Opinion: Time for Liberal Democrats to consider new claims about climate change

I have just finished reading what for me is the most thought provoking book I have ever read. I was totally unaware until I read The Chilling Stars by Nigel Calder and Henrik Svensmark that not only does the earth move round the sun, but that the sun moves round the Milky Way Galaxy that we live in. The discoveries of Cosmoclimatology turn the accepted theory about climate change on its head. It challenges the prevailing views about climate change held by our party and offers real scientific evidence that there are much larger drivers of climate change than just increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The research, going back many years does not seek to deny that carbon dioxide is a factor in climate change, nor indeed does it suggest in any way that we should not be pursuing our green strategies to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. What is does do is to place the issue of climate change in a very much wider context and to follow changes in climate back to the creation of the planet Earth and its sun and to show that there have always been extended periods of warming and cooling of the planet varying between what they characterise as ‘Snowball Earth’, when the entire planet was covered in ice and lengthy periods when there was no ice at all.

Lib Dem Voice readers may well have seen a recent Channel 4 investigation into climate change – The Great Climate Change Swindle – where one of the authors of The Chilling Stars, Nigel Calder – a former editor of New Scientist – outlined many of the theories.

So what is it that Svensmark in particular has revealed about climate change? The extensive scientific research carried out in a wide range of locations by many hundreds of scientists in the last 30-50 years focuses on the influence of the sun, its magnetic field, the Earth’s magnetic field, solar winds and cosmic rays. It shows clearly that certain types of cosmic rays, known as muons, are major drivers in the creation of low level clouds. Put simply, when cosmic rays are very active, more low level cloud is formed and the planet cools. Conversely, when cosmic ray activity is low, there is less low level cloud and the planet warms. To find out exactly why this is so, you’ll have to read the book. Expect to feel your head spin if you haven’t read this sort of stuff before!

The research shows clearly that ice ages, including the mini ice age that ended some 300 or so years ago, coincided with periods of high cosmic ray activity and that right now we are going through a period of low cosmic ray activity with consequent rises in climate temperature. The authors argue that although carbon dioxide may well be a factor in climate change, its effects are likely to be far less drastic than forecast so far and in any event will be completely overshadowed by other factors especially cosmic rays.

If Cosmoclimatology is correct then we Liberal Democrats need to take it on board in our climate change policies. I look forward to interesting debates!

* Dr Michael Taylor has been a party member since 1964. He is currently enjoying a round the world trip.

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78 Comments

  • Yes, let’s adjust policy based on the opinions of someone who appears to have not written a single peer-reviewed scientific paper, why don’t we? http://www.skepticalscience.com/peerreviewedskeptics.php?s=112

    Why are you so desperate to ignore what the overwhelming body of scientists say?

  • Alexander Whattam 16th Mar '13 - 4:45pm

    Have you even researched the topic other than a single book and TV documentary? A minute on Google will probably do the trick. From what I understand cosmic ray counts have increased over the past few years, therefore they should have a cooling effect, if they did have a big effect on clouds, which they probably don’t.

  • Mark Inskip 16th Mar '13 - 5:07pm

    The Chilling Stars was first published in 2003. Michael Taylor ought really to have read the latest research before writing this article. Very relevant is Prof. Mike Lockwood’s research from the July 2012, Volume 22, Surveys in Geophysics. Mike works at Reading University and the Rutherford Appleton Lab.

    From the abstract;
    “The literature relevant to how solar variability influences climate is vast—but much has been based on inadequate statistics and non-robust procedures. ”

    And from the report itself;
    “The cloud-cosmic ray suggestion increasingly fails to match observations. The correlation between the solar-cycle variation and global cloud-cover estimates has degraded rapidly in the more recent data (Gray et al. 2010). For each piece of evidence in its favour, an equal or greater number of studies fail to find the effect. ”

    Whilst I wouldn’t argue for peer reviewing of science related LDV articles prior to publishing, I do think it is worth confirming whether they have considered of the latest research conclusions.

  • Paul McKeown 16th Mar '13 - 5:14pm

    What is the point of this piece?

    Nitrogen and oxygen (diatomic molecules) and argon (atomic), comprising 99% of the atmosphere, are transparent in the infrared. Water vapour, carbon dioxide and various trace molecules, by contrast, absorb strongly in the infrared. Basic physics, in accordance with quantum mechanics, easily verified using IR specroscopy. The sun behaves as a black body at 5800K, in other words the earth’s insolation is predominantly short-wave radiation and penetrates the atmosphere. Some of the incident solar radiation is then re-radiated from the earth’s surface in the long-wave (IR) spectrum. This re-radiated infrared is absorbed by the atmospheric water vapour and carbon dioxide. This is again validated by the physics of black body radiation known since the late 19th century: without these atmospheric greenhouse gasses, the earth would be more than 30 Celsius colder than it is.

