the lesser sort of politician may conceive them to possess, have no place whatsoever in public policy-making, which cannot work unless it be rooted firmly in the truth.
Let us take one fact that the unspeakable BBC and most other Leftist news media have done their damnedest to conceal. There is not a scientific consensus on everything.
There. I’ve said it. I’ll say it again. There. Is. Not. A. Consensus. On. Everything.
There is a scientific consensus to the effect that there is such a thing as the “greenhouse effect”. We have known for a couple of hundred years that certain gases possessing a structure that gives certain molecules what is known as a “dipole moment” interact with long-wave radiation, setting up a quantum residence that emits heat. Thanks to Stefan and Planck and Boltzmann, we can use the fundamental equation of radiative transfer at the emitting surface of an astronomical body to calculate that the net warming effect of having today’s atmosphere, as opposed to not having it, is just 20 Celsius (36 Fahrenheit). At most, a quarter of the warming caused by having as opposed to not having an atmosphere – i.e. around 5 C (9 F) – is caused by the presence rather than the absence of CO2. All of this, so far, is agreed among all parties – constat inter omnes, as the Romans used to say.
Yet the unspeakable BBC recently conducted an experiment using plastic bottles and CO2 in a viewer’s living-room, with a view to “routing the skeptics”, as its pathetic “science” correspondent put it, by proving what no skeptic denies – that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. That was not, is not, and will not be the topic of debate. The question is not whether CO2 can cause warming, but how much warming it causes in our complicated atmosphere. That cannot be demonstrated by any experiment, however clever, which is one reason why the UN has been compelled to cut its central estimate of the radiative-forcing effect of CO2 by 15% in recent years.
Now, you may think that a doubling of CO2 concentration will accordingly cause a doubling of the warming caused by the CO2 in the existing atmosphere – i.e., another 5 C (9 F) on top of the maximum of 5 C that its presence in today’s atmosphere already causes. That, indeed, is close to the upper limit of the predictions made by the UN’s climate panel. But that is where the “consensus” claimed by the news media breaks down. Though we know that increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere causes some warming, we do not know how much warming it causes.
What we do know, however – and this, too, is agreed among all parties – is that the effect of CO2 on temperature is logarithmic, not linear. Putting it in English, each additional molecule of CO2 has less warming effect than its predecessors. An example. Let us suppose that the first 12.5 parts per million by volume of CO2 in the atmosphere cause 1 C of warming. Then the next 25 ppmv will cause another 1 C of warming; the next 50 ppmv 1 C; the next 100 ppmv 1 C; and the next 200 ppmv 1 C. Total it all up, and 387.5 ppmv of CO2 (which, not by coincidence, is approximately today’s atmospheric concentration) cause 5 C of warming. Now, suppose that we add another 400 ppmv this century, which is not far off the UN’s central estimate. That will cause just 1 C of additional warming: not the 3.3 C that is the UN’s central estimate, and certainly not as much as its high-end estimate of well over 5 C. We can of course dismiss the now-discredited Stern Report’s upper limit of 11 C (20 F) of warming for a CO2 doubling as childishly exaggerated.
All we have done, in presenting the argument this way, is to use a sense of due proportion. We do not actually know how much atmospheric concentration of CO2 will cause the first 1 C of warming. This is one of the many fundamental uncertainties that make any scientist laugh when he hears the phrase “The Science Is Settled” on the lips of some crazed enviro-zomb. But we can see, just by looking at this simple stepwise calculation and by making sure that the total CO2 concentration is broadly equivalent to today’s and that the total warming is at the high end of estimated total atmospheric warming from CO2, that the UN’s estimates of the warming effect of CO2 concentration must be disproportionately large.
To conclude this meditation upon retaining a sense of due proportion (for my lovely wife, our ghillie, and a kind neighbour have managed to clear our drive, and we shall soon have to rejoin the world), let us pretend – though our little thought-experiment above strongly suggests otherwise – that the UN is right to assume that a doubling of CO2 concentration will cause 3.26 C of warming. That is the central estimate it gives in its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report. From this we may deduce the UN’s unpublished “global warming coefficient”. If we divide 3.26 by the logarithm of 2, we obtain the coefficient 4.7. Therefore, the UN’s implicit central estimate of the “global warming” – in Celsius degrees – that will arise from any given proportionate increase in CO2 concentration is 4.7 times the logarithm of that proportionate increase.
