Letter to the Editor of Farm Weekly

Letter to the Editor of Farm Weekly

by David Archibald

24 March 2019

The global warmers have cranked up the hysteria in recent months including using children as props. They have also tried to convince farmers that nature has turned against them with droughts and floods as evidence of Gaia’s displeasure.

It is important to show productive elements of society, such as farmers, that the global warmers are rootless cosmopolitans, discredited elements and agitated loons. Thus this letter to the editor of Farm Weekly in response to agitprop from such a creature:

I refer to the letter of Philip Gardiner of 7th March 2019. This will be a little tedious to some but it is important to refute each and all of Mr Gardiner’s claims, starting with his statement that global warming is not a belief issue. As GK Chesterton said, when people stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing, they are capable of believing in anything.

Belief in global warming is the religion of choice for people who like to think of themselves as scientific and rational. Otherwise their meaningless lives would feel shallow, hollow, depressing and purposeless. In effect they have chucked over the Bible but still cling to a fragment of it, the bit at the beginning talking about how perfect the Earth was before it was despoiled by the hand of Man.

Nicholas Wade’s book The Faith Instinct is a lucid account of this need to believe. That explains why the global warming theory has hung around for so long despite the lack of evidence to support it.

As a religion, belief in global warming is well short of being complicated enough to do some actual good, such as building orhpanages, retirement homes, or hospitals. Relative to a religion that actually does some good, belief in global warming is like a prion relative to the human genome, a poisonous little fragment even simpler than a virus.

In his scientific evidence, Mr Gardiner mentions experiments  with atmospheres held in transparent containers. Man’s activities have increased the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere from its pre-industrial level of0.028 per cent to 0.041 per cent. The experiments that Mr Gardiner referred to were at such high concentrations they have no relevance to the world we live in. There is some warming from carbon dioxide. It contributes three degrees of the total greenhouse effect, including water vapor, of about 30 degrees.

This heating effect is logarithmic, so that the first 20 parts per million contributes half of the total effect to date. By the time we get to the current level each extra 100 parts per million contributes on 0.1 degrees. At that rate we are adding 0.2 degrees per century. This will go on for another couple of hundred years before we run out of fossil fuels. Then the 800-year oceanic turnover cycle will take almost all the carbon dioxide mankind will have generated down into the Davy Deep and we won’t see it again.

Mr Gardiner states that mankind wasn’t around when the atmospheric carbon dioxide level was as high as it is now. This is a wonderful thing because carbon dioxide levels were at starvation levels for plants many times over the 800 thousand year ice core temperature history that he quotes. It got as low as 180 parts per million as recently as 15 thousand years ago, at the coldest part of the last glaciation. Plant growth starts shutting down at 150 parts per million. The planet got to 30 parts per million from disaster when life above sea level would have died off due to lack of carbon dioxide.

Most of our food comes from the flowering plants that evolved when the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was four times what it is today. For plants, the atmosphere is still at starvation levels for carbon dioxide. Plant growth response to carbon dioxide is easy to quantify by experiment, and is 0.3 per cent per one part per million increase. So at two parts per million annual increase, crop yields are rising at 0.6 per cent per annum.

Plants give up about 100 water molecules for each carbon dioxide molecule they capture from the atmosphere. The rising atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide means they lose less water for the same amount of growth. This is important for Western Australia, where plants spend a good part of the lives water-stressed.

Mr Gardiner mentions a temperature rise of 0.8 degrees since 1880. This could very well be true but it is not true to say that scientists say that this rise is only explained by the hand of Man. What stops the Earth from looking like Pluto is energy from the Sun and the level and type of that energy does change. In fact the Sun was more active in the second half of the 20th century than it had been for the previous ten thousand years. All the cold and warmer periods of the last one thousand years are tied to solar activity. The warmth of the second half of the 20th century is no exception.

The most accurate measure of the temperature of the planet is from the satellites that were put into orbit for that purpose in 1979. Australia’s temperature in February 2019 was 0.07 degrees below the average of the 40 years of the satellite record.

Over those same 40 years, the atmospheric carbon dioxide level rose 25 per cent. A rise of that magnitude with a small temperature response (that may in any case be due to the Sun) points to any heating effect from carbon dioxide as being very weak, as predicted by theory.

Mr Gardiner recommends a particular book for serious students of the science of global warming. To that same end, I recommend my last book on climate science entitled The Past and Future of Climate. I am the only Australian climate scientist who has lectured on climate science in both a US Senate hearing room (2011) and a US House hearing room (2013) in Washington DC.

As to what is going to happen to climate from here, the Sun stopped being hyperactive in 2006. We are going back to 19th century levels of solar activity with 19th century-type climate. The Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic started cooling from 2007. The US has just had two years of record cold temperatures with whole dairy herds frozen to death in the northwest. Snowfalls have broken 100 year records which means that snow will accumulate and the glaciers will start advancing again.

Yes we have just had droughts and floods in Australia but I remember those things happening every decade as they have always done. As for sea level, as measured by the tide gauge at Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour it has barely risen since the beginning of the 20th century.

Mr Gardiner concludes his letter by mentioning Australia’s responsibilities to the wider world despite our own carbon dioxide emissions being less than two per cent of the world total. No doubt he would like Australia to stay compliant with the Paris climate treaty. That Paris treaty has the science the wrong way round. Given that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is wholly beneficial and in effect is giving the Third World free fertilizer, we would help the world more if we emitted more.

But there is another Paris treaty that we signed in 1979 that is far more important. This is the International Energy Agency agreement, which required the 28 member countries to hold 90 days of stocks of fuel imports. We have been non-compliant since 2012 and currently have 49 days of stocks. Only two other countries have ever been delinquent: Luxembourg (89 days in 2009) and Turkey (86 days in 2018).

The fact that the temperature over Australia has been almost flat for 40 years suggests that global warming is not something we have to worry about straight away, if at all. But our fuel supply situation is parlous and we should fix it immediately. Having closed three of the seven oil refineries we had at peak, we now import about half of our refined product consumption. The importers carry the minimum stocks that can get away with and live a hand-to-mouth existence. With the result that sometimes shipments are delayed or off-spec and farmers miss out. If those shortages come at harvest, that is a disaster.

There are plenty of things to worry about. Global warming isn’t one of them. Fuel supply is near the top of the list. There is a federal election coming up. Tell your federal member to stop any nonsense with respect to global warming and get our fuel supply in order. To paraphrase Mr Gardner, doing nothing with respect to fuel supply brings the increasingly likely possibility of catastrophic costs.

David Archibald