Global Warming Theory Just Hot Air, Some Experts Say.
The theory that the earth’s climate is warming up has not found universal favour among environmental scientists, some of whom say they are based on flawed data and tainted by politics.
The dissenters argue that the deliberations of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have fallen foul of interest groups with political agendas helped by showing that human activity is causing the earth to warm up.
They say the IPCC’s methods, particularly the summarising of masses of data used to compile predictions, lack rigour.
The Geneva-based IPCC’s deliberations talked of a “discernible human influence” on climate, and lobby groups urged governments to act to reverse this.
These groups say that unless action is taken the world will be subject to devastating weather changes with storms, droughts and floods. Melting ice caps and glaciers will raise sea levels and flood low-lying countries. Deserts will expand.
Dr Frits Bottcher, chairman of the Global Institute for the Study of Natural Resources in The Hague has no time for such arguments.
Decide By Majority Vote
“Instead of scientific discussion we have groups of hundreds of scientists and civil servants, and by a majority of votes they decide. That’s not how science should work, in my opinion,” Bottcher said.
He said that computer predictions by the IPCC are loaded to make sure they produce required results and the conclusions are warped by some environmental activists.
“I totally disagree with the IPCC conclusions. They put wrong physical equations in their computer, the wrong figures and all kinds of tricks. But they have to defend the case of global warming because they get hundreds of millions of dollars. If they say it (global warming) is not happening, they won’t get their money,” he said.
Dr Keith Shine, one of the IPCC researchers, rejects Bottcher’s criticisms but says IPCC procedures are not satisfactory.
Policy Makers Change It
“We (the scientists) produce a draft, and then the policy makers go through it line by line and change the way it is presented,” said Shine, who works at the Department of Meteorology at Reading University in southern England.
“They don’t change the data, but the way it’s represented. It is peculiar that they have the final say in what goes into a scientists’ report,” he added.
As to the IPCC conclusions, Shine said the probability is that human activity has changed climate.
“The human pieces of the jigsaw are bigger than the natural ones,” he said.
Global warming is said to be caused by a buildup of gases in the earth’s atmosphere, which trap the sun’s energy and cause the planet to heat up. These “greenhouse” gases, mainly carbon dioxide, are produced chiefly by burning oil, coal and gas.
Dr Jack Barrett of London’s Imperial College is sceptical of the IPCC data, saying that conclusions may be based on a series of misunderstandings.
Barrett said the chronology of any warming of the planet, which he says is probably due to a natural historical cycle, is inconsistent with IPCC theory. He says most warming this century took place before 1940, but a big increase in carbon dioxide emissions took place after then.
“The IPCC is working with an incomplete understanding of a very complex system, and it is understating the uncertainties in its predictions. The IPCC is almost exclusively dependent on computer modeling and it is unnecessarily influencing governments and industries to take injudicious and expensive actions,” Barrett said.
Environmental groups such as EarthAction believe the IPCC should be taken at face value and government action should be taken as a matter of urgency.
EarthAction says the governments of Europe, North America, and Japan must ensure greenhouse gas emissions return to 1990 levels by 2000, as agreed at the Climate Change Convention. Governments should raise investment in renewable energy — such as solar and wind power — energy conservation, and public transport.
This implied increase in taxation does not go down well with free market economists such as Roger Bate, director of the environment unit at Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs.
“Further restrictions on emissions will require immense cutbacks in the developed world, because developing nations (like China and India) will ignore this and continue to expand coal burning etcetera,” Bate said.
Any attempt to curb the use of fuel in most of the developed world would not be successful unless large and politically unacceptable increases were imposed. Anything less would simply create extra revenue for governments with little effect on consumption, said Bate.
Imperial’s Barrett, in a paper presented to the European Academy for Environmental Affairs in Tubingen, Germany, said climatologists’ publications about enhanced global warming have given rise to doubts by scientists of other disciplines.
“This is most unusual. There may be problems with understanding or some misapplication of physical science. There can be little confidence in the results of such calculations when applied to the global (climate) system,” Barrett said.
Neil Winton – December 1995