    The amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere has risen from a pre-industrial level of 280ppm to the present day level of 397ppm. The effect of adding carbon dioxide to the earth’s atmosphere is quite obvious: it increases the greenhouse effect of retaining heat in the atmosphere, up to a saturation point. Measurements have shown that that saturation point has not been reached. Algorithmic methods have been developed since the mid 1960’s which partition the earth’s atmosphere into a cellular network of vertical columns under gravity to model the earth’s atmosphere. These models have become increasingly sophisticated taking into account many factors besides the composition of the atmosphere, insolation and re-radiation. The models all have one common factor binding them together: they all predict that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increases the temperature of the global climate. Which strangely enough is what climate scientists have measured. and strangely enough corresponds very closely with what geologists can track backwards for many millions of years, using proxy markers for climate.

    And remarkably for a scientific field which is subject to intense opposition in the popular media, it is almost universally accepted by the tens of thousands of professional scientists engaged in one way or another in the field. Mainstream science presents a very worrying climate prognosis for the middle of this present century onwards, a prognosis which requires a rational political intervention.

    The author of this present piece presents two items of piffle in opposition to nigh on 40,000 research papers accepted into the peer reviewed literature. If “cosmoclimatology” ever achieves the support of mainstream science, then it will be time for the body politic to consider its consequences. Until then, it is merely unsupported speculation, touted by the bizarre Delingpole fringe in an attempt to muddy the coherent picture presented by genuine science.

  • Adam Corlett 16th Mar '13 - 5:26pm

    #21 on the list of climate change myths ( http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php ). See http://www.skepticalscience.com/cosmic-rays-and-global-warming-basic.htm for a rebuttal at basic, intermediate and advanced levels.

    “Hypothetically, an increasing solar magnetic field could deflect galactic cosmic rays, which hypothetically seed low-level clouds, thus decreasing the Earth’s reflectivity and causing global warming. However, it turns out that none of these hypotheticals are occurring in reality, and if cosmic rays were able to influence global temperatures, they would be having a cooling effect.”

    Some of the latest research is also reviewed by climate scientists at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/12/a-review-of-cosmic-rays-and-climate-a-cluttered-story-of-little-success/ : “There is still no evidence suggesting that [galactic cosmic rays] influence our climate in significant ways.”

    The first part of the latest IPCC report (following on from 2007’s) will be out later this year and should serve as a more authoritative reference for those interested in the current state of knowledge.

  • Actually, this book was published in 2007.

    It is quite amazing to me that anyone challenging the orthodoxy of climate change policy in any way is so attacked!

    Perhaps before claiming this in non-scientific, people should either read the book, which contains a large list of peer reviewed papers or watch the Channel 4 programme on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtevF4B4RtQ

    I just did and the vast majority of people in it are well established scientists, many of whom have awards for their work.

  • Mark Inskip 16th Mar '13 - 5:41pm

    @Mickft
    The book was first published on 19th March 2003. An updated version was published on 15th February 2007.

  • Simon Beard 16th Mar '13 - 5:46pm

    No it isn’t, the claims are not new, not almost certaintly not true and are very dangerous to the wellbeing of ourselves and especially of future generations.

  • Mark Inskip 16th Mar '13 - 5:48pm

    In addition to Lockwood, take a look at “A Decade of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer: Is a Solar–Cloud Link Detectable?” by Benjamin Laken and Enric Pallé in Volume 25, Issue 13 (July 2012) of the AMS journal.

    “The study identifies no statistically significant correlations between cloud anomalies and TSI/GCR variations, and concludes that solar-related variability is not a primary driver of monthly to annual MODIS cloud variability.”

  • Liberal Neil 16th Mar '13 - 6:03pm

    I’m not a scientist, but I’m happy to listen to the consensus when it is so strong. But I also ask the question: “What is the downside of pursuing policies that reduce reliance on carbon?” If the outcome is that we produce more of our power ourselves from renewables, reduce the waste of energy, live in warmer homes that are cheaper to heat and reduce unnecessary transportation of people and goods, is there a major problem?

  • This is sadly lacking in the slightest scientific merit.
    Over the short term (by which I mean: millions of years) the only things that can affect the Earth’s climate are: 1) The luminosity of the Sun; 2) the tilt of the Earth’s axis; 3) the state of the Earth’s atmosphere; 4) the motion of the Earth’s tectonic plates. Stuff going on light-years away has no effect at all.

    Over the really short term (sc. thousands of years), ## 2 and 4 have virtually no effect, #1 has a small effect but is something we can do nothing about, #3 has a large effect and is, increasingly, susceptible to human intervention — mostly, however, in harmful ways.

