Lord Turnbull’s The Really Inconvenient Truth
His lordship recognizes that the UK Government takes great pride in what it thinks is a comprehensive and ambition plan for preventing climate change, which will give it global moral leadership. That plan is built on 4 assumptions:
In the absence of legally binding limits set internationally, the UK Government has set its own arbitrary limits via the Climate Change Act (2008), which makes it legally binding for the UK “to ensure that that the net carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 80 percent lower than the 1990 baseline.” A Climate Change Commission was established to set targets and monitor delivery on them.
The European Union has set its own arbitrary target of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. There is an option to go to 30% as part of an international agreement, but the Global Warming Swindlers in the European machine would like to make this a unilateral obligation.
The EU has also created an obligation to produce 15% of energy from renewable source (which means that over 30% of electricity generation will have to come from renewables), set up a carbon trading system (which has been abused severely by criminals) and set targets for the “efficiency” of vehicle fleets.
The British government has set up its own schemes for taxing carbon dioxide production (in the hope of raising vast amounts of revenue from the“conventional” power stations which will keeps the lights on when wind power is not available) while shutting down nuclear power stations. The plan is to tax all producers of carbon dioxide; not just large business but small businesses and also the carbon dioxide exhaling individuals in households.
Lord Turnbull warns: “ ... there is an Inconvenient Truth, and it is not the same Inconvenient Truth of Al Gore’s film. The Real Inconvenient Truth is that this whole structure is built on shaky foundations.”
The UN’s agenda can be analyzed at three levels, each of which is covered by an IPCC working group:
The UN would have us believe that there is a consensus on global warming; its man-made origins and the consequences. But there is a huge controversy at each level of the analysis. Let us look first at the science.
The IPCC has been trying to sell its “hockey stick” view of global temperatures, claiming that they have been stable for the past thousand years but there was a sudden upward rush from the 19th century onward as industrialization spread around the world and the human race started to dump vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing the so-called Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).
This view has been challenged on a number of grounds, the most damaging being that the equation used is designed to generate a “hockey stick” curve out of any set of statistical data entered into it.
There have also been attempts to air-brush out known fluctuations in temperature, especially the Mediaeval Warming Period (1000 -1,350 AD) and the Little Ice Age (1350-1850) and the recovery from it over the last 150 years.
These fluctuations were acknowledged in early IPCC reports but they were removed as inconvenient by disciples of AGW, one of whom emailed another saying “We must get rid of the Medieval Warming Period.”
The history of the last 150 year presents many problems. The rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide has been fairly steady but temperatures have fluctuated markely, resulting in alternating forecasts of global warming and the threat of a new ice age being issued at intervals of about 30 years.
There have been times when global temperatures fell but atmospheric carbon dioxide grew rapidly, particularly in the period after World War II, and global temperatures have been on a plateau for the last 12 years despite increasing industrialization in developing countries such as China and India.
It is clear that factors other than the atmospheric carbon dioxide level are involved in changes of global temperature, and the boundary between what is due to the human race and what is natural remains unclear.
The IPCC bases a lot of its story on data from computer models, which are good at making alarmist predictions but poor at explaining what is happening in the real world. Worse, the people writing the computer programs do not understand how the Earth’s climate works, so they’re just making “best guesses”, and too many of them have a vested financial interest in turning carbon dioxide into Public Enemy No. 1 for two reasons:
The IPCC’s work is at its shabbiest here. AGW alarmists have made many dramatic claims about sea levels, melting glaciers, Arctic ice, crop yields, extinction of species, especially polar bears, etc. Much of it came from the so-called “grey literature”, which is not subject to rigorous scrutiny, and worse still, some of it was based on material supplied by “green” Non-Governmental Organizations.
The AGW alarmists believe in cherry picking of data, exaggeration and highlighting of extremes, and fail to acknowledge the beneficial effects of a warmer climate. By and large, the human race has prospered in warmer periods. Plants grow faster when the climate is hotter and wetter, and the atmosphere contains more carbon dioxide. More people die in cold weather than in hot weather.
AGW alarmists warn of increased risk to life and property from more extreme weather, but the people at risk are mainly those who chose to live in harm’s way; on flood plains and in areas visited by hurricanes and equivalent storms.
The IPCC puts its focus on preventing global warming rather than preparing the human race to reacting to changes in global temperature as they happen; down as well as up. Which explains why everything grinds to a halt in the cold winters, which occur in the 11-year solar cycle when sunspots are at an extreme low.
The major problem of UK policy is its unilateralism. Britain’s emission make a negligible contribution to the world’s total emissions but successive governments continue to set carbon-reduction targets which will cripple British industry and encourage large employers to move elsewhere; which will reduce our ability to be able to afford to build flood defences and react to inevitable climate changes.
Lord Turnbull believes that we should concentrate on the multitude of things which have a clear “no regret” benefit, and advance into the rest of the agenda only as part of international action. He thinks that logic and economic reality should be incorporated into the cost of energy and the various technologies gas, coal with Carbon Capture [a technology which will not exist for many years if ever], nuclear, wind, tidal, etc., should fight it out for market share.
