Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

... when global cooling was all the rage

Iain Dale asks a few questions about "Back when global cooling was all the rage". In amongst the comments is one from Shinsei, who doesn't appear to have a blog.

Let's look at Shinsei's comment in a bit more detail. (my comments in italics).

Shinsei - I'm sorry to sound slightly irate Iain but it is incredible that you keep posting comments about global warming that are factually incorrect and that you keep posing questions that you claim "no one has ever been able to explain to me" when a couple of minutes on the internet would explain these things simply.

The internet is a wonderful thing, and is also full of inaccuracies, but even so a 'couple of minutes' online will find articles that confirm Iain Dale's memories. A search will also discover many recent publications that ignore earlier scientific discussion and debate - something that's unusual in Science.

There is, of course, personal knowledge too - and that's what Iain Dale is referring to, and so he is not 'factually incorrect'.

It's remarkable how many of the adult population were at school in the seventies, or even earlier.

A high proportion of those were capable of reading independently even before they left primary school and had an interest in things climactic and scientific, especially as at that time there was a significant dip in temperatures and deep snow (40cm) in March 1970, for example. These people's memory is still remarkably acute considering they must all now be, oooh, at least 45.

The best science is checked by peer review - but some of the AGW people still don't want to share their data, maybe that's because when other real scientists check the figures and draw their own graphs a bit of figure-fiddling is easily spotted -
WuWT - 'The smoking gun at Darwin Zero'
Shinsei - 1) There was a mediaeval warm period, no member of the IPCC would deny that, however it was a lot less warm then than the temperature today.

Oh really? Less warm? Lookee here on WuWT
Shinsei - 2) Grapes have been grown in Yorkshire ever since the Romans brought grapes to England.

No, sorry, grapes have not been "grown in Yorkshire ever since the Romans brought grapes to England."

The internet has your answer,
with a little help from the Domesday Book
"... Of the Domesday vineyards, all appear to lie below a line from Ely (Cambridgeshire) to Gloucestershire. Since the Book covers all of England up to the river Tees (north of Yorkshire), there is therefore reason to think that there weren’t many vineyards north of that line."

Shinsei - 2) (contd) ... There are plenty of vineyards there [in Yorkshire] today. ....

Another quick search of the internet discovers a few modern vineyards in Yorkshire, at Ryedale, Holmfirth, Leventhorpe, Skellow and Great Hammerton Mrs Rigby has no knowledge of either them or their wine, she's sure it's tasty - but she doesn't really think that five vineyards in the whole of Yorkshire (2,941,247 acres/4,945 square miles) is "plenty" - but that's her subjective opinion and so is open to debate.
Shinsei - 2) (contd) ... All the documentary evidence though is that the wine made from these grapes in Roman times was pretty dire stuff, as you'd expect from a cool northern climate

How do you know that grapes from Roman wine was "pretty dire stuff"? Have you tasted any? Are your tastes the same as those of the Romans of that period? Have you made wine made from the same variety of grapes and the same species of yeast?

Where is all this 'documentary evidence'? - You ask other people to show their sources, but don't produce any of your own to support your sweeping statements - which, if unsupported, are merely opinion, not fact.

Did you read a book, an article in a newspaper or a scientific or archaeological journal, and was that information backed up
extensive practical and physical research or was it merely written by a person with twentieth or twenty-first century ideas and opinions of how horrible it must have been to have been a wine-drinking Roman living in Britain?
Shinsei - 3) I doubt you were ever TAUGHT at school that the world was going to cool rapidly. There was never a serious or consistent enough scientific consensus for global cooling to get into school textbooks or exam syllabuses. ...

The thing is, it looks as if you weren't there, so can only "doubt" what was or wasn't taught. Try asking people who were, and see what they say. Iain Dale is one of them.

Anyhow, why the big capitals? Not everybody who was alive in the seventies is now visually deaf!

Back in the dark, unenlightened, old days, including the seventies, eighties and early nineties,
children were taught Biology, Physics and Chemistry. They did Cookery/Domestic Science and used scarily sharpened knives. They did metalwork, with help from a metal-meltingly hot forge. In woodwork they using hard, heavy, hammers and newly whetted chisels, as well as needlework where fine, sharp metal needles and big pointy scissors helped make new clothes.

Back then school science teachers let children 'experiment' with nasty things like copper sulphate - because it obligingly changed colour on demand, let them chase mercury with magnets, let them make things go bang and cut open dead creatures to learn how they worked. Schoolchildren didn't die because of it. They were allowed to cook food in hot ovens, then take the meals home to be reheated. Nobody died of food poisoning - and nobody died of overwork either, even though Maths happened before calculators could be carried around in your pocket.

