Recently I have encountered a couple of prominent believers in a carbon dioxide driven climate catastrophe, who see democracy as an obstacle to reducing emissions.
Mayer Hillman is 76 years old and he is still senior fellow emeritus at the left-leaning Policy Studies Institute ‘think tank.’ For 40 years he has campaigned against road transport. He recently persuaded the editor of Local Transport Today (LTT) to interview him. The result was a revealing 3-page interview in the 6th December 2007 issue entitled, ‘Plan to save the planet, but is anyone willing to pay the price?’ Perhaps it is no surprise that he has latched onto climate change as a means to his end. To be fair though, this is a position he adopted in 1990, long before carbon dioxide emissions impacted on transport policy. Hillman takes the familiar line of scientific consensus about a forthcoming climate catastrophe. He sees carbon rationing, with an allowance of one tonne of CO2 emissions per year, per person, bringing an end to long distance travel by air, rail or car. Hillman goes on to say, “When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life. Rationing has to be imposed on people whether they like it or not.” The interview can be accessed via a simple registration for a week’s free trial of LTT. My edited response was published in the 20th December issue. The unedited version written with much input from John McLean is reproduced in full below:
Mayer Hillman (interview, LTT 6th December) makes Al Gore look like a climate sceptic. Hillman wants to abolish democracy in favour of a carbon dictatorship and introduce carbon rationing/personal carbon trading in order to achieve wealth redistribution. The rationing of carbon emissions is a throwback to the communist era of dictating how an individual’s life should be lived. One can almost imagine the carbon police rounding up transgressors and throwing them in a carbon Gulag. His statements that democracy should give way to an authoritarian government are ludicrous. When challenged, he modified that to saying that all political parties should take an identical position on climate so that the voting public have no choice. Unfortunately, this is already happening with the 3 main parties; consensus is a tool of dictatorship rather than democracy. He also wants to end travel by car and air. The economy would be destroyed simply because the UK produces 2% of global man-made carbon dioxide emissions, with transport being responsible for just 20% of the 2%. Drivers already pay fuel tax in excess of £240 per tonne of CO2 emitted. In reference to talking to a future generation Hillman repeats his assertion about the evidence for man-made warming being clear, but he fails to produce any meaningful evidence. I suppose that’s no surprise when the IPCC couldn’t produce much either (see http://mclean.ch/climate/IPCC_evidence.pdf).
Atmospheric Methane levels are stable or falling, and Methane has a ‘half-life’ of only 7 years in the atmosphere. CO2 stays in the atmosphere for 50 to 200 years according to DEFRA, and has not been shown to cause catastrophic global warming. The claims about climate scientists saying that 400 or 430 ppmv is a “point of no return” are baseless. We do not have only a few years before the planet reaches its capacity to absorb CO2. If we look at the estimated anthropogenic emissions and the measured increases in CO2 we find that about 50% of emissions are absorbed. The claim that 430ppmv is the “maximum which should be considered safe” to prevent “uncontrollable positive feedback” is unsupported by any evidence. Rises in CO2 have lagged behind temperature rises during the earth’s geological history. For 27 of the past 50 years there has been no correlation between CO2 and global temperatures. Despite atmospheric CO2 levels being many times higher in the past, there has been no ‘runaway warming,’ suggesting that there are strong ‘negative feedbacks’ that operate as a ‘planetary thermostat’ to offset any ‘positive feedbacks’ via increased water vapour. More evidence for negative feedback due to the thinning of heat-trapping cirrus clouds comes from a recent publication by Spencer et al (2007) that was ignored by the media.
A new study just published in December by Douglass et al concludes that, “The observed pattern of warming, comparing surface and atmospheric temperature trends, does not show the characteristic fingerprint associated with greenhouse warming. The inescapable conclusion is that the human contribution is not significant and that observed increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases make only a negligible contribution to climate warming. Satellite data and independent balloon data agree that atmospheric warming trends do not exceed those of the surface. Greenhouse models, on the other hand, demand that atmospheric trend values be 2-3 times greater. We have good reason, therefore, to believe that current climate models greatly overestimate the effects of greenhouse gases. Satellite observations suggest that Greenhouse models ignore negative feedbacks, produced by clouds and by water vapour, that diminish the warming effects of carbon dioxide.”
