> Bob Carter, Weekend Essay, Australian Financial Review, September 27, 2003
> Public debate regarding climate change is charged with great emotion, not
>least because so much of the comment is driven by pressure groups with
>strong political agendas.
> There are many science facts to do with climate change, and
phooey - only a few
> which claim to explain these facts, but the essence of the matter can be
>communicated in six questions and their brief answers.
>Here they are.
>Q1. Is climate change occurring?
>A. Yes, of course. Climate change is always occurring
Throughout Earth's history, both geographic and climate change have been
Rubbish - for many long periods the climate was, so far as we can
tell, remarkably stable.
If Carter is going to carp on about sloppy language, let's nail the
creep right at the start: what he presumably means, and could be justified,
is "geographic and climate change have occurred irregularly".
> For instance, 450 million years ago the rocks which now form the top of
>Mt Everest were sedimentary deposits in an ancient ocean, at a time when
>global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and temperatures, were from time
>to time appreciably higher than today.
The relevance of this last clause is obscure; looks like a blind or
>Dramatic climate change has been particularly characteristic of the most
>recent 2,500,000 years of earth history. Over this period, the Earth has
>experienced about 100 alternately glacial and interglacial episodes. This
>climatic cycling occurrred especially on periodicities of about 20,000,
>40,000 and 100,000 years, as manifest by glaciers waxing and waning, the
>ocean level rising and falling, and the global average temperature varying
>by 6° C or more.
>The wonderful planetary biodiversity, which all of us so enjoy and wish to
>protect, results in no little part from the vicissitudes of climate change
>which have shaped Earthís modern ecosystems. These vicissitudes continue.
>Q2. Is the global climate currently getting warmer?
>A.Without being precious, it depends upon what you mean by (i) "global
>climate" and (ii) "currently". To the degree that a single number
>(average temperature) can usefully be said to characterise the Earthís
>climate, the climate was cooling during the 1970s, and is warming now, but
>in neither case at exceptional rates. The strongest evidence for warming
>occurs in climate records from Northern Hemisphere middle and higher
>latitudes, i.e. in records which are not "global".
>The answer to this question also depends upon how you agree to measure
>global temperature. For instance, averaged temperature measurements made
>with thermometers from all over the world indeed suggest that an overall
>rise of almost 1° C occurred during the 20th century. However,
>alternative and highly accurate measurements of atmospheric temperature
>are available since 1958 from weather balloons, and 1979 from satellites.
>These temperature records agree with each other within the measurement
>error, and neither shows any overall warming over the last 45 years.
>Many, but not all, scientists believe that the averaged thermometer
>measurements disagree with the satellite and weather balloon measurements
>because they have not been corrected sufficiently for the ìheat islandî
>effect. This effect, for which thermometer measurements are corrected
>already, results from the fact that many thermometers are located near
>manmade connurbations or structures, where, because these features absorb
>and then re-radiate incoming solar heat, they record an increase in local
>Q3. If the climate is getting warmer now, is it an human-caused effect?
>A. Basic physics tells us that increasing greenhouse gases (such as carbon
>dioxide) in the atmosphere, some part of which is human-caused, will have
>a warming effect.
>Alarmist computer models notwithstanding, any such effect has not yet
>occurred at a measurable level which can be distinguished from natural
>variation. More specifically, the pattern of "global" temperature change
>over the last 100 years does not match the smoothly-increasing curve of
>atmospheric carbon dioxide which is so widely alleged to be the cause.
It is not a logical impossibility that Carter is right about this;
but study the graphs on the IPCC website and decide for yourself, at least
preliminarily, who's right.
>Additionally, the ancient climate record shows that in the past increasing
>temperatures preceded increases in carbon dioxide.
In some of these, it isn't possible to tell which came first. If
he'd said that, I'd be content; but he goes further than the data allow,
Around this stage I think he should be asked what help he's had
from industry (coal, oil, etc).
If he's going to call the great majority of climatologists incompetent, he
should have to establish whether his position is independent, or biased.
> This means that in the real world, as opposed to the idealised computer
>world, atmospheric carbon dioxide content cannot be the primary cause of
>global warming. In this regard, it should always be remembered too that
>the computer models which predict 1-6° C of future warming from greenhouse
>gas accumulation are no more and probably no less reliable than computer
>models which predict the future of the stock market.
>Q4. Is present-day climate change occurring at rates, or does it reach
>extremes, which lie outside the natural behaviour of climate in the past?
>A. Absolutely not.
This Q/A is a deceit. I am deeply suspicious of anyone who will
slip in this furphy. Experts are not saying current climate change is
The real Q is whether current rates of climate change are harmful
(to food production, etc), and if so whether they can be curbed by human
>The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (and many scientists')
>fixation with judging modern trends against the last 1000 years is
>intellectually lazy, if not actually dishonest. There is nothing whatever
>about the last 1000 years of Earth history that has any especial relevance
>to judging contemporary climate change.