Schools taught how to do
practical Science, how to analyse results and how to draw conclusions from those results. It was seriously frowned upon if results were fiddled with or ignored in order to make them fit a hypothesis or theory.

Children were taught to question their results and investigate oddities and anomalies - not to hide them and presume they were wrong, because the best science teachers knew that it's always wise to look for the unusual result in case it's important. They'd heard of people like Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin 'by chance'.
(Even Wikipedia can be your friend, sometimes.)

Maybe all this is why so many 'oldies' are questioning the science behind climate change and global warming, because many of them have always been inquisitive and have always asked questions because their scientific education was based on finding out rather than being spoon fed - and because they've heard it, or something like it, before and also lived through the banning of CFCs.

Modern schools are struggling to find suitably qualified, knowledgeable and experienced Science teachers, especially those who are capable of teaching across the three disciplines of Biology, Physics and Chemistry to A-level standard. Some secondaries limit the amount of practical work their students can do because an H&S person says it's potentially
too dangerous to let them get their hands on chemicals, which is why so few school labs have fume cupboards and bits of glass that might break.

Modern 'Science', as dictated by the National Curriculum, teaches theories and dogma instead of encouraging investigative, independent and original thought. This, at its' worst, leads to unquestioning acceptance of new theories as scientific fact - many of today's students are never taught the difference, never taught to question the 'experts', never either expected or allowed to form their own opinions, especially not if their ideas run counter to current accepted thinking, and can in fact lose marks in exams if they don't produce the right answer containing the appropriate key words.

And, actually, Mrs Rigby knows that "Global Cooling" was taught in schools - but as a theory, as a possible, as a likelihood, not as a proven fact.

Shinsei - 3) (contd) ... However it probably appeared on a couple of Panorama programmes in the mid 70s. The media gave the global cooling thesis far greater prominence than the actual climate scientific community which, even then, were publishing far more research showing evidence of AGW.

It looks as if you're guessing. My clue is the use of the word "probably". If you don't know, keep quiet otherwise you make yourself look silly.

Shinsei - 4) Even if the world has been hotter in ages past without any man-made influence (which it no doubt has) that doesn't mean that current warming is not caused by human influence. ...

... and of course you have to accept the counter argument that if indeed there is current warming it could be a natural process, that we meddle with at our peril.

A theory is just that, it's an idea, it's ephemeral until it is proven - just like Darwin's Theory of Evolution. As we can't go back to see what happened to the dinosaurs we will never know, for sure, how some of them got to be so big, what they looked like, what colour they were and we'll never know why they seemed to have died out in a hurry. And nor will we know, for sure, why the Galapagos finches have different beaks, although we can make a jolly good guess.
Shinsei - 4) (contd) ... Climate is dependent on numerous factors - solar activity, moon orbits, tectonic plate shifts, tidal movements etc ...

As for tectonic movement affecting climate - I think you're misleading yourself. Tectonic movement theories are positional and have nothing to do with climate, although it can be, and probably is, related to volcanic activity which over millions of years has caused landmasses to move to areas that are either warmer or colder than where they originated. That isn't climate, it's a mixture of geophysics and geology.

The timescale involved is incomprehensible to most people, who think that maps are always going to be accurate because they're written on a piece of paper, and who worry when nature moves a bit of coastline to make it look different from an old picture.

Nature does things mankind doesn't like and things that mankind doesn't understand. Science is our way of trying to make sense of the planet and its' natural forces.

Shinsei - 4) (contd) ... AND man-made CO2 emissions.

Really? Is climate controlled by man-made CO2 emissions?

Prove it!

I haven't yet seen a single jot of incontroversial evidence that mankind has made things on Earth worse by breathing out.

I do, however, know that man's activities used to be a lot dirtier than now, with factories and homes belching out a mixture of sulphur gases that, according to scientists of the time, caused acid rain which killed inland fish and the European pine forests.

The filth spewing out of both homes and industries mixed with bitterly cold, damp, air causing poisonous smogs that killed people. The Thames was so dirty that salmon stopped breeding in it about 200 years ago. If you fell in and were rescued you were likely to succumb to poisoning, and it's mainly because London was an embarrassment that there were the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, (which extended to the creation of smoke control areas and closure of urban power stations, with new ones built out of sight in the countryside) and also the beginnings of serious regulation of hazardous waste.

I also know that without CO2 plants will die and animals will starve - even primary school children are meant to study food chains, webs and pyramids these days, so there's absolutely no excuse for ignorance.

