I started becoming interested in climate change in 2005, when I was writing a speculative book about the next fifty years in Australia. It was plain I would have to do a chapter on the environment, which forced me to come to terms with global warming, then the widely used term. I knew that Ian Castles, the former Australian Statistician, had written a piece on some aspect of it, and we began talking. He suggested that for the orthodox science I read the IPCC reports, and then talk to Bob Carter, the most prominent scientific sceptic. I knew Bob Carter well, because he had been an outspoken (and highly successful) scientist who had served on the Australian Research Grants Committee when I was its chair. He got me to read other articles, from both sides of the domain. I became increasingly more sceptical myself. The data were rubbery, the arguments too confident. The media loved the scary stories, which encouraged more and more assertions. In 2008 I gave a public presentation of my views to the Royal Australian Institute of Planning, of which I was an honorary Fellow, and that led to my becoming a public figure in the debate.
All that began fifteen years ago. What has happened since? The highpoint of alarmism was probably the year leading up to the Copenhagen COP in 2009. Governments were following one another in inventing carbon taxes and the like, while the learned academies which had not already done so were issuing statements approving this global initiative and ‘confirming’ the science behind it. Luminaries of all kinds, like Prince Charles, film stars, authors and celebrities were imploring us to wake up. We had only five years or some other figure to save the world. John Howard set up the Australian Greenhouse Office (he felt he had to do something). The science was said to be settled. All scientists agreed, and so on. Predictions of catastrophe, plotted on alarming graphs, were available to shock and horrify the public. What scarier news could there be?
Copenhagen was given a wintry blizzard for the duration of the conference, which wasn’t an example of global warming but could be turned into an assertion of ‘extreme weather’ caused by greenhouse gases, the wickedest of which was that nasty CO2 molecule.
After that it was mostly downhill for the alarmists. Predictions weren’t followed up by Nature. Carbon dioxide emissions went up, as they had done for half a century before, but temperature ceased to rise in the same linear way. Governments found that carbon taxes were unpopular. The Greens everywhere, and their supporters in the environmental NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF, made a great deal of fuss, but their share of the vote stayed much where it had been. The electorate did not buy the message. In part the reason was the collaboration of the major parties in saying ‘me too!’, and delivering their own anti-climate-change messages.
Their doing so had a awkward effect, since having committed themselves to policies that were intended to ‘combat’ climate change, political parties soon found that real action was almost impossible, and they began only to talk the talk. That has been the case for a decade. Those who want ‘action’ not ‘talk’ (because the science is said to be settled) began to talk and yell even more loudly. Media outlets started censoring those who didn’t follow the alarmist script, but that didn’t make any difference. The five years that were all that were left to save the world passed by, as did the ten years that the more conservative alarmists had settled on. The weather remained as it had been in human memory.
Was the science really settled? Not at all. ‘Climate sensitivity’, without which there is no AGW scare at all, and is an invented concept, is still where it was thirty years ago, and the most recent estimates (they are all estimates) are on the low side of the 1.5 to 4.5 range that is still what the IPCC claims to be the case. Assertions that 97 per cent of (all) (climate) scientists agreed that human activity in burning fossil fuels was raising global temperatures which would lead to catastrophes of all kinds were quickly exploded as rubbish. There was no such consensus. The apparent iron control that alarmist scientists though they had over the journals weakened to the point that there are now thousands of refereed articles that do not buy the alarmist script. Nonetheless, what we have is a sort of stasis. The learned academies have not really weakened their support for what they see as the political position of the major parties, which in turn go on talking the talk. There are no public debates, no commissions of inquiry, no round tables, though Angela Merkel of Germany has suggested that alarmists and sceptic talk to one another. Alas, not now.
Electricity prices are going up, and one bank has said that it will not lend money to assist the opening of coal mines. No doubt other banks will fill the gap, and if they don’t the Chinese will. It’s a bit like boards ‘divesting’ themselves of equities that involve fossil fuels. Others will take the equities up. What do the shareholders think about this political act? They weren’t asked… But I can’t see anyone soon rallying to the alarmist banner other than some of the young, who will change their mind when they realise that high energy costs affect everything that is important to them on a day-to-day basis.
My own guess is that nothing much will happen in the short run, and for that reason I am not going to write any more about ‘climate change’ or ‘extreme weather’ unless something quite extraordinary happens. There are other interesting topics to explore.
My core position on climate change is based on dozens of previous essays ln this website, each of them supported by what I regard as good data and argument. It goes like this:
There is nothing unprecedented about the warming that may have occurred in the past century (there is abundant evidence of warmer and cooler episodes in the past few thousand years).
There is no reason to suppose that warming is dangerous for humanity, in fact the contrary is the case. (The catastrophic predictions are based on climate and economic models, all of them, and the models are just that, incomplete versions of reality.)
Global warming and CO2 are not the cause of bushfires, or of so-called ‘extreme weather’. (There are other much more potent causes.)
Alternate sources of energy cannot supply grid power without covering the country with hundreds of square kilometres of turbines and solar arrays, and I doubt very much that people will put up with them much longer. (Even if the ‘unreliables’ were able to do so, they would need extensive back-up from gas, at least.)
Sooner or later a government, or an electorate, will insist that there is some kind of Plan B that does not keep electricity prices going up. I don’t see it now, but it could come quickly. If it happens in one country, it is likely to be copied elsewhere.
So what would be ‘something extraordinary’, and make me want to write again? Some really good data and argument that seemed almost incontrovertible would do, whichever side of the net they fell on.
Finally, I will moderate the website to ensure that comments are relevant to the subject under discussion. Irrelevant comments will be excised, with a short explanation.