Monday, September 17, 2007

Spinning climate change

A recent study has cast doubt on the idea that Neanderthals were wiped out by climate change. This seems at first sight like a potentially lucrative seam for researchers. Lifetimes could be spent cataloguing all the things Neanderthals weren't wiped out by. But of course, there's a special reason why climate change had been identified as a potential case of their demise. It's a depressing reason. Climate change has become a societal obsession. In the future, looking back, I think this collective madness will take its place alongside Tulip Mania and the South Sea Bubble.

This obsession was the only reason, incidentally. There's never been any actual evidence that climate might have been the cause of the disappearance of Neanderthals.

Of course, it's possible that human activity is affecting the climate. It's just that, again, there isn't really any good evidence that this is the case. Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and we've raised the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere. But measured changes in atmospheric CO2 don't correlate with changes in observed or measured temperatures, so climate alarmists have had to rely on models for their hysteria.

The most famous such model is the hockey stick graph of reconstructed temperatures, which was a major plank in the case made by the IPCC in 2001, on the strength of which so many taxes and costs, and changes to our society, are being advocated. But this graph is controversial, not least because it doesn't match the historical record of temperature. With the hockey stick, there was no medieval warm period and no little ice age, though we have always had excellent reason to think that both happened. One benefit of all this nonsense is that research has been directed at these two climate events, and strengthened the case for thinking they were real, and they were global in scope. That's potentially a problem for the alarmists; their case is built on the sand of a dodgy graph.

Not to worry, though. Even this problem can be spun into a piece of alarmism about climate change:

Diaries of day-to-day weather details from the age before 19th-century standardized thermometers are proving of great value to scientists who study today's climate. Historical accounts were once largely ignored, as they were thought to be fraught with inaccuracy or were simply inaccessible or illegible. But the booming interest in climate change has transformed the study of ancient weather records from what was once a "wallflower science," says Christian Pfister, a climate historian at the University of Bern.

The accounts dispel any lingering doubts that the Earth is heating up more dramatically than ever before, he says.
I can hear a low whistle of admiration from the direction of Downing Street. The alarmism of recent years has relied on there not having been a little ice age. Now it's impossible to deny there was, the subsequent warming in the historical record - a warming that has no correlation whatsoever with man made CO2 emissions - is taken as proof of... man made global warming.

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