We need plants to survive, more CO2 possibly means more, healthier, plants - which is a good thing.
Shinsei - 4) (contd) ... The issue at the moment is that all these non-man made activities are not significant enough currently to explain present warming conditions.

Really? How do you know? Who told you, and who told them. And what "warming conditions"?

It isn't being widely reported that USA has had its earliest snowfall for years.

The BBC didn't mention the hard frosts in Southern England last week, that froze some ponds deep enough to support a human - I saw it, I did it, so it happened.

Why are they not telling?

It's mind-numbingly arrogant of mankind to believe that a single successful species - Homo sapiens - that is only capable of inhabiting a tiny proportion of the surface of this planet, can have a greater influence on climate than to quote
"... solar activity, moon orbits, tectonic plate shifts, tidal movements etc"

Have you any real idea how utterly insignificant animals of any species are when the planet gets angry? Hollywood got it wrong - running away from a volcanic eruption and pyroclastic flow isn't a viable option, as the people of Pompei and Herculaneum discovered and more recently the people living near Mount St Helens.

Did you know, for example, that the eruption of Krakatoa in 1833 resulted in a serious dip in temperature due to particular atmospheric pollutants?

Did you know about Constable's paintings depicting weather patterns related to volcanoes?

How about other painters? - Look here where it says, "
Many of Joseph Turner's works depicted sunsets. It is now clear that he was painting glowing skies caused by sunlight scattering off volcanic dust from the immense eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora in 1815."

They called that year the "year without a summer" because it got a bit cold and a bit dark, and crops failed.

And you say nature can't change weather patterns because it is not significant enough!

Shinsei - 5) There are snow drops out in Hyde Park today. I don't remember reading in Tacitus anything similar happening in the first century AD.

It's thought that snowdrops (Galanthus) were brought to Britain by the Romans, who will also have known of autumn and winter flowering variety, Galanthus reginae-olgae, that is native to Greece and Sicily. There's even a picture of some here, nestling amongst autumn leaves.

And anyway, even if Tacitus did mention the odd flower or two, he had much more important things to write about.

Separately, did you ever learn about trading in Dutch Tulips or South Seas investments, and did you hear of the Emperor's New Clothes?


Anonymous said...

Tectonic movements do affect climate. It is postulated that when the Americas crashed into each other, the resulting changes in ocean climate sent a run of wet weather to Europe that caused massive prolonged snow fall aka the last ice age.

Mrs R said...

Postulate = theory, so you don't know for sure.

Out of interest, did this "last ice age" you mention only affect Europe? If so, it was remarkably selective.

And please, if you want to comment, at least leave a name.

Javelin said...

I can testify that for my Geology O Level in 1982 I WAS TAUGHT we could be going into a mini-ice age (due to recurring patterns of global cooling).

Alan Douglas said...

Mrs Rigby,

Touche !

Alan Douglas

AndrewSouthLondon said...

Nice fisk, measured, persistent, enjoyed it.Shinsei is a "self-righteous" half-informed product of the brainwashing warmist cult stiffling young minds in schools and universities for the last 15 - 20 years.

If you go into the Greenwich Maritime Museum, full of schoolkids out on a day's "education" being misinformed by Michael Mann's discredited hockey stick displayed in prime position, as a "fact".

Sing along: "Hare Krishna, Global Warming, Harry Read-Me, Hurry hurry!"

Doubting Richard said...

Actually, while most of your post is very sound, you are mistaken that techtonic plate movements do not affect climate. The positions of continent, ocean, land, sea and mountains all affect climate. However rarely significantly over less than a few million years!

Mrs R said...

@ Doubting Richard etc re tectonic movement.

So, what you're saying is that if a piece of the planet that's above sea level moves to an area of the planet that's normally colder or warmer than where the piece of land started off then the 'climate' experienced by that piece of above-sea landmass will change to match that of the area it's moved to?

What's it got to do with man-made climate change and the current AGW panic?

It's more related to choosing a holiday destination, based how whether it's warmer of colder than where you normally live, but a lot of people don't understand the timescale, and don't understand that it's not stoppable, mankind can't control it.

The area of the planet still has the same climate, it's just that things living on the bit of moving landmass land notice it - but they only notice it happening very, very, slowly because it take millions of years for land to gradually move to a new geographical position.

Did the climate in Portugal change following the earthquake and tsunami of 1755, and has the climate of the Indian Ocean and surrounding countries changed since the India/Burma plate movement that caused the Boxing Day tsunami 2004? If not, then explain why not – because people expect things to happen instantly, they can't wait for millions of years.