The ultimate test of the mythical warming power of CO2 is about to begin as solar activity is expected to show a big fall in the coming decades. The flawed metric of a ‘global average surface temperature,’ which contains a warm bias, reached an El Nino driven peak in 1998. According to Roger Pielke Sr, “a change in heat in Joules that is the proper metric, not the surface temperature, and any accumulation of Joules since 2004 has been quite small, such that global warming has essentially stopped, at least for now. This lack of warming is consistent with the absence of lower tropospheric warming in the atmosphere since about 2003.“
We can also put other alarmist claims into perspective. The recent record low levels of Arctic Sea Ice (since satellite records began in 1979) can’t be explained by temperature change alone. Arctic wind anomolies are also implicated as part of a global pattern of exceptional summer circulation. Also, the media didn’t report the simultaneous record high levels of Antarctic Sea Ice. Wöppelmann et al claim a mean sea level rise of about 1.3mm per year in the last 100 years, and that the rise for 1993 to 2003 is “well within normal fluctuations.” The attempts to link hurricanes and global warming, which resulted in hurricane expert Chris Landsea resigning from the IPCC, have fizzled out following two quiet seasons. Most European glaciers have been in retreat from about 1870 and the majority of global glaciers have little or no monitoring record. Hillman makes very non-specific assertions about these situations. Millions of people being steadily displaced and dying of drought? I am unaware of any people who have been displaced. What drought is he referring to? El Nino and La Nina events cause a shift in rainfall patterns and that might be the entire cause.
Hillman seems very focused on the negative effects of global warming. Who is he to dictate that a certain temperature is acceptable? Contrast the claimed 2000 UK deaths due to the heat wave of 2003, with the yearly excess winter deaths of 25,000 to 45,000.
Hillman trots out the hoary old claim that sceptics are in the pay of oil companies but seems unaware of the implications of that comment. Firstly he is saying that scientists can be bought and their research findings somehow dictated for their “employers”. Secondly he conveniently forgets the trough of money that pro-man-made global warming scientists fight over. It is a trough that runs to billions of pounds every year, but admitted competition for the money is tough because the IPCC have dictated the direction of climate research. Climate scientists who wish to ensure future access to that funding pool know that they must produce papers, which are “acceptable” to the man-made global warming fraternity.
Pielke’s comments about a conflict of interest are correct (see http://mclean.ch/climate/SPPI-disband_the_IPCC.pdf ) and this apparently makes Hillman slightly subdued prior to showing his acceptance of one of the most blatant situations of a conflict of interest in the IPCC’s history – the lead author of a chapter of an IPCC report vigorously promoting his own “hockey stick” temperature graph.
The “hockey stick” has been soundly discredited and is absent from the IPCC 4th Assessment Report – so much for it being evidence. It is surely up to those who propose a hypothesis to produce evidence to support their claims; those who question the hypothesis are not required to prove their case. Hillman, like many others, has tried to replace the “innocent until proven guilty” dogma with a “guilty until proven innocent”. It’s a common ploy when one’s own evidence is pitifully weak. His knowledge of matters such as the hockey stick is sadly dated but his inability to recognise the play of vested interests is even worse.
Hillman also attacks Bjorn Lomborg as being “dangerous” for his belief that Kyoto style policies are futile, yet a recent article published in the journal Nature by Prins and Rayner arrives at the same conclusion. The development of secure energy sources and the adaptation to inevitable climate change is the way forward. The huge economic and social price that Hillman demands is not worth paying, as it is unlikely to make any detectable difference to the Earth’s constantly changing climate. As Czech president Vaclav Klaus says, freedom, not climate, is under threat
David Shearman is Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Hon Visiting Fellow, Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide and Hon Secretary, Doctors for the Environment Australia. He is co-author, with Joseph Wayne Smith, of the book: The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy.
Shearman has written an article for Online Opinion (OLO), Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate, entitled: ‘Climate change, is democracy enough?’ He seems to be thinking much along the same lines as Mayer Hillman. In extracts from his article he writes:
“In Australia, a surfeit of democracy carries much responsibility for the demise of the Murray Darling River, where debate has replaced action.” One for Jen to respond to perhaps!
On China’s plan to ban plastic shopping bags, he says:
“The Chinese decision on shopping bags is authoritarian and contrasts with the voluntary non-effective solutions put forward in most Western democracies. We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions. It is not that we do not tolerate such decisions in the very heart of our society, in wide range of enterprises from corporate empires to emergency and intensive care units. If we do not act urgently we may find we have chosen total liberty rather than life.”
Read the entire article here.