Saving the planet?

Having been one of only four deputies who recently opposed setting up a panel to help the island achieve net zero carbon emissions, Deputy Bob Murray explains why he holds a contrary view to the majority of his colleagues in the Assembly...


ABOUT 18 months ago and out of mere curiosity, I watched a documentary entitled Bright Green Lies.

It certainly didn’t have the shock and awe of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, but in comparison it was at least honest.

The participants made no secret of their environmental principles (which were quite extreme – capitalism must be stopped), however their ire was directed at the ‘green movement’ for what they believe it has now become.

I strongly advise anyone interested in truly ‘saving the planet’ to watch it, since their solution is a long way from what many people perhaps assume the phrase represents. In essence, their belief is that true ‘green environmentalism’ has been lost and now only represents an intention to preserve a high-energy lifestyle without the guilt of the true cost to the planet.

Not surprisingly, the film made a number of assertions including the true costs and environmental impact of ‘renewables’ (which is very revealing), but it also presumed that certain other global conditions and warnings were a ‘given’, including the link between greenhouse gases, the role of carbon and global warming – all of which are, of course, a pervading narrative of our times.

But herein lies what I would contend is a false picture, linking carbon, climate change and ‘saving the planet’. Now that might be viewed as heretical by some, but it is clear that far from ‘the science’ being settled, there is a strong case for misrepresentation on a grand scale. Perhaps the most egregious emanating from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), that the anthropogenic (man-made) contribution to increasing carbon levels will inexorably lead to planet catastrophe.

So here’s the problem with that – the planet has already endured much, much higher levels of carbon in the atmosphere. Looking back over 500 million years, it is well documented that carbon (CO2) levels were at least 5-10 times higher than they are today.

Early lifeforms and plants survived and the planet did not burn up.

Looking over geological time, carbon has naturally ebbed and flowed, as has temperature, particularly between the interglacial periods – and it is important to note that increases in CO2 have historically followed temperature rises. So, ‘saving the planet’ has no relevance to even the predicted amount of future carbon the IPCC suggests will be in the atmosphere. It is about saving a lifestyle (that has become dependent upon relatively cheap, fossil fuel energy) – and in that respect at least, Bright Green Lies is entirely correct.

Let’s return to the science. It being indisputable that the earth was not destroyed by far higher levels of carbon historically, why is there this hysteria that the use of fossil fuels is setting us on the path to Armageddon?

I would suggest the blame lies at the door of the politically-motivated IPCC (their funding depends on governments), together with this false narrative that ‘97% of scientists agree’, coupled with our unquestioning belief in pretty much anything that has the word ‘science’ in it. Oh, and the media also has a huge responsibility too for hyping up any unusual weather event (and much else besides), to be directly attributable to climate change.

But let’s be totally clear – weather is not climate and climate change has been occurring for millions of years – certainly way beyond our appearance on earth.

Weather is temporary, localised and highly variable, susceptible to the unique circumstances of geography, seasonal fluctuations and a myriad of other factors.

Climate is a long-term, discernible trend, probably worthless to determine in anything under a 10-year cycle as a minimum and usually over far longer periods than that.

From a Guernsey perspective, for example, some of us remember the last time we had an exceptionally hot summer (back in 1976). We actually had a drought. Yet, despite the alarmist suggestion of damaging climate change that increasing carbon in the atmosphere will apparently cause, it took nearly half a century before we got a similar, exceptional record high such as we experienced just recently (for about a day and a half).

Is that climate change – or just the vagaries of weather?

Perhaps then, consider this. There has actually been a plateau in global surface temperature beginning in 1998, despite increasing emissions and higher carbon readings. Something doesn’t add up – in Guernsey at least. But bear in mind, CO2 is not localised, it accumulates in the atmosphere worldwide – so we should not be immune from this supposed relationship between increasing carbon levels, greenhouse gases and the spectre of climate change catastrophe.

Locally, might that mean rising sea levels? Scientists certainly do agree that the impact of any melting glacier ice in Antarctica and Greenland does have an impact on the total surface mass balance (SMB), but again, the variables involved are so diverse that the IPCC has this to say:

‘... for periods prior to 1970, significant discrepancies between climate models and observations arise from the inability of climate models to reproduce some observed regional changes in glacier and GIS [Greenland Ice Sheet] SMB around the southern tip of Greenland. It is not clear whether this bias in climate models is due to the internal variability of the climate system or deficiencies in climate models’ (IPCC. SROCC Section

I think the foregoing amounts to an admission that there is no discernible anthropogenic impact on sea levels and that their attempts to create models which do illustrate it, cannot do so. I think therefore it might be safe to say that Guernsey should presume a widely-accepted likelihood that the long-term, worldwide trend of sea level rise of some 3mm per year is unlikely to alter – whether or not carbon emissions rise or fall.

Now, this introduces another issue about the reliability of ‘the science’ and, in particular, the IPCC models.

You might imagine that, with literally billions of dollars invested in the work of 2,500 ‘climate scientists’ since the late 1980s, they would have built a reliable model for forecasting climate by now. No, they haven’t. In fact, what they do is take the average of a great many different models (because none of them individually can yet mimic our historic and known climate records) from an organisation called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (see Koonin (Ex US Dept of Energy), Unsettled, Ch.4).

This then is what they base predictions about the future climate on. If they cannot model the past...?

Keeping with ‘the science’ and in particular, that ‘97% of scientists agree’. To begin with, it turns out that the 97% of scientists was a myth (see Heartland Institute, October 2012). This originates from a two-minute online survey sent to 10,257 Earth scientists, conducted by a professor and a graduate student in 2009. Only 3,146 individuals responded, of which only 5% self-identified as climate scientists, and this oft-repeated ‘fact’ turns out to have been in respect of only 79 actual climate scientists.

There have been a number of others, none of which conclude that the science is settled.

Similarly, the much-vaunted ‘hockey stick’ graph introduced by the IPCC in their 2001 report (and inaccurately reproduced in An Inconvenient Truth) – subsequently found to have nine false claims by a UK judge by the way – was debunked by two congressional enquiries following their unwillingness to provide the complete datasets for independent scrutiny by the creator, Michael Mann.

That was followed by ‘Climategate’ when a hack detailing thousands of IPCC emails exposed attempts to ‘lose the Medieval Warming Period and Little Ice Age’ which inconveniently made a nonsense out of the ‘fixed’ computer programme which generated a hockey stick shape (whatever data was used).

So, with IPCC models that cannot replicate the climate we know about, let alone give us any faith in predictions at the end of the century, to nefarious and discredited graphs, data sets and questionable behaviour, coupled to ample evidence that the ‘science is not settled’ among the various scientific disciplines that study climate – are we ready to sign up to the (yet to be revealed) costs of the Paris Agreement? Or indeed, pursue a financially crippling goal of ‘net zero’ by 2050?

We are awaiting a new energy strategy and we already know that the rush to electrification cannot be fulfilled by a local network that has severe limitations on capacity with a state-owned company already substantially in debt. Add to this worldwide energy prices going sky high. Is it not time to rethink?

  • Note: The States voted in July to ‘respond to the agreement in principle to extend the Paris Agreement to the Island by establishing an expert panel to scope a proportionate and pragmatic pathway to net zero for funding consideration by the States in the 2023 Government Work Plan’.

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