  • This is a welcome injection to the climate debate. I’m not a climate change denier, but I’ve often wondered just what is, the ‘ratio’ of our human polluting input, to that of the planets own cosmological predisposition to go hot and cold, all by itself. If humanity had not discovered and begun to use fossil fuels, how much better off (pollution wise), would the planet be? There is no twin ‘experiment control’ planet (minus humans), to do the test, so no-one knows for sure.
    That said, anything that adds to our understanding is valuable, but I suppose the bottom line, is that our adding to the carbon dioxide is not helpful, and reducing our input into the planets demise, is still the only way forward.
    Thanks for the heads up on this book Michael.

  • I’m not a climate change sceptic. I’m only raising the issue of whether the cause is what people think it is! The climate is undoubtedly getting hotter, but the only theories that are receiving money to be investigated are those that have as their basis that THE cause of climate change is carbon. Anyone else is vilified and denied funding. In other words there is a whole industry out there dependent on a climate change theory that never has explained the issue fully.

    As a Lib Dem I am inherently suspcious of quasi relgious belief in theories of any sort. [Incidentally I am religious but think that ‘belief’ rather than proof should be left to religious people in respect of their theistic views]. Anyone with ideas outside the mainstream is unwelcome in the current scientific community. One of the contributors to the Chilling Stars book is Eugene Parker who was poopooed and ostracised, when he produced his theory about solar wind that is now widely accepted.

    Many of the contributors to this debate so far have clearly very fixed views on climate change and will not brook any alternative. So be it.

    As the Channel 4 programme so clearly showed, the people who will really suffer in all of this are the poor in developing countries who are now being told they cannot have development because of the problems of climate change – by fervent evangelists whose absolute belief in the orthodoxy of climate change will brook no opposition, however well it is backed up scientifically. This is a view now held by amongst others one of the two founders of Greenpeace.

    As Liberal Democrats we should at least be willing to listen to views we find difficult and debate and discuss ideas in an endeavour to better understand what direction to move in.

    Maybe we should have a fringe meeting at conference where we listen to and debate with Nigel Calder, a long time former editor of New Scientist and others why the current orthodoxy does not explain why climate change is happening. Just one example. Why is the Antartic cooling when the Arctic is warming?

  • Paul McKeown 16th Mar '13 - 8:23pm

    Mainstream science passes a barrage of objective measurements to test its fit against reality. As has been pointed above by several posters, this “comicalclimatology” fails when measurements are actually taken to test its fitness.

    Please note also that “New Scientist” is popular press journalism. It is certainly not a peer reviewed product.

  • When I read geography in the late 60s we were introduced to the idea that man-made CO2 might have an effect on climate in the long-term. It took about another thirty years before the theory started to gain widespread currency. Similarly, continental drift was still at that time regarded as an unproven theory, despite having been proposed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Just because the weight of scientific research suggests that something seems to be the truth it does not mean that contrary ideas should be dismissed out of hand: that runs counter to scientific method anyway. I happen to believe that the evidence clearly supports the fact of man-made global warming, but scientific orthodoxy can change over time.

  • Richard Dean 16th Mar '13 - 8:34pm

    There’s a theory that the moon is made of cheese.

    People who point out that man has been to the moon, and it’s not, are sometimes faced with the counter-assertion that the moon missions were Hollywood productions and the scandal/conspiracy will be shown to be true someday.

    Some people apply common sense: they simply don’t believe there are any animals that could make such a huge amount of cheese

    But then, there’s just so many possibilities in the Universe, ask any Star Trekkie!

    But then again, why would the animal leave it in just that place?

    … etc

  • Paul McKeown 16th Mar '13 - 8:37pm

    @Richard

    Perhaps the first sensible thing you have written in a long, long time!

  • Lee_Thacker 16th Mar '13 - 8:41pm

    Why has Lib Dem Voice allowed this rather bizarre piece to be published on its website?

  • Mark Inskip 16th Mar '13 - 8:43pm

    @Mickft
    Nigel Calder wrote the following for “The Book of Predictions” edited David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace, and Irving Wallace which was published in 1980;
    “by 2000, the much-advertised heating of the earth by the man-made carbon-dioxide ‘greenhouse’ fails to occur; instead, there is renewed concern about cooling and an impending ice age.”

    Despite the author of this LDV article claiming that Svensmark’s claims are new, they were contained in a book first published a decade ago (as I’ve already stated). I have also provided reference to two peer-reviewed articles published last year that show that the claims aren’t supported by the latest research.

    As for claims that Antarctica is cooling please read http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/27/opinion/27doran.html?_r=0
    Here’s what Prof. Peter Doran says;
    “Our results have been misused as “evidence” against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel “State of Fear” and by Ann Coulter in her latest book, “Godless: The Church of Liberalism.””
    and
    “Our study did find that 58 percent of Antarctica cooled from 1966 to 2000. But during that period, the rest of the continent was warming. And climate models created since our paper was published have suggested a link between the lack of significant warming in Antarctica and the ozone hole over that continent. These models, conspicuously missing from the warming-skeptic literature, suggest that as the ozone hole heals — thanks to worldwide bans on ozone destroying chemicals — all of Antarctica is likely to warm with the rest of the planet. An inconvenient truth?”