Major obstacle to doing the sensible thing are the EU Renewables Obligation and the obsession with wind power. The industry quotes the installed capacity of its wind turbines but fails to mention that the actual output is about 25% of their headline figure. Worse, during cold periods, such as the winter of 2010/11, there is often little or no wind in the UK.
The feed-in tariff mechanism is also a scandal, under which the government pays to operators of solar panels and wind turbines some 30-40p per kwh for electricity with a retail price of 11p per kwh.
There has been hostility to nuclear power in the UK and, at best, half-hearted support from governments. Yet France can produce two-thirds of its electricity from nuclear power stations, and the French government is not deterred by events in Japan, where an old reactor built in an earthquake zone was hit by a tsunami.
New technology has made it possible to extract gas from shale at an economic price. This has dramatically widened the geographic availability of gas, has produced a massive upgrading of gas reserves and is decoupling gas prices from oil. Gas produces about one-half of the carbon dioxide emissions of coal. Thus it can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while generating “always on” electricity at gas-fired power stations, and provide a cheaper alternative to “renewables” and, perhaps, nuclear power.
AGW alarmists claim that we should be in the vanguard of adopting “green” technologies to gain the advantage of being first in the field of supplying these technologies. But Lord Turnbull believes that we should invest only in technology which can justify itself without massive subsidy and not impoverish ourselves by trying to build jobs on shaky “green” foundations.
Lord Turnbull believes that we should concentrate on those measures which are “no regret”, which improve productivity, and which do not depress living standards; measures such as stopping deforestation, raising the energy efficiency of buildings and vehicles, investment in nuclear power, expanding energy generation from waste and attaching carbon-capture technology, if it is ever available, to new gas-fired power stations rather retrofitting old coal-fired stations. He also advocates spending much less on wind and solar power, and forgetting about current biofuels.
The sociology and politics of the AGW phenomenon
There has been a change in the nature of science. The great figures of the past; Galileo, Darwin, et al; were not salaried professors and they did not receive large research grants and honours. They were driven by curiosity and were prepared to challenge the established order.
Nowadays, environmental scientists have jobs and research ratings to protect as well as celebrity and airmiles. There has been a shameful failure by the grandees of the Royal Society, who should have been the guardians of scientific integrity, to uphold its motto Nullius in verba (No one has the final word).
Instead, the leaders in the world of science have become campaigners, spouting nonsense that the science of global warming is settled, and failing to perform basic tasks, such as reviewing rigorously the “Climategate” e-mails affair at the University of East Anglia.
There are now plenty of vested interests in the green agenda, whether consultants, suppliers of green technology or those taking advantage of the economic opportunities. It is not just the traditional energy suppliers who have positions to defend. Uncritical adoption of the green agenda by the Conservatives has helped them push a “Blue is Green” message as a way of escaping from their nasty party image.
There is a structural flaw in the IPCC. It claims that its reports are the consensus of the work of 2,500 climate scientists. In fact, there is a core of 40-50 climate scientists at its centre, who are closely related, as colleagues, pupils, teachers, reviewers of each other’s work, etc.
They have managed to define a very simple AGW message and they have used all means possible to prevent alternative voices from being heard. The news media, particularly the BBC, have bought into their story for political reasons. Thus only the blogosphere is left to provide a platform for different viewpoints and challenges to manufactured evidence.
Lord Turnbull believes that we need to acknowledge that there have always been fluctuations in our climate. Rather that writing natural forces out of the script we need to build them into the analysis. We have witnessed a warming tend in the last 150 years, but this warming has not followed a steady upward path. We are currently on a plateau. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has probably, ceteris paribus, made a small positive contribution.
Our understanding of the effects of atmospheric water vapour is still limited and not enough to justify the weight that is put upon it. We need a more eclectic approach and certainly a more modest one.
In the words of President Klaus of the Czech Republic.
“To reduce the interpretation of all kinds of climate change and of global warming to one variable, carbon dioxide, and to a small proportion of that one variable human induced carbon dioxide is impossible to accept.”
Lord Turnbull adds: “From our politicians we need more rationality, less emotion and less religiosity, and an end to alarmist propaganda and attempts to frighten us and our children. Also, we want them to pay more attention to the national interest and less to being global evangelists.
“Finally we need from our scientists more humility, and a return to the tradition of scientific curiosity and challenge. We need more openness and transparency and an end to attempts to freeze out dissenting voices. There should be more recognition of what they do not know. And acceptance of the Really Inconvenient Truth that our understanding of the natural world does not justify the certainty in which the AGW views are expressed.”
Lord Turnbull was Permanent Secretary, Environment Department,1994-98; Permanent Secretary to the Treasury 1998-2002; Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service 2002-05. He is now a Crossbench member of the House of Lords and a member of the GWPF’s Board of Trustees. His report was issued in March 2011.