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Analysis: The UN IPCC buries two millennia of fluctuating temperatures

By Alan Moran

Probably nobody in the world has read the 3,949 pages of the latest IPCC report.  But many people have studied the 41 page politically determined, Summary for Policymakers.   Aside from rhetorical conjecture about increased human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide bringing more storms, fires and pestilence, the following killer dual chart is placed at the outset of the Summary.   

If this is accurate, it means human actions have changed the climate by at least the 1.1°C temperature increase estimated by the world’s most distinguished and celebrated atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen.  Lindzen’s fastidious reliance on science, positions him as estimating that a (human-induced) doubling of atmospheric CO2 will mean a 1.1°C global temperature rise. On his estimates, almost all of this has already occurred and it will not markedly shift the climate’s hospitability to man, beast and flora.   

That there has been 1.1°C of warming since 1850 is not especially controversial.  There is some disagreement about the degree to which it reflects the “recovery” from the mini-Ice Age (when there were Ice Fairs on the Thames among other events not seen today) and the effects of increased CO2 emissions.   

The controversial part is the removal of temperature oscillations commonly thought to have occurred over the course of the past 2,000 years. These include warming that was known to have occurred in Roman times and again in the tenth century when the Vikings colonised Greenland until 1250, and the cold period 1400-1700.  Such events are downgraded as being either exaggerated or localised.  

The earlier iteration of the IPCC 2021 picture was the notorious hockey stick fabrication by Michael Mann.  Mann cherry-picked data from tree rings and spliced together incongruent data sources, and reported his “findings” in a 1998 paper. Like the latest IPCC report, this showed a flat temperature trend until the 20th Century, then a sharp rise.   

The IPCC in its 2001 report used Mann’s graph as its poster child to substantiate human-induced global warming.  In the years after 2001 the IPCC quietly dropped Mann’s “hockey stick”.  Its discreditating was completed by 2009 release of confidential emails (dubbed “Climategate”), which showed Michael Mann as the conductor of other climate scientists seeing a need to eradicate the “medieval warming period” in order to make the case that the modern warming is unique.  

The chicanery under which this strategy was conducted resulted in legal cases.  Canadian scientist Tim Ball called Mann a fraud, Mann sued and the subsequent court case lasted a decade before finding against Mann. (Mann has managed to string out another case that he brought against Mark Steyn for even longer).   

But in the 2021 climate review the “hockey stick” is again the main feature.   

Climate scientists have a vested interest in discovering human-induced adverse spillovers from market based economic activity. The global warming agenda, cultivated over the past 30 years, has catapulted scientists from white-coated boffins who were decidedly low on the public sector pecking order, to the arbiters of national policies with all the perks and funding this entails.   

Criticism has followed the latest report.  Alex Epstein, who heads the US Center for Industrial Progress, tweeted, “The IPCC is not primarily a scientific organization, it is primarily a religious and political organization that manipulates science–including the work of many good scientists–to achieve the anti-human goal of eliminating human impact on nature”. 

The picture offered by the new IPCC report, if accurate, turns Michael Mann’s 1998 assessment into a serendipitous revelation.  It means that the IPCC has discovered the temperature record is aligned with (or, according to its critics, been aligned to) the CO2 record.  

If new data confirms the “hockey stick”, the policy implications are consequential should the data’s impact be considerable.  Successive IPCC reports, while declaring greater certainty about warming, have progressively downgraded and hedged bets on its extent and adverse impacts.  

If the implications are more serious, the costs of remedying them need to be assessed against the expenses entailed.   

While there is no end of experts assuring us of ample carbon-light energy sources that are available or about to be proven economic, the costs always turn out to be excessive.  Warmistas themselves loudly tout the low costs of hydrocarbon alternatives but demonstrate a lack of confidence in their claims by continuing to call for more subsidies.  Australia spends (but refuses to quantify) over $7 billion a year on subsidising renewables. The UK spends £10 billion annually (which the government does document) and this week Boris Johnson had to back down on a new regulatory proposal to reduce emissions by requiring the replacement of gas boilers with more expensive heat pumps.    

Notwithstanding the costs being incurred in emission restraint by developed nations, as The Australian’s Graham Lloyd says, “emissions continue to grow as increases from developing economies swamp cuts from the developed world”.  He also points out, “The developed world is proposing deep cuts to emissions but at the same time outsourcing industrial production of the things needed to make the transition to China, including the greenhouse gas emissions involved.”  

Paying lip service to the warmistas, China, far and away the greatest source of emissions offers only a mirage of future reductions; India, the fourth largest source of emissions, even refuses to do this.  

Alan Moran is the author of the Australian chapter in the forthcoming global compendium Local Electricity Markets edited by Tiago Pinto and published by Elsevier.