    By all means let’s debate the topic, but let’s take a thorough evidence based approach.

  • Richard Dean 16th Mar '13 - 8:44pm

    @Paul McKeown

    Yes, it does remind me of the astonishing gullibility of the people who oppose secret courts!

  • “I was totally unaware … that not only does the earth move round the sun, but that the sun moves round the Milky Way Galaxy that we live in.”

    Perhaps this should have provided a clue that a little more familiarisation with basic science would be advisable before deciding you know better than the vast majority of qualified climatologists and every major scientific body in the world. And no, reading a book filled with unsubstantiated ideas and watching a piece of political propaganda masquerading as a “documentary” does not count as a scientific education.

    However, if you prefer pseudoscience to the real thing, I would be happy to point you towards all the “evidence” proving conclusively that MMR causes autism, that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer, that AIDS has nothing to do with HIV, and that homeopathy is an effective form of medicine.

    If you’re really keen, I can even recommend a professor of anthropology who has amassed a great deal of persuasive evidence for the existence of bigfoot (or “the North American ape” as he has named the putative animal).

    Good grief, I really never thought I’d see this kind of nonsense on LDV.

  • Climate change has nothing to do with cosmic rays. You are correct that there have been cooling periods along with the warming trend, that is not contested! The science behind climate change has been verified by thousands of scientists. | http://clmtr.lt/cb/p7a0VE

  • Or the works of Erich von Daniken.

  • Paul McKeown – But Richard has written some most bizarre stuff about global warming, and what actually constitutes it in the past. He has also claimed it as his prerogative to lack consistency in his arguments!

  • Let’s get serious. Global warming has nothing to do with cosmic rays — or anything else from outer space. 

 http://clmtr.lt/cb/p7a0kL

  • Passing through 17th Mar '13 - 3:30am

    @ Catherine

    As it happens Dr Taylor actually supports homeopathy too.

    http://skeptical-voter.org/wiki/index.php?title=Michael_Taylor

    While his doctorate appears to be in economics.

    http://todmordenlibdemteam.mycouncillor.org.uk/2011/11/22/50p-tax-rate-must-stay-say-todmorden-lib-dems/

    Something he didn’t feel the need to point out when discussing a scientific issue backed with the authority of his doctorate. Otherwise he might have recognised like any other actual scientist the thoroughly deceitful nature of the presentation of “The Great Climate Change Swindle”.

  • Richard Harris 17th Mar '13 - 7:37am

    Surely the real point to make here is that it is actually irrelevant whether the theory talked about here is right or wrong, it makes no difference. Fossil fuels will run out eventually, and become increasingly more expensive as they do so alternative energy sources are the only way forward in ANY case. I could spend the rest of the day coming up with a theory as to why my larder is empty this morning – was it a party last night? have I had no money to buy groceries this week? Did a dragon eat the Tesco delivery van? I could starve whilst I investigate. Or I could just sort out the problem and go shopping. That’s where party policies come in.

  • Richard Harris 17th Mar '13 - 7:41am

    …and that’s not an argument for nuclear power by the way. That be represented by a full larder but one which I couldn’t reach because of the led lined bins that would have to be permanently stored in the kitchen.

  • Doubtless there are long term variations in climate that are unrelated to the atmosphere and industrialisation, but this has no impact on some simple facts such as infra-red absorption spectra, volume of recycling (unsequestered) carbon dioxide, atmospheric carbon dioxide half-life and the rate heat energy is emitted.

    Add to this data that establishes a strong statistical link between industrial development and patterns of climate change, we would be extremely foolish to hope that cosmological factors will come to our rescue.

    I have no doubt that in the long term all of these factors that influence climate will even themselves out, but we happen to live in the short term and I know of no species that has survived the long term.

  • Interesting editorial decision to publish this.

    I think even ConservativeHome would think twice.

    Some explanation from the editor of the day would probably be welcome as climate change denial is a deeply damaging myth that serious political parties should challenge.

  • Richard Harris, I think you added “…and that’s not an argument for nuclear power by the way” because you noticed as an afterthought that it is. However at the moment the source material for nuclear power is not unlimited.

  • Richard Dean 17th Mar '13 - 12:29pm

    Cockroach-like species have been around for at least about 300 million years, so it is conceivable that LibDems might experience a full future climatic cycle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockroach#Evolutionary_history_and_relationships

  • Nigel quinton 17th Mar '13 - 12:54pm

    What Catharine said.

    And thanks Richard Dean, lmao!

  • I think they way science is reported tends to be sensationalist and simplified. In the case of climate change it has been politicised by both sides of the argument and the consensus has been overstated, All scientist can do is gather the evidence and if it changes the sciences changes. It will be kind of interesting to see what happens as cycle 24 ends and how the climate is effected until around 2019 to 2024, coz there are people predicting a mini ice age.
    But the evidence is all you can go on and at the moment it still suggests at least some human contribution.

