UK human CO2 output represents 0.0025% of greenhouse gases.

Al Gore and The BBC climate change propoganda machine tell us the science of climate change is settled – all sensible scientists believe in global warming, and think the major cause is human produced CO2.

This reveals an ignorance of the way science works. Science is never settled. One generation produce a theory that seems to fit the facts, only for it to be challenged or replaced by a different or better one by a subsequent generation. Newton seemed to have summed up the heavens, and his predictive models were good, but Einstein revolutionised the way scientists look at it. So it will be with climate science – measurement will improve, modelling will improve, and perceptions will change. Nothing is settled.

Bast and Taylor have just published a very useful survey of scientific opinion on climate change, which shows that scientists themselves are far from united in their view. The survey covered 530 climate scientists in 27 countries.

Most agreed warming was taking place, but a bigger minority strongly disagreed than strongly agreed with the proposition that it was mostly the result of human causes. More think current models cannot predict future climate change accurately than think they can. Only one third thought we could predict the next ten years, whilst more than a half thought we could not. The numbers thinking we can predict future climate change fell for more distant dates. More thought current models could not deal adequately with water vapour – the biggest greenhouse gas – than thought they could deal with it, whilst over 60% felt models could not handle clouds well, which have a big impact on temperatures. 70 % thought there would be some positive effects from global warming as well as 86% thinking there would be detrimental effects.

I was pleased to hear a BBC programme on Sunday pointing out that adaptation to climate change was a sensible response in addition to or rather than trying to cut carbon emissions.

It is important to bear in mind some figures on the relative role of UK humans in greenhouse gas totals. CO2 is only 3.6% of total greenhouse gas – water vapour is by far and way the dominant one. The Uk is only 2% of total human activity on the planet, and human activity only accounts for 3.4% of the CO2 emitted – the rest comes from natural sources. This means that the UK human contribution to total greenhouse gas in the world is 0.0025%.

As readers of this blog will know, I do favour taking action to cut our demands for fuel, and to limit environmental damage, for a variety of good reasons. Eliminating NOX, SOX and particulates is a good idea to improve air quality, and cutting fuel burn is important as it is scarce resource coming from politically unstable areas in many cases. Those reporting climate change should report it like all other areas of human thought and activity – subject to disagreement and to changing perceptions as people learn more about it.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

21 Comments

  1. Posted April 10, 2008 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Absolutely agree. Why is it that we always talk about polluting gases with regard to climate change, when we should also be talking about local pollution and air quality in our towns and cities?
    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  2. Peter Turner
    Posted April 10, 2008 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Excellent post, we need more like it. Unfortunately our government, and others, is going to spend/waste billions of pounds trying to fix something that does not need fixing. Old King Canute demonstrated to his subjects the limits of his power by commanding the sea to retreat. It did not. Now we are witnessing a mindset which argues that it is easier to change the world’s climate than to adapt to the worlds climate.

    It just so happens that Parliament has within its upper House the Lords Moncton and Lawson. They appear to understand the threats to reason and speak out. I wish that more politicians would follow their lead and not the rantings of a former Vice President of the United States.

    Having said this, I see no reason why we should not investigate alternative fuel sources. In saying this I point to the fact that unless we do we will find ourselves dependant on other countries for our energy sources. Not a wise course of action. Logic, however, decrees that windmills are a no no.

  3. Chris H
    Posted April 10, 2008 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Ironically, one factors leading to warming in the UK in the last quarter of the 20th century was increased insolation, which is partly a consequence of the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968.

  4. Stuart Fairney
    Posted April 10, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Is there any chance the Tory front bench might embrace this reality or do you think they find it scary and politically dangerous to go against the orthodoxy?

  5. Simon_C
    Posted April 10, 2008 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Er, if Water vapour is such a big greenhouse gas, why is there such a big song and dance made about fuel cell cars that emit nothing but water vapour ?

    So, not only do they emit a gas that's worse than CO2 for greenhouse effect, at the moment they need more Co2 to be produced than a regular car because the electricity that powers them is only about 5% renewable and 20% Nuclear.

    Although, doesn't increasing H2O in the atmosphere have the effect of increasing cloud cover and reflecting some energy back into space.

    It seems to me that there's far too may vested interestes on all sides of the climate change equation.

    I still can't find out how many hours I'd have to keep a low energy light bulb running for to take into account the increased energy needed to make it over a regular bulb. And I can't do it for something as simple as a blub, how is anyone supposed to make an informed decision about things like cars.