In that case Carter won't go on about alleged wrong data within the
past 1000 y ... but he sure does (elsewhere).
>If you wish to choose a more scientifically justifiable period of time,
>then it would either be:
> (i) the last 10,000 years (during which climate has been as much as 20 C
>warmer or cooler than today), (ii) the last 20,000 years (during which we
>have gone from an ice age to an interglacial; i.e. a shift in global
>average temperature of 6-80 C),
>(iii) the last 125,000 years (which is when the last warm interglacial
>period occurred, which was about 40 C warmer than today), or
>(iv) the last 340,000 years (when, during warm period interglacial 9,
>temperature may have been as much as 60 C warmer than today).
>When the ancient climatic record is examined on these timescales it is
>seen to encompass many occasions of rapid climate change. During such an
>episode the temperature at a particular site can swing from almost full
>glacial to full interglacial conditions, or the other way round, in
>periods as short as one or two decades. The mechanism controlling these
>rapid swings remains unknown, and for all we know one could have started
>yesterday. Reassuringly, perhaps, in the past rapid climate changes seem
>to have been commoner during glacial periods compared to interglacials
>such as the one we live in today.
This last is pretty close to a red herring.
>Q5. But we hear so many scientists claiming that global warming is a
>problem. Surely, where there is so much smoke there must be fire?
>A. The proverb that ìwhere thereís smoke thereís fireî, like most
>proverbs, is as often untrue as it is true.
What a silly statement. These sayings become embedded in culture
because they contain far more truth than untruth.
For someone willing to hammer the sloppy Weston for loose language,
Carter is remarkably sloppy himself.
> In the case of global warming, however, the truism turns out to be true.
>The fire is fuelled by the many billions of $US which are now spent
>worldwide each year on climate change research, and the smoke comes from
>the opinions of the more than 100,000 scientists who are employed to
>investigate the problem. Donít get angry with them, but rather extend
>your sympathy: after all, without there being an acute climate change
>problem there will be many fewer science jobs.
This is a low blow to men like Sir John Houghton who are not fairly
accused of such corruption.
>Q6. Will adhering to the Kyoto Protocol cause a significant reduction in
>A typical computer model projection predicts that implementing the Kyoto
>Protocol would reduce an expected temperature increase of 2.1° C by 2100
>to 1.9° C instead. Put another way, the world would postpone until 2100 a
>temperature increase which would otherwise occur in 2094. About a
>trillion dollars, which is the estimated cost of the Kyoto accord, seems a
>lot of money to spend to buy just six years of breathing space.
See whether you think this is a fair ('typical') representation of
IPCC predictions. Do you really believe right-wing politicians in NZ, many
Euro countries, and even the USSR would have bothered to force thru
marginally popular ratification of Kyoto just for such a negligible benefit?
> As Bjorn Lomborg
convicted of crookedness in the court of science
> never tires of pointing out, a better use of this money would be to spend
>it alleviating some of the much more acute global problems, such as
>starvation, sanitation and health services in less privileged countries.
It is far from proven that Kyoto will 'cost money', let alone the
sum Carter mentions. More likely, it will slow by many trillions the
decline in production of food etc by slowing climate degradation.
>Essex, C. & McKitrick, R. 2002 "Taken by Storm. The Troubled Science,
>Policy & Politics of Global Warming", Key Porter Books, Toronto, 320 pp.
>Gerhard, L.E., Harrison, W.E. & Hanson, B.M. 2001 "Geological Perspectives
>on Climate Change". American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Studies
>in Geology, 47 (available from
>Gray, V. 2002 The Greenhouse Delusion. A critique of "Climate Change
>2001". Multi-Science Publishing Co. Ltd., Brentwood, Essex,
>95 pp. ([log in to unmask]) (available from
>Professor R.M. Carter
>Marine Geophysical Laboratory (Node C)
>Sporing Road South, James Cook University
>Townsville, Qld. 4811, AUSTRALIA
>Phone: +61-(0)7-4781-4397 Home phone: +61-(0)7-4775-1268
> Mobile phone: 0419-701-139
>Fax: +61-(0)7-4781-4334 Home fax: +61-(0)7-4775-2776
> Messaging: 0419-701-139
>Email: [log in to unmask] Secure email: [log in to unmask]
>Professor Bob Carter is a climate scientist with more than 35 years
>research experience. He has served as Chairman of the former Australian
>Marine Science & Technologies Grant Scheme, Chairman of the Australian
>Research Council's Geoscience Funding Panel, and as a member of the
>Planning and Operations Committees of the international Ocean Drilling
>Program (ODP). Professor Carter is currently conducting ODP research on
>the degree to which global climatic changes are controlled by changes in
>the major ocean currents of the Southern and Pacific Oceans.