  • paul barker 17th Mar '13 - 3:58pm

    Nigel Calder has form. He is one of those sad people addicted to celebrity & suffering massive withdrawal symptoms, if you are under 50 you probably wont have heard of him.
    This sounds to me like a classic peice of pdeudo-science mixing true but irrelevant material with nonsense.
    I cant think of a way to say this without sounding rude but you obviously dont normally think about the world in scientific terms do you ? If you are serious you need a lot of basic knowledge before you can ev en ask the right questions.

  • jenny barnes 17th Mar '13 - 4:59pm

    Powered by pixie dust

  • Tony Greaves 17th Mar '13 - 6:23pm

    I am interested to hear that Michael has only just learned that there have been very large changes to the earth’s climate over geological time. If he had had the advantage of attending my A-level geography lessons over 40 years ago he would have know that was the case! I wonder how he thinks that (in relatively recent times) the glacial meltwater valleys that cross the Pennine watershed around our part of the Pennines were eroded? Most obviously the huge Cliviger gorge that separates the valleys of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Calders near Todmorden!

    Tony Greaves

  • I do have a friend who thinks he may be a climate skeptic and who sometime looks out of his window and sees ice and snow in the middle of March.. Also he remembers a time when snow was infrequent in the south of England and, usually disappeared after a day or so and distinctly recalls documentaries and newspaper articles from around 2000 claiming that summers would get ever dryer and snow was more or less a thing of the past.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Mar '13 - 8:11am

    Isn’t it funny how the sort of person who insists that the carbon dioxide links to climate change hasn’t been properly proved and there might be other factors that explain global warming and that it must be all wrong anyway because those who present evidence for it are biased, so we shouldn’t take it seriously when making policy, tends to be the same sort of person who insists the Laffer curve makes it absolutely clear we should cut taxes on the rich?

  • jenny barnes 18th Mar '13 - 8:54am

    matthew… it’s not really surprising. It’s part of a mentality that says that there should be no natural limits to growth . Taxing the income of the rich and dealing with climate change in this worldview are nasty lefty plots.

  • The University of Texas has done a lot of work on the ‘mini ice age’ for more see Charles Mann’s book 1493. The researches at Texas have pointed out that the changes in demographic and land use practices caused by the encounter between old and new world is a far more likely driver of this period of cooling. Across vast swathes of the Americas native societies used control burning to clear under brush and create land for agricultural production. After all they had no iron tools or ploughs. Given that the spread of old world diseases post 1492 caused the deaths of tens of millions huge areas of land that had been managed returned to dense forestation. The figures produced by UT have suggested that the spread of forests in Amazonia alone could account for most of the cooling during the ‘mini-ice’ age.

  • Darn it, I admit it . I’m a climate sceptic. I don’t believe in supply side economics. I’m a sceptic coz I look at the weather, And actually think turning it into a left wing v right wing issue is part of the problem.
    We are closing power stations down without replacing them with new ones, There are a couple of hundred years worth of coal under our feet, yet we are giving landowners massive subsidies to put up useless wind turbines and are contemplating pumping dangerous chemicals into the soil and risking subsidence through fracking,. We’ve given utility monopolies the right to overcharge customers to pay for the “energy future” and forced people to have eye straining low energy mercury filled light bulbs that get thrown into land fill.
    And none of is has dented or shows any sign of denting carbon emission anyway, I rarely drive anywhere, my total electricity bill last year was £230 and I’m a vegetarian. I’m fed up with seeing politicians travel all over the globe to meet when they could just ring each other up or talk on line. and think preserving greenfield land and banning plastic carrier bag would do more good

  • Paul in Twickenham 18th Mar '13 - 11:55am

    I trained as a scientist, although my area is condensed matter physics (specializing in quantum computation) rather than particle physics. Michael must be feeling rather pummelled by this time due to the sheer intensity of the response to his post.

    I have no view on this hypothesis – I’ll leave that to others who are expert in that field. But I wouldn’t simply dismiss it out of hand.

    While the overwhelming evidence is that the climate change that is currently happening is linked to CO2 increase, that in itself doesn’t preclude the possibility that cosmic rays play a role in climate change. While correlation is not causation a quick glance through the literature is certainly interesting.

    Here’s a link to an article I just glanced through that was published some years ago in the newsletter of The Geological Society of America. ftp://rock.geosociety.org/pub/GSAToday/gt0307.pdf. From a superficial inspection, it certainly looks interesting to me.

  • Glenn, it’s called global warming, not local warming. It’s an average based on data collected from weather stations all over the globe. Global warming does not preclude there being local areas where it may be colder in some specific year or even several years running.

