Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Global Warming Debate Part 3

This is the third part of Edward's story. If you missed parts 1 and 2 part one is here and part two here.


In my business travels to animal feed manufacturers around Great Britain and Ireland, it was my good fortune to visit many pleasant places and to do business with some very fine and honourable people. In some firms I dealt with three generations of the owning families. It is a matter of sadness that so many of these businesses have been swallowed up by mergers and takeovers into conglomerates which have less of a personal flavour about them. In some places new, local businesses have sprung up and the process is part of inevitable change, decay and renewal in a time of unprecedented rapid flux.

Some change has been decidedly for the better, as I was reminded on a visit to one of the less scenic areas some twenty years ago. With half an hour to spare, I decided to walk around the village near my customer's mill and was struck with a most overwhelming, rather unpleasant, oppressive feeling of nostalgia. It took me a few seconds to realise its cause. It was a colliery village and a still, damp Autumn day. The houses were burning miners' concession coal and it was the smell of the coal smoke and the taste at the back of my throat which transported me back to the Derby of my childhood when we lived in the mill house. In those days of smog before the Clean Air Act, towns all smelt like that in the Winter. I remembered being frightened as a very young child on a car journey through Stoke on Trent. As we descended into the Potteries, we entered a world of such blackness as I had never seen. The sky was black, the ground was black and the buildings were black as the kilns belched their smoke into the air.

Technical advances such as smokeless fuels and furnaces which consume their own smoke have obviated most of that sort of pollution. Watercourses are cleaner too. In the Fifties when the advertising men introduced housewives to detergents for their washing up, they sang the praises of the “sudsy lather” of their respective products. Much of this ended up in rivers. I remember a boat trip on the River Soar navigation when the froth in the locks was three or four feet deep and coming over the side of the boat. If anybody had fallen in, it would have been impossible to see where they were. Now watercourses are cleaner and rivers which have been dead for a hundred years are beginning to see salmon running again.

Towns were often quite unpleasant places in other ways . Derby had two renowned smells - “The Derby Hum” which emanated from the Hide and Skin factory and the sharper, more chemical smell of “The Spondon Pong”

The latter emanated from the old Celanese factory and swept across the town when the wind was in the right direction. In Spondon when it was strong, brass ornaments on people's mantelpieces turned green. I was a frequent visitor to Bridgwater in Somerset and the same thing happened there near the cellophane factory. Doubtless, most towns with industries had similar problems.

Whilst there is certainly more to be done in the capture of pollutants from combustion and processing, great progress has been made. This is based on solid, empirically proven science and sensible regulation. Carbon dioxide is often lumped in with this sort of pollution, yet it is a colourless, odourless gas, vital to life as we know it. By referring to it as “carbon” the environmentalists set out quite deliberately to equate it with dirty soot which, of course, also contains carbon.

The improvements in pollution control took place in the “exploitative”, “selfish”,”greedy”capitalist West. When the Iron Curtain came down It was a nasty shock to find the terribly polluted landscape and environmental hell-holes created by communist smokestack industry under “scientific socialism” which was supposedly for the benefit of the people. Today in China, India and other industrial growth areas, hundreds of millions of people are suffering from similar, avoidable pollution of water, ground and air for which there are well-established, relatively cheap remedies, which could have been built in from the start of their industrial revolutions.

It is a lack of political will or possibly corruption in these countries which denies a clean environment to their citizens. The diversion of attention to monomania about CO2 is delaying the time when tried and tested remedies will give people a cleaner, healthier environment.


So far, I have not seen reference to any scientific paper, whether concerned with observations in the atmosphere or experiments in a laboratory, which has conclusively demonstrated that carbon dioxide has the “greenhouse” property claimed for it at the atmospheric levels which are likely to occur far into the foreseeable future. The proponents of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) are not exactly shrinking violets when it comes to making their case. In spite of many billions spent, they have not produced strong, experimental, physical evidence for their claims

The whole hypothesis (you cannot really call it a theory) is based on the observations that

(a) Carbon dioxide levels are rising and there is good evidence that some of this comes human activity.

(b) For a while temperatures appeared to be rising in approximate step with the rises in carbon dioxide.

Therefore (a) was causing (b) . “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” to use the Latin expression.

Most effort has gone into the creation of truly massive computer programs, claimed to mimic the processes of the world's climate and to enable the researchers to predict what the future effects will be. In a vastly more sophisticated way, this is exactly what scientists (some of them the same people) claimed to be able to do back in the Seventies, when they believed that they had conclusive evidence of global cooling which would require human intervention to reverse it.

Whilst horticulture was not part of my job, I came across several greenhouse complexes adjacent to factories which used waste heat from the processes. Not only that, they also ducted carbon dioxide from the furnaces to enrich the atmosphere of the greenhouses to produce massively increased crops as well. I recently heard one Russian academician describe CO2 as “bread for plants”. It is a marvellous fertiliser which does not produce problems of ground run-off and pollution.

