[LINK] the weather makers
stewart_fist at optusnet.com.au
Sun Apr 8 12:30:26 EST 2007
> I've just been reading Tim Flannery's book "The Weather Makers" and
> my reaction at the moment is "oh shit". Especially when he talks
> about committed CO2 levels.
> Actually it took me about 3 months to get past the first 2 chapters
> for some reason but the pace of my reading picked up after that, sort
> of like a positive feedback loop.
> The horrifying thing is how far along we are in actual measured
> climate change. There is some detail about the research basis for
> climate change.
Since I believe strongly in the Precautionary Principle, and since I
recognise that the consensus among climate scientists is that we are in the
midst of accelerating global warming changes due to human action, then I
totally support they current political moves to reduce emissions etc.
We need good publicists like Flannery to wake the population and the
politicians up to 'possibilities'.
But that doesn't mean I have to accept many of the claims being made by
climate scientists. I think that climate scientists, like environmental
activists in general, have realised that you need to scare-monger and shout
much, much louder than your competitors in this information-overloaded
society, to get anyone (especially politicians) to hear and consider your
I have a number of doubts:
1. First of all, my knowledge of history and pre-history tells me that the
world has been through colder and warmer periods than today over the last
couple of thousand years, and these have not been man-made, or irreversable.
Al Gore made light of the Viking period in his film and proved his case with
a limited selection of measurements. But it is generally accepted that from
400 to 1000 AD the temperature of North Europe and the Americas was 2-4
degrees warmer than today.
Also, clearly this was a time of massive population increase (but not mass
starvation) in Scandanavia, and a time when grapes were growing in
Newfoundland (Vinland) and there was farming over large sections of
Rather than this warming resulting in more storms and inhospitable weather,
400-1000AD appears to have been the ideal time for sailing around the
Atlantic and the Pacific.
Right in the middle of this period, there was a 20 year El-Nino (ours has
been 5 years) which devastated the Mochica-Chimu populations of coastal Peru
(resulting in the rise of the Inca) and revolutionary changes to the
Teotihuacan culture of Central Mexico (then, the world's largest city)
resulting in the Mayan culture dominating the area.
The pre-Polynesians in the Melanesia also undertook their first major ocean
crossings about this same time, and the explosion of the Polynesians from
the central Pacific to Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand happened soon
after (c 800 to 100 AD). These were exploratory and settlement voyages, not
accidental voyages (they carried pigs and dogs,etc.) They were also
obviously driven by population explosions (ie good of variable times, not
Until some of these climate scientists tell me how this all happened, and
why the weather then changed rapidly around the 12th Century (and later 14th
) to a Little Ice Age in Europe where the Thames froze over virtually every
year, then I'm going to remain sceptical that the 'experts' know as much as
they claim to know about forward weather predictions.
If they don't have hindsight, how can they have foresight?
2. Sea level changes. I've heard very good climate scientist and
oceanographers explain to me why global warming will result in a drop in
sea levels due to increased precipitation (via the extra humidity) of snow
over the Antarctic continent.
If the temperature doesn't get above freezing, then snow doesn't melt, and
hotter climates are generally wetter.
And we have no idea whether the floating ice-shelf breaking away from the
continent of Antarctica is a normal event, or abnormal -- in century-long
The claim about the Barrier Reef being bleached-to-destruction every year,
is a bit hard to sustain if you also claim sea levels are rising, since they
will then be covered for longer periods (or to a deeper depth) by
UV-absorbing sea-water. If bleaching is increasing due to water temperature
changes then the reefs will probably change, but not disappear.
A lot of scientists have a vested interest in piggy-backing on the new
fashion in global warming certainties, in order to get next years grants.
3. I'd also like to know how accurate these sea-level measurements are, and
what they are measuring against. The earth is not static. The center of
Australia rises and falls by about a hand-span each day due to earth-tides.
The coast of South Eastern Australia is rising by as much as 1 millimeter a
year, according to some authorities. Everest is rising about 45 mms a year,
according to one source.
Over millenia, earth all around the world bobs up and down like a Mexican
wave at a football final.
At a couple of places in Sweden and Norway, there are low-and-high water
marking on rocks made in Viking times, and one of them is now 9 metres above
present levels. Yet this was a time when the weather was warmer than it is
Low lying islands, like many of those atoll nations in the Pacific, are
generally sitting on top of old volcanoes, and these notoriously go up and
down on an annual basis. In fact volcanologists measure many of these
changes in terms of centimeters, rather than millimeters.
The fact that the TV shows a cocanut palm with water lapping at the base as
proof of sea-level rise, is pure fiction. All sorts of events cause beaches
to erode. What happens to these atolls (only, say, 4 meters above sea
level) when a Tsunami comes through (probably once each century, at the
And frankly, I've been told so many later-disproved stories about accuracy
by those who fly scientific satellites that I find it hard to accept their
claimed precision of measurements of ocean surface made from 800 kms up,
with a space vehicle subject to solar-winds, gravitional and magnetic
variations, etc. etc. I doubt they have an average accuracy for sea-levels
of less than a couple of centimetres.
4. The other problem is that we are really in an Ice-Age. For the last
million years the earth has been extremely cold by comparison to what went
Our present millennium just happens to be in the middle of an interglacial
period, and we know that it will turn back into a much colder period at some
time in the next 1000 or 10,000 years. We don't know when, because we don't
know how or why this all happens.
So, logically, the best reason not to use up all our easy-to-get-at coal
deposits is that this source of extra carbon molecules might be needed by
future generations to keep the planet warm by exploiting the greenhouse
So the precautionary principle applied, because of global warming, also has
the unintended consequences of reserving a very useful (perhaps even
critical) natural resource for the future. This is almost a certainty.
5. Personally, I think we should be paying much more attention to the way we
have overloaded the planet with hominids. Clearly, the world could do with
having half the number.
And so if you want to cut back on global-warming effects, then free
distribution of the pill and condoms around the world might be the most
effective way to spend the money. Just think what a billion dollars could
The most important future-development factor that Australia itself has in
its favour is probably its low population.
6. And the science of climate is exceptional in one other way: It relies
enormously on the use of computers (and therefore computer programmers) to
crunch the data -- and it rests almost entirely on computer models.
I have little faith in either.
The only way to test a computer model in terms of its ability to make
long-term predictions is to see whether it produces the result you expect.
So models are designed to produce a pre-determined output -- and models are
compared with other models depending (to a large degree) on whether their
I don't think this can really be classed as science. I think it is
Stewart Fist, writer, journalist, film-maker
70 Middle Harbour Road, LINDFIELD, 2070, NSW, Australia
Ph +61 (2) 9416 7458
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