  • jenny barnes 18th Mar '13 - 5:25pm

    “There are a couple of hundred years worth of coal under our feet, ”
    No there aren’t. Peak coal in the UK was around 1913 – at which time Churchill and Fisher converted the Royal Navy to burning oil, and set up the Anglo Iranian oil company, now known as BP.. It was Mossadegh who nationalised the Iranian oil, and there’s some history there.
    There may be some coal, but it’s mostly not economically recoverable, and the hundreds of years relies on demand not increasing. But it doubles every 35- 50 years, so even if you thought you had 200 years supply of coal, it would actually only last 75. (the first 100 years worth gets used at double the rate, and the second 100 years worth at quadruple)
    Human beings for some reason have difficulty comprehending exponential growth. http://s289.photobucket.com/user/Fmagyar/media/CoalPoweredDragon.jpg.html

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Mar '13 - 7:04pm

    Interesting and (clearly) debateable article yielding some excellent posts but for me Liberal Neil’s comment hits the nail on the head …“What is the downside of pursuing policies that reduce reliance on carbon?” If the outcome is that we produce more of our power ourselves from renewables, reduce the waste of energy, live in warmer homes that are cheaper to heat and reduce unnecessary transportation of people and goods, is there a major problem?”

    Of course we could simply carry on debating while continuing to pollute the planet, leaving increased levels of CO2, radiation and various biotoxins for future generations to deal with or we, as Liberal Democrats, can promote a less damaging and more sustainable way of living.

    Consuming an ever greater proportion of the earth’s resources isn’t liberal, democratic or sustainable. Science and engineering are already offering several solutions to the problem – just that they don’t all coincide with the short term needs of big multinational companies!

  • jenny barnes 19th Mar '13 - 9:10am

    PS on coal reserves in the UK
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/mar/05/fossilfuels.mining?INTCMP=SRCH
    article claims reserves are presently 0.22 bn tonnes while the 2005 production figures were 20 million tonnes. My calculator says that’s 11 years production at that rate. I have no doubt that the 0.22 bn figure can be contested – apparently in 1980 the government claimed there were 45bn tonnes. Drax power station consumes 10 megatonnes of coal a year and generates 4 GW (about 1/10 of the UK electricity demand) So we’d need to put our coal production up by a factor of 10 or so just to generate all our electricity…. That’s burning the entire reserve in just over a year, not hundreds.

  • jenny barnes 19th Mar '13 - 9:22am

    Oops. … 2 years not one. Of course if 45 bn tonnes is right, It would last 200 years at present rates of use…. but the doubling thing comes in and 200 years at present rates would be 75 in the real world.

  • My point is that carbon targets a show no sign whatsoever of being met. Removing those targets would allow you extend the life of coal by integrating it into a combined heat and power program that maximizes efficiency, whilst allowing you to burn rubbish,. You could extend it even further by the use of nuclear energy and other forms of power.
    You could also maybe find ways of caring for an aging population that doesn’t lead to an endless cycle of trying to replace it.

  • As a life-long Liberal Democrat, I am saddened to see how the proud history of Liberal humanitarianism has been usurped by an environmentalism which regards humans as some kind of plague on earth. It is anti-scientific in the extreme to tout a purported consensus of scientific opinion as authoritative, and it is a lie to claim that there is a scientific consensus that the planet is facing imminent catastrophic climate change.

    There is no consensus on either the extent of human influence on the climate or on the likely associated impacts. There is less still evidence that spending billions on solar and wind will have any discernible impact on the climate through reductions in CO2 emissions.

  • I’ll bet that Lord (Nigel) Lawson and his band of fellow crazies will receive this load of Chilling Stars bullsh+t with open arms!

  • Simon Cooper 20th Mar '13 - 5:58pm

    Sad to see so many citing the website ‘Skeptical Science’, which is neither sceptical nor scientific (it’s run by a cartoonist and regularly makes things up).

    More seriously, you have to ask some serious questions about the validity of ‘consensus’ (ie: establishment) climate science as it has played out in the last 30 years.

    (1) Why were the original alarmist projections so wrong? ( http://i.imgur.com/cM825Av.jpg )
    (2) Why are estimates of climate sensitivity (the temperature effect of a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere) being consistently reduced? (for a debate and comment, see http://alturl.com/gnkzn and http://alturl.com/ni7en )
    (3) Why has there been no warming for 15 years? No, really, this is not a Daily Mail fabrication! See Hansen here for a partial admission ( http://alturl.com/qj56g )
    (4) Why do climate scientists constantly need to create false records of the past and present? First, Mann’s infamous ‘hocket stick’; this month Marcott’s Holocene reconstruction? (see http://alturl.com/yyx3e).
    (5) Why did more than half of the warming in the last 150 years (ie: since the end of the Little Ice Age) occur prior to 1950, when man-made greenhouse gases were negligable? (see any historical reconstruction, eg Hadcrut4).
    (6) Why was the ‘natural’ warming spell of 1915-1945 as great as the ‘man-made’ warming spell of 1975-1995?
    (7) Why does so much Green alarmism rely on straightforward lies (eg: the polar bears are in danger; in fact, the polar bear population has exploded in recent years – check the figures. Or hurricanes have become more common – no again – check the figures).
    (8) Why are undoubted weather events now being treated as climate-related, when there is zero evidence tying them to any climate changes. If the UK had a Summer now like 1976, we’d be told it was global warming. At the time, of course, global cooling was in vogue.