  6. Bernhard
    Posted April 10, 2008 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    The most important thing to understand about alarmist theory is that it all depends on positive feedback from CO2 changes.
    Sceptics and Alarmists agree that CO2 itself has a diminishing returns relationship with increased concentrations but alarmists believe that is reinforced by positive feedback which they build into their computer models.

    Please see http://www.climate-skeptic.com/2008/04/the-keysto
    which explains it well – especially the video which is excellent.

  7. Posted April 10, 2008 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    A similar survey was done by Pielke and Annan and found that around 25% of climate scientists reckoned the (alleged) IPCC consensus was over-egging things.

  8. Posted April 10, 2008 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    President Ronald Regan I recollect used to refer to the Democrat economic polices of the 80’s as “voodoo economics”. I believe this is a term apt for describing the nonsense that is global warming / climate change, being peddled this side of the Atlantic.

    I have written about this very subject in my own blog, albeit not as beautifully elocuted as you have done here. Be it on your own head, should you give rise to question any of the “science” that they attempt to inculcate us with. This brings me to this question Mr Redwood – Is it really the Tory Party position to buy this wholesale nonsense of “green taxes”, in pursuit of policy that is highly dubious?

  9. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 10, 2008 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    The scare-mongers keep trying to panic use all & their gloomy predictions of the last few years and never come to pass ! All this green business seems to mean more tax & red tape. As Lady Thatcher once said: " Greens are like tomatos,they start out green & end up red." Truer words where never spoken! It is all about politicians controlling us & pc businessmen like Richard Branson jumping on the bandwagon. Climate change can benefit the human race if we react properly – it has happened in the past & will do so again. Scientists have had ideas in the past as John has pointed out and then they have been challenged by the generations that have followed. I think that common sense enviromentalism means no more plastic bags killing animals & ruining the countryside, better air quality and more recycling because the UK is running out of landfill space.

  10. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 10, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    The scare-mongers keep trying to panic use all & their gloomy predictions of the last few years and never come to pass ! All this green business seems to mean more tax & red tape. As Lady Thatcher once said: ” Greens are like tomatos,they start out green & end up red.” Truer words where never spoken! It is all about politicians controlling us & pc businessmen like Richard Branson jumping on the bandwagon. Climate change can benefit the human race if we react properly – it has happened in the past & will do so again. Scientists have had ideas in the past as John has pointed out and then they have been challenged by the generations that have followed. I think that common sense enviromentalism means no more plastic bags killing animals & ruining the countryside, better air quality and more recycling because the UK is running out of landfill space.

  11. Jonathan Robson
    Posted April 10, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Excellent piece John – you have restored my faith in one politician at least. The problem with the present government is that they think they can "legislate" for the world – and while they do it, it is the British people that suffer from high fuel and food prices.

    Gorden Brown, like his predecessor, is only interested in strutting before the "worlds stage" , to worry about the country they were supposed to serve.

    "Climate change" will not be solved by making us all live in caves – If the government spent half the money they spend on so-called climate research (which according to them is "settled"), on the technology of finding other sources of energy then we would all have a brighter future.

    Mans ingenuity knows no bounds, but the government funds projects to sell their propaganda, not to help the country.

    In todays world Issac Newton would never have discovered gravity, but would be working for the Hadley Centre on "climate reserach", and living pretty well on it too.

  12. Terry
    Posted April 10, 2008 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    I agree, there will be debate and science will be in always be in flux. But some more fundamental truths come into play here as well.

    Science is not perfect and never will be… but I'll still take my chances at the doctor's office/hospital rather than praying to the voodoo god… because I believe that the "dominant thinking in science" is more likely to be right than just about any other option . So, if we are willing to place faith in medical science, why are we so quick to doubt 'earth science' related to global warming? Aren't the doubters a bit like smoker's waiting for a big ugly tumor (i.e. cancer) whilst denying the possibility of it happening?

    Fact is, we only got one earth. And although a provocative statistic like the one you have used for this article could convince some that "it's not our problem" or "we aren't really contributing that much"…

    Most greenhouse gas comes from nature, as does what absorbs it. The Earth is all about balance. In a similar way to us humans.
    Nature's lungs are the oceans and rainforest. Nature's backside are volcanos, and more recently us. We could never have more impact on climate than the oceans. But the oceans aren't changing. We are. Specially over the past 150 years… (population/fuels/etc.)

    We are the small difference that can tilt the scales one way or another. In the balance it doesn't have to take much.

    Parallels that come to mind are questions like: "How many cigarette's does it take to get cancer?" Who wants to take the chance to find out?

    I do agree, there has been a lot of alarmist coverage … just as well as blatantly dismissive coverage as well…

    I join you in your call for reasoned approach.

