Two parliamentary inquiries into greenhouse

by Bob Foster1

        2 March 2001,

I am a founding director of the Lavoisier Group, which is putting 2  to Australians a view on greenhouse countervailing to that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  However, I have appeared before one only of two committees of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia considering the greenhouse issue.

The report of the Senate Committee, chaired by Senator Lyn Allison (Australian Democrats, Victoria) was published in November 2000 under the title “The heat is on: Australia’s greenhouse future”.  The tone of this report can by gauged from the opening sentence of its Executive Summary, as follows:
 The international community has accepted the reality of human-induced climate  change, and has begun to heed the warnings of scientists that, if action to reduce  greenhouse emissions is not taken, it will lead to substantial and damaging  changes in global climate over the next century and beyond.
and on the next page, by the last paragraph under the heading Climate Change Science:
 Assessments by the IPCC and the CSIRO of the potential impact on Australasia  suggest that there could be dramatic changes to rainfall, potentially longer  droughts or increased flooding, a loss of biodiversity, severe damage to coral  reefs, reduced snowfalls, and further aggravation of soil salinity and land  degradation.  Higher temperatures could bring health problems, relating to heat  stress and increased incidence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria.

After reading those quotes, you will not be amazed to learn that my request to appear before the Senate Committee was ignored.

I had better luck with the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, chaired by the Hon Andrew Thomson MP (Liberal Party, NSW), whose hearings continue. My appearance was on 13 September 2000, and I have since provided two written supplementary submissions.  The abstract of the first of these lengthy documents is given below, the abstract of the second is paper [3]  on the Guests page..
1.  Robert J Foster is an Adelaide University engineer by qualification, a geoscientist with the Shell Group by experience, and latterly was GM Marketing at BHP Petroleum.  He is now a consultant in energy economics at 30A Vautier St Elwood, VIC 3184 Australia, phone (61) (3) 9525 6335 and fax 6345, and is a founding director of The Lavoisier Group Inc.  Bob  is also a Councillor and Hon Treasurer of the Royal Society of Victoria, and Victorian representative on the Environment Committee of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
2.  As best we can with our minuscule resources.

The Kyoto Protocol: don’t forget the science

by Bob Foster
         15 November 2000

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties inquiry into the Kyoto Protocol
first supplementary submission by RJ Foster

The scientific basis for the Kyoto Protocol is Climate change 1995: the science of climate change from the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 1996.  Even now, the Australian Government accepts this Report “as the most authoritative source of information on the science of global climate change”.

But IPCC is a wolf in green clothing.  IPCC’s self-serving Report promotes the atmospheric-science bureaucracy, not protection of the environment; and it is itself an environmental threat - because its message has the effect of diverting money and zeal from better-founded and much-more-pressing environmental needs.  (The phenomenal current rate of Australian habitat destruction, particularly by the clearing of leased Crown land in Queensland, illustrates the point).

Observed warming of the earth’s surface during the 20th century was in two roughly-equal tranches (of about 0.35 0C) in 1925-44 and 1978 to its end; and in the belief that:
 Global warming over the past century resulted mostly from the human-caused  emission of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2 from burning fossil fuels;
and that,
 if the nations of the world were to control anthropogenic emissions strictly  enough in the future, we could ‘stabilise’ the climate;
Australia signed the Kyoto Protocol.  The sole objective of this treaty is limitation of GHG emissions; but both its under-pinning beliefs are probably wrong.

Greenhouse is a phenomenon of the lower atmosphere.  Theory has it that an increasing concentration of GHGs will cause the atmosphere to heat up, in the first instance, with subsequent re-distribution of this increased warmth upward to Space, and downward to Earth with consequent warming at its surface.  It is this resultant surface warming which we call the ‘greenhouse effect’.  However, if there is no warming of the lower atmosphere, that warming can’t then cause warming at the surface; ie no atmospheric warming means no ‘greenhouse warming’.

We now have a global coverage of satellite-derived temperatures for the lower atmosphere which extends for 21 years - and there is little or no warming trend!

A Panel of the US National Research Council was formed to examine this remarkable observation; and it accepts that surface warming over the period has not been matched by concomitant warming of the atmosphere; but the NRC urges that any inference await a longer run of measurements - it suggests 40 years - to ensure that conclusions drawn are statistically robust.  However, a 42-year run of relevant data is already available.  A less globally-complete coverage by balloon-mounted thermometers extends back to 1958; and, in the period of overlap from 1979, agrees closely with temperatures derived from satellites.  Except for an abrupt upward step of 0.35 0C at 1976/7, the balloon record is almost flat from 1958 to 1999; and there is strong evidence from many sources that the one jump is the result of a major contemporaneous re-ordering of oceanic circulation - and nothing to do with the gradually-changing composition of the atmosphere arising from GHG emissions.  Therefore, the more-recent (1977-99) tranche of observed 20th century surface warming is most unlikely to be greenhouse warming.

Our Ice Age climate shows natural variability, globally and regionally, at many time-scales - from long Glacials and short Interglacials on a 100,000-year cycle, down to El Niño warm events at an irregular frequency of less than a decade.  In the Interglacial we now enjoy, the most prominent is the ca 1500-year warm/cold/warm cycle in the North Atlantic Basin mega-region of which the Dark Ages, Mediaeval Warm Period and Little Ice Age are all part.  At least at this scale, cyclicity correlates with the quantity of warm equatorial water entering the Nordic seas, and in turn with the episodic launching of iceberg armadas.  Climate-change is driven by ice/ocean-related inertial effects.

IPCC’s hypothesis that 20th century warming is all or largely the result of human-caused GHG emissions, is almost certainly wrong.  The sensitivity of global climate to GHG emissions appears to be much less than has been factored into IPCC’s climate models.  Its over-predicting models fail the test of reconciliation with an under-warming world during the past century, even when IPCC arrogates to its validation all of the observed warming for the period - irrespective of its likely cause.  Therefore, the model-based predictions of future GHG warming, already reduced in steps from 0.8 0C per decade in 1988 to 0.2 0C/decade in the current IPCC Report, are probably still too high.

This submission introduces an alternative concept: the Oceanic Impedance hypothesis of global climate change.  The atmospheric warming event in 1976/7, and the observed Northern Hemisphere warming at the surface thereafter, were heralded by abrupt changes in the rate of variation in length of day, by sharply-reduced upwelling of cold deep water in the eastern Pacific, and by sea-surface cooling in the Caribbean.  Inertially-driven change in oceanic heat transportation was the major driver of 20th century warming.

In conclusion, reciting the mantra ‘we accept the science’ would be a poor substitute for consideration by Government of the full range of relevant scientific input before Australia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol.  Ratification on the basis of the ‘precautionary principle’ alone would be a mistake, because more-important environmental needs would be starved of funds as a consequence - for no known countervailing benefit.

Posted 6,  March, 2001
© 2001  Bob Foster
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