    Probably no-one will read this, but to those on this thread who are unaware of the substantial and growing disenchantment of many scientists with the post-1988 climate ‘consensus’, spare a few minutes sometime to read up.

    To those who may denounce me as an evil, oil cartel funded ‘denier’ (a word that may sum up all that is wrong about this subject )- well, I don’t think I’m evil. I’m trying to allow the poor majority of the planet some hope against the current eco-alarmism that will have the almost certain (unintended?) effect of keeping them poor. I get no money from anyone for following the arguments and typing up this comment. And when does this ‘denial’ start? If someone believes as I do that climate sensitivity is ~1 degree? 2 degrees? The IPCC reckoned in AR4 that it was 3-3.5 degrees. What figure is beyond the pale for these commentators?

  • Paul McKeown 21st Mar '13 - 9:50pm

    @SimonH, Simon Cooper

    You both claim that there exists no scientific consensus. You are both wrong.

    Let me quote the Royal Society to you:

    QUOTE BEGINS:

    It is certain that increased greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and from land use change lead to a warming of climate, and it is very likely that these green house gases are the dominant cause of the global warming that has been taking place over the last 50 years.

    Whilst the extent of climate change is often expressed in a single figure – global temperature – the effects of climate change (such as temperature, precipitation and the frequency of extreme weather events) will vary greatly from place to place.

    Increasing atmospheric CO2 also leads to ocean acidification which risks profound impacts on many marine ecosystems and in turn the societies which depend on them.

    The Society has worked on the issue of climate change for many years to further the understanding of this issue. These activities have been informed by decades of publicly available, peer-reviewed studies by thousands of scientists across a wide range of disciplines. Climate science, like any other scientific discipline, develops through vigorous debates between experts, but there is an overwhelming consensus regarding its fundamentals. Climate science has a firm basis in physics and is supported by a wealth of evidence from real world observations.

    QUOTE ENDS

    From the website of the Royal Society at http://royalsociety.org/policy/climate-change/

    You should read their layman’s guide to the science involved, which can be obtained as a downloadable pdf from: http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2010/4294972962.pdf

    Unless you a relevant doctorate and research experience in the field, your opinion is mere noise when expressing an opinion in a scientific matter against the authority of the Royal Society.

  • @Paul McKeown — What you’re not taking into consideration is that you’re dealing with people who resist the very idea of “expertise,” who refuse to believe that there are problems that require years of schooling, training, experimentation, data collection, and analysis to make sense of. These people like to believe that they can understand all there is to know about a complex subject over toast and jam in the morning, and then replace analysis with gut intuition. They believe that science is tyranny, and democracy is the right of every person to select the crackpot theory of his or her choice.

    So when you say “Royal Society,” what they hear is “another elite institution trying to suppress THE TRUTH.” They’ll never believe anything based on expert opinion, not when it conflicts with what they want to believe; and they will never have the patience to go through a step-by-step explanation of the data and analytical issues.

  • Stephen Hesketh 24th Mar '13 - 4:48pm

    @SimonH “As a life-long Liberal Democrat, I am saddened to see how the proud history of Liberal humanitarianism has been usurped by an environmentalism which regards humans as some kind of plague on earth.”

    A finite number of locust living in balance with their natural environment are no problem at all. When numbers exceed what the local ecosystem can sustainably provide, they devour all before them and become a plague. Surely no one can claim mankind can continue to increase our numbers and consume the earth’s finite resources at the present rate without bringing starvation, war and untold misery to our species and all others.

    Sorry, but I do not find what you describe as Liberal humanitarianism nor your definition of consensus as being at all credible.

    Even if global warming, as scientifically observed and proved, turns out not to be related to the increasing levels of that well known greenhouse gas CO2, what is the problem with subsiding renewable wind, solar etc as opposed to nuclear or any other electrical generation method? At least they are more benign.

    What would you have us do, sit on our hands until we have conclusive proof that the 8 metre rise in sea level is after all down to greenhouse gases before acting. You might find it enlightening to look at how much of our high quality agricultural land and most populace places would by then lie several metres below the waves.

  • Stephen Hesketh 24th Mar '13 - 5:30pm

    @Joe Otten: “Personally I’d like to see more politicians with scientific backgrounds, as opposed to lawyers. But even that is only a small step.”