    But I believe that if we are to truly be reasoned on this issue, we have to ask ourselves are we willing to take a chance on something this important? And we also must acknowledge that this issue is something that can never be proven until it inconviences us by actually happening. But do we want to take a chance? Especially when there are so many other good reasons to do the right thing anyway.

  13. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 11, 2008 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Do you remember the London smog when you couldn't see ten yards? Or the time when anyone who fell into the Thames was given an automatic stomach washout in hospital? In Peterbrorough, I can remember as a youth watching the river "going red" and all the dead fish and sewage flowing through the town. So much for English pollution.
    Climate change may or may not be happening. But the records surely only go back for at most 100 years and then they are extremely patchy.
    What a wise man you are to dare to question this new philosophy which has not been properly debated.
    That's the trouble, you see. Close down parliament, make the BBC and half the press into your poodle, put decision making into the hands of a few professional politicians in the EU, and you get – bad decisions!
    This is one of those.
    In the USSR they had Lysenko.
    Thank you for your helpful book reference too.

  14. Tony Edwards
    Posted April 11, 2008 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Matthew Reynoldson 10 Apr 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Not too far out, except for your problem with plastic bags. Yes, I agree, they ccan be a nuisance when let fly, but first they do not kill animals, the report that suggested this misrepresented an earlier report that said that 100,000deaths were due to pieces of plastic debris, (mainly fishing lines and nets) not bags. Second, plastic bags are made using the naptha gases that would otherwise be flared off, thus releasing their CO2 into the atmosphere, (as if that mattered) whereas, making it into bags is sequestering the CO2, which some seem to think is desirable. Personally, I'm all for warmer nights and better growing crops, but then, I'm just an old nutcase who thinks for himself.

  15. Rose
    Posted April 11, 2008 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I have long wanted us to concentrate on cleaning up our own islands where there is quite enough to be going on with, and if we would only attend to it as a Nordic nation would do, we needn't worry about whether the Climate Change and Global Warming theories are right or wrong, as China and India and the US will do as they please anyway. But at least we would have a pleasant and civilized little country to live in in the meantime, and one in which invention can still take place. But that means letting our population fall naturally, as it would have done if only we had allowed it to, to the more sustainable number of 30 millions.

    I agree about the tomatoes, and can never understand why the Conservative Party doesn't automatically stand for conserving our once green and pleasant land. In other words how did they ever let in an Ecology Party in the first place?

  16. Wagner
    Posted April 11, 2008 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    re: Bernhard

    it is unfortunate, then, that positive feedbacks remain unobserved and unmeasured here in the real world.

  17. Jonathan Robson
    Posted April 11, 2008 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Do you remember the London smog when you couldn’t see ten yards?
    Yes – and this is the trouble with calling CO2 a polutent – London smogs were not caused by CO2 but SO2.

    The AGW theory is that CO2 will cause the earth to heat up – it will not cause pea soups. Thats why the alarmists are causing confusion. I would suggest that people just find out what CO2 is and is not. We exhale CO2, plants use CO2 and emit O2. As John says it is the real polutents that have to be tackled and those that are harmful to life – but I'm afraid CO2 is not one of them. If you happen to fly to your holiday destination, within the cabin you will be experiencing CO2 levels at 5,000 parts per million. If this was SO2 you would never reach your destination.

  18. Posted April 11, 2008 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Mister Redwood. The whole Anthropogenic Global Warming argument is not about climate science, it is purely political, and no more than an excuse for ever more big government.

  19. Jonathan Robson
    Posted April 11, 2008 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Terry said.

    “because I believe that the “dominant thinking in science” is more likely to be right than just about any other option”

    The dominent theory in the 1970s was “gloobal cooling” Science is not about consensus.

    Here is a list of 400 prominent scientists who question the AGW theory.
    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.SenateReport

    Please could you post the list of the 2000 scientists who according to the IPCC have come to the “consensus” on AGW theory. I think you will find it is an impossible task, because the IPCC climate panel is made up of a handful of scientists, the rest are “policy advisors”, government representatives and “climate” pressure groups.

    The anology with medicine is a false one – medicine has a long history of experiment and trials of treatments – would you still have trust in doctors who use only computer models to diagnose your illness and disregard the empirical data? Climate computer models are unproven.

  20. Provincial John
    Posted April 13, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Let us bear in mind "The plane truth about contrails": When aviation stopped in the US after September 11th, 2001, the temperature went up in the daytime and down at night – as in the desert. A unique experiment so far.

  21. Posted April 14, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    "0.0025%" brilliant number-crunching! I must remember that statistic.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page