There are scientific papers extant showing both the boost in yield to greenhouse crops with added carbon dioxide and observations of increased forest growth coinciding with increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. So, if you feel that the lawn needs mowing more often than it used to, you are probably objectively right and it's not just the effect of joints becoming a little stiffer with age.

CO2 is a gas which is essential to life. According to the best proxy records available its levels in the atmosphere have varied greatly over geological time and not had any close correlation with temperature. In the misnamed film “An Inconvenient Truth”, Al Gore got it back to front. Those convincing graphs which appeared to show such a close relationship between carbon dioxide levels and temperature were out of synch. The rises in CO2 levels actually FOLLOWED the rises in temperature so they could not have caused it.

This was established in a High Court case taken by an aggrieved parent who objected to the indoctrination of his children. Notwithstanding the Nobel Prize awarded to it, there were nine serious scientific errors in this propaganda dressed up as science. Yet the government sent this film to every school in the country. To a great extent, indoctrination in “climate change” has replaced traditional teaching of geography. The court ordered that the errors must be made plain to children before the film is shown.


As a corn merchant, one thing I do understand is sampling. If you have a large bulk of grain or feed , you cannot just grab a handful and hope that it will represent the whole. You have to draw samples from different places - sides, middle, back and front and from different depths, then blend these samples together before producing a sample which is truly representative and acceptable as such for contractual or statutory purposes. By aggregating weather reports from all over the world, scientists claim to be able to be able to produce a true sample of the world's temperature over time.

Weather stations, in effect, sample the climate at particular points on the earth's surface – usually near the land surface. For the purposes of producing a true sample of the whole, they are not very evenly distributed and there are large, remote areas of the earth which have very few weather stations indeed. To overcome these problems, mathematical techniques and adjustments are used to interpolate estimated figures for the areas where no actual record exists. The resulting, computer-processed data is called “homogenised”.

Now there are often very good reasons for such adjustments and interpolations , as anyone who has tried to plot a mid-line graph amongst points showing a trend will know. It is however absolutely vital

To start from accurately observed data

To have enough well sited and observed points to be meaningful

To stick with the same basis of points of observation, instrumentation and method throughout

To avoid interpolations or adjustments which can bias the result to fit a pre-conceived idea

The scientists of the Meteorological Office, the Climatalogical Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia and their counterparts in America were remarkably reticent about making their raw data known or explaining the complex computer programs which they used to achieve their adjusted figures. It is on the basis of the adjusted “homogenised” figures that their findings of are made known to the world. Their work is, of course, overwhelmingly publicly funded by taxpayers' money and should therefore be available to public scrutiny.

So independent researchers had great difficulty in replicating their work -something which is the basis of all science. The “climate community” were extremely cagey about raw data and the only permitted “peer reviewers” of their work to have access to full information were fellow believers in the impending catastrophe of global warming from man-made carbon dioxide. Nonetheless independent researchers achieved some notable breakthroughs and insights. The revelations of leaked emails from the CRU, known as “Climategate” would tear the veil from the methods used to maintain that all-important “consensus” which was inaugurated and established at that conference convened by the anthropologist Margaret Mead back in 1975.


Apogee said...

Enjoyed reading this item, puts things in context in an easily read manner.

subrosa said...

I enjoyed it too Apogee and it is more enjoyable than trying to plough through scientific writings.

Chris said...

You did do a great job of putting this together in a way most people can understand. Great job. Keep it up my friend.

subrosa said...

Chris, I didn't write this Edward Spalton did. My mini-contribution was just the publishing.

I'm sure Edward will read your compliment.

banned said...

Great summary, I spent my early years in a small town near Derby, hated going there and recognised it immediatly when first reading Lord Of The Rings as Mordor. Its' pollution sometimes reached my semi-rural haven in the form of the foamy rivers that Edward describes.

Later I arrived in London, shortly after the Clean Air Act put a stop to Pea-Souper smogs which all the old people remembered with dread.
At the time the City Of London was black from two centuries of coal burning but one by one those buildings got sandblasted clean to various shades of sandstone and granite. The first ones to do so looked like missing teeth, the last probably got cleaned for shame. I am not aware of any laws or regulations compelling building owners to do so, it was just an obviously good thing to do without any pontificating about fake greenery.

CO2, I read somewhere that one correlation does hold true, in eras of mega fauna and flora (ie dinosaurs) the CO2 content was several times greater than at present but have seen little further evidence of this.

TheFatBigot said...

A magnificent series of articles, thank you for posting them.

What I find so interesting, and so impressive, is that the author doesn't pretend to engage in science or even pseudo-science, he simply comments on the basis of his experience.

I don't know anyone over the age of 30 who has looked into this topic and agrees with the doom-mongers. Regardless of the dodginess of the "science", the margin of error in everything they do is so vast that I find it impossible to draw any conclusion from their work.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

All the articles for an epistle to common sense.

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