    Yes, yes, yes. And we also need more scientists in the media. No wonder a significant number of people remain sceptics when fed science by people with backgrounds in law, arts and classics … suggesting little or no scientific training beyond secondary school level. Yet if we look at the most significant advances in the day to day quality and longevity of human life, the vast majority of such advances have been brought about by engineers, chemists, medical workers, biologists, physicists etc. Scientists rather than commentators!

    Regarding MPs themselves, a quick (unscientific) search produced: http://www.smith-institute.org.uk/file/Who-Governs-Britain.pdf

    This states (page 4): “The occupational background of MPs continues to be ever more biased toward business and the ‘metropolitan professions’, particularly finance, law, public affairs, and politics. However, there are major disparities between the parties. For example, 3% of Labour MPs have at some point worked in finance as compared with 27% for Conservatives. A similar picture emerges in regard to business where nearly a third of all Conservatives and Lib Dem MPs have worked in business occupations. An alternative trend emerges with the public and voluntary sector, which is dominated by Labour MPs. Politics, law and public affairs are more evenly spread among the MPs. As to be expected most of the blue collar and trade union occupations are with Labour MPs.”

    Science as such doesn’t get a mention although those with a scientific training will be amongst the teachers lecturers, medical workers.

    Pages 7 and 8 of the short report are even more enlightening. An interesting snapshot of the 2010 Parliament!

  • Simon Cooper 25th Mar '13 - 9:05pm

    Paul McKeown 21st Mar ’13 – 9:50pm

    You say “..your opinion is mere noise when expressing an opinion in a scientific matter against the authority of the Royal Society.”

    How hilariously ironic, when the Society’s motto is ‘Nullus In Verba’ (Take nobody’s word for it).

    The argument from authority (argumentum ad verecundiam) has been discarded in science since natural philosophers started to doubt whether Aristotle got everything right!

    After all, a consensus amongst scientists (if there is one) has never, ever been wrong, has it? ( http://alturl.com/zbqd5 ).
    More recent examples include the unpredicted accelerating expansion of the universe (Nobel Prize in Physics awarded in 2011); stomach ulcers due to bacteria not stress, denied by conventional medicine (Nobel medicine 2005), and the ridiculed quasicrystals (Nobel for Chemistry 2011). History shows scientific progress depends on the ‘consensus’ being challenged.

    And please don’t get patronising – “Unless you’ve got a doctorate…” and then simply quote verbatim from the latest RS pamphlet for laymen as a substitute for thinking. With that attitude, we’d still be arguing about what colour the wheel should be.

  • Michael Parsons 1st Apr '13 - 1:44pm

    The most significant thing for me (apart from the routine abuse, attacks on fitness for scientific work, failure to answer countervailibg evidence and faked-up figures emanating from the man-made heating lobby) was my discovery that “lobby” is exactly what it is: there are even diplomas on climate propaganda, explaining how to manipulate your arguments, the psychology of conversion and so on. Politicians are much to blame for not assessing green politics for what it is, as experts themselves in self-promoting weasel words. One of the excuses is the vitriolic campaign that targets anyone who ‘gets out of line’.

    Most campaigns that spread succesfully are funded by special-interest cash, and the green lobby is an outstandinbg example of how a belief can (innocently or not) be put to work to secure subsidies and funding for bigt busi8hness and big laboritories. Thge current surcharge tax on fossil fuels will simpky yield 4.5 billion to the Treasury, deny poor people access to heating, and make no contribution to greenery. Windmills and nuclear power rely wholly on subsidy but make some people a lot of money, while other more genuine business is starved of cash, and the NCB closed just as it was developing clean coal burning, whike our coal supply feel into the hands of profiteers and overseas suppliers.

    Climate Change is a permanent feature of global geology. Man-made climate change? Well, cui bono? who profits?(and don’t say future generations because you have no possibility of an inter-generational pricing system). We’d do far better econonomically and socially to prepare for actual change by flood-control and by exploration of the trade-routes and resources exposed by the melting ice-caps:now there’s an electioin winner: remove green taxes, .lower fuel prices and create employment in coal and new fossil developments..

  • Simon Banks 2nd Apr '13 - 8:07pm

    The problem about current trends is their speed. Ecosystems can shift north or south (if there’s no physical barrier like the Mediterranean was for land life retreating from an ice age) but take time. Think how long it takes to grow a forest of different trees.

    Very rapid change is thus hugely destructive. Current warming is much more rapid than anything recorded before.

    There will always be scientists who enjoy being mavericks or say what their paymasters say. Occasionally they’ll be right – much more often wrong, and when they’re right, it’ll usually be in challenging orthodoxy for the first time, not in reversing a gradual shift of opinion.

    But assume these people are right, however improbable this is. Imagine I’m driving a car when I realise something is wrong with the steering and holding the wheel straight is pointing the car well to the right. Do I say, “Not my problem – it’s a mechanical failure nothing to do with my driving” and crash, or do I adjust the position of the steering wheel so I stay on the road?

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