Right. Now we shall apply that knowledge to today’s climate. The atmospheric concentration of CO2 is 388 ppmv. For the past decade, as our Monthly CO2 Reports have show, we have been adding 2 ppmv a year. Let us assume, to be as kind as possible to the UN, that we are entirely responsible for the full 2 ppmv/year.
Now, here’s the main point of all these calculations. How much “global warming” will occur if we continue to emit CO2 at the current rate, without cutting back our emissions at all, for a whole decade, so that today’s concentration rises by 20 ppmv to 408 ppmv?
The answer is 4.7 times the logarithm of (408/388). That works out at less than a quarter of a Celsius degree. Now think back to the frenetic, panic-larded speeches of the gibbering politicians and bureaucrats at Copenhagen. Reread some of the fatuous articles churned out by the mad scientists and lackwit environmental correspondents in the mainstream media. All of them – all of them – told us that we had to act immediately, if not sooner, or The Planet Was Doomed.
However, by a simple calculation, using the UN’s own formula, we have shown beyond doubt that these Dukes of Rodomonte were talking nonsense. Even at the very high end of the UN’s estimates of CO2’s warming potential, replacing 4.7 with 5.7 as our coefficient in the “global warming” equation, we still won’t expect warming of much more than a quarter of a Celsius degree, or a fraction over half a Fahrenheit degree.
None of these calculations is in the least bit contentious. For the sake of argument, we have pretended – though we had first established a good reason not to pretend – that the UN has correctly estimated the warming effect of CO2. We have applied its own implicit “global warming” formula. We have assumed that all of the warming predicted will occur within the decade we are examining. In every way, we have bent over backwards to believe – albeit solum ad argumentum – all that the UN says about the science. And all we’re looking at, after an entire decade of business as usual, with no emissions cuts at all, is around half a Fahrenheit degree of “global warming”.
So here’s the thing. To prevent that half a Fahrenheit degree of warming imagined by the UN, we’d have to shut down – and shut down completely - the entire world economy for a decade. Right back to the Stone Age, and without even the right to light a carbon-emitting fire in our caves. And, at the end of that period of misery, disease, disaster, and death – for that is what would follow from total economic shutdown – all we should have to show for the sacrifice was a measly half a Fahrenheit degree of warming forestalled.
Now, imagine yourself as a statesman, rather than as a mere jabbering politician looking to win the youth vote, or mere crafty bureaucrat plotting world domination by stealth. Would you – for a single instant – propose, as the first draft of the now-dead Copenhagen Treaty proposed, that we should indeed shut down 95% of our carbon-emitting economies – i.e., practically close down the whole show? No, of course not: you would realize that adaptation to “global warming”, as and if necessary, is orders of magnitude cheaper and more effective than attempting to limit our emissions of CO2, which is demonstrably pointless, even if the UN’s science is right.
One final thought. Though it is possible to argue that replacing a small amount of our CO2 output by alternative sources of energy would have a negligible adverse impact on the economy, as our calculation has shown, replacing only a small amount of our CO2 emissions would have an even more infinitesimal effect on global temperatures than shutting down the entire carbon economy.
Furthermore, and it is important to grasp this, a widespread and too-rapid shutdown of CO2-emitting plants, or a failure to build new ones as needed, will have a disproportionately large adverse effect on the economy, and for an insignificant climatic benefit. For instance, if we were rapidly to shut down half of all CO2-emitting activities, it is reasonable to estimate that – so central is burning fossil fuels to every aspect of manufacture and vecture worldwide – that half of all economic activity worldwide – and possibly more – would disappear.
The bottom line is this. Any statesman with a sense of due proportion would not dream of placing any restriction whatsoever on the emission of CO2 by our industries and enterprises. The economic cost of trying to mitigate imagined “global warming” by reducing our CO2 emissions must in all circumstances extravagantly, monstrously, absurdly outweigh any conceivable climatic benefit. It is this central economic truth, which we have here demonstrated by simple, robust, irrefutable calculation, that the media and the politicians can no longer ignore. For it is this central economic truth, above all, that is the reason why the attempted bureaucratic coup d’etat in Copenhagen has ended in ignominious and fortunate failure, and why it shall not succeed in future.
Have a good Christmas, and eat, drink and be merry in due proportion. Panta metrios!