Prepare for the Big Chill
A new ice age is due now, says Andrew Kenny, but you won’t hear it from
the Greens, who like to play on Western guilt about consumerism to make
us believe in global warming
The Earth’s climate is changing in a dramatic way, with immense danger
for man and the natural systems that sustain him. This was the
frightening message broadcast to us by environmentalists in the recent
past. Here are some of their prophecies.
The facts have emerged, in recent years and months, from research into
past ice ages. They imply that the threat of a new ice age must now
stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and
misery for mankind. (Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, in
International Wildlife, July 1975)
The cooling has already killed thousands of people in poor nations....
If it continues, and no strong measures are taken to deal with it, the
cooling will cause world famine, world chaos, and probably world war,
and this could all come about by the year 2000. (Lowe Ponte, The
As recently as January 1994, the supreme authority on matters
environmental, Time magazine, wrote:
The ice age cometh? Last week’s big chill was a reminder that the
Earth’s climate can change at any time.... The last one [ice age] ended
10,000 years ago; the next one — for there will be a next one — could
start tens of thousands of years from now. Or tens of years. Or it may
have already started.
The scare about global cooling was always the same: unprecedented low
temperatures; the coldest weather ever recorded; unusual floods and
storms; a rapid shift in the world’s climate towards an icy apocalypse.
Now, however, the scare is about global warming. To convert from the
first scare to the second, all you have to do is substitute ‘the coldest
weather ever recorded’ with ‘the warmest weather ever recorded’. Replace
the icicles hanging from oranges in California with melting glaciers on
Mount Everest, and the shivering armadillos with sweltering polar bears.
We were going to freeze but now we are going to fry. Even the White
House is making cautionary sounds about warming.
What facts have emerged to make this dramatic reversal? Well, none
really. The most reliable measurements show no change whatsoever in
global temperatures over the last 20 years. What has changed is the
perception that Global Warming makes a better scare than the Coming Ice
A good environmental scare needs two ingredients. The first is impending
catastrophe. The second is a suitable culprit to blame. In the second
case, the ice age fails and global warming is gloriously successful. It
is not the destruction itself of Sodom and Gomorrah that makes the story
so appealing but the fact that they were destroyed because they were so
sinful. One of the real threats to mankind is the danger of collision
with a large asteroid. It has happened in the past with catastrophic
effect, and it will probably happen again. But there are no conferences,
resolutions, gatherings, protests and newspaper headlines about asteroid
impacts. The reason is that you cannot find anyone suitable to blame for
them. If you could persuade people that President Bush or the oil
companies were responsible for the asteroids, I guarantee that there
would be a billion-dollar campaign to ‘raise awareness’ about the
asteroid danger, with sonorous editorials in all the papers.
Global warming has the perfect culprit: naughty, industrialised,
advanced, consuming, Western man, who has made himself very rich by
burning a lot of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas). This, so the scare
goes, is releasing a lot of carbon dioxide, which is dangerously heating
up the world. There are two facts in the scare. First, it is true that
carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas — one which traps heat on Earth.
(Without it, the Earth would be too cold for life.) Second, it is true
that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising.
The rest is guesswork.
The global warmers said that the most accurate measure of climate change
would be air temperatures. For the last 20 years or more, air
temperatures have been measured with extreme accuracy. They show no
warming whatsoever. Surface temperatures are much less reliable since
the recording stations are often encroached on by expanding cities,
which warm the local environment. The curve most often used by the
global warmers is one showing surface temperatures rising by about half
a degree in the last 100 years. (The curve, incidentally, is a bad match
against rising carbon dioxide but a good one against solar activity,
which suggests the sun might be the reason for the warming.) However,
there are accurate methods of measuring sea temperatures going back much
further. Past temperatures for the Atlantic Ocean have been found by
looking at dead marine life. The isotope ratio of carbon-14 in their
skeletons tells you when they lived. The ratio of other isotopes tells
you the temperature then. Thus we are able to know temperatures in the
Atlantic and northern Europe going back thousands of years. They make
nonsense of the global warming scare.
The last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago. Temperatures rose to the
‘Holocene Maximum’ of about 5,000 years ago when it was about 3°F higher
than now, dropped in the time of Christ, and then rose to the ‘Mediaeval
Climate Optimum’ of about 600 ad to 1100 ad, when temperatures were
about 2°F higher than now. This was a golden age for northern European
agriculture and led to the rise of Viking civilisation. Greenland, now a
frozen wasteland, was then a habitable Viking colony. There were
vineyards in the south of England. Then temperatures dropped to ‘The
Little Ice Age’ in the 1600s, when the Thames froze over. And they have
been rising slowly ever since, although they are still much lower than
1,000 years ago. We are now living in a rather cool period.
What caused these ups and downs of temperature? We do not know.
Temperature changes are a fact of nature, and we have no idea if the
postulated 0.5°F heating over the last 100 years is caused by man’s
activities or is simply part of a natural cycle. What we can say,
though, is that if Europe heats up by 2°F it would do it a power of
good. We can see this from records of 1,000 years ago. Moreover,
increased carbon dioxide makes plants grow more quickly, so improving
crops and forests.
The Earth’s climate is immensely complicated, far beyond our present
powers of understanding and the calculating powers of modern computers.
Changes in phase from ice to water to vapour; cloud formation;
convection; ocean currents; winds; changes in the sun; the complicated
shapes of the land masses; the ability of the oceans to absorb carbon
dioxide — all of these and a thousand other factors operating with small
differences over vast masses and distances make it practically
impossible for us to make predictions about long-term climate patterns,
and perhaps make such predictions inherently impossible. The computer
models that the global warmers now use are ludicrously oversimplified,
and it is no surprise that they have made one wrong prediction after
If the global warming scare has little foundation in fact, the ice-age
scare is only too solidly founded. For the last two million years, but
not before, the Northern Hemisphere has gone through a regular cycle of
ice ages: 90,000 years with ice; 10,000 years without. The last ice age
ended 10,000 years ago. Our time is up. The next ice age is due. What
causes the ice ages? We do not know. It is probably something to do with
the shape and arrangement of northern land masses and the path of the
Gulf Stream, but we do not know. However, a new ice age, unlike global
warming, would be a certain calamity.
Of course, the ultimate irony might be that the increased levels of
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are warding off the ice age. In this
case, we should give tax relief to coal power stations and factories for
every ton of carbon dioxide they release.
When the global warmers tell us that the stakes are very high, they are
quite right. Global warming has become an immense international gravy
train worth billions of dollars. It is now one of the largest recipients
of government research money in the world. It finances jobs, grants,
conferences, international travel and journals. It not only keeps a huge
army of people in comfortable employment but also fills them with
self-righteousness and moral superiority, and satisfies those deep
instincts in the Green movement for meddling, hectoring, controlling and
censuring. It enables them to say, ‘The end is nigh unless you give us
more funding, repent, and do what we say.’ Behind these exhortations is
the vision of Rousseau, of a retreat from the evil industrialised world
of motor cars and electricity back to the simpler, nobler world of
nature (except for the Green priesthood who will still be allowed to fly
in jet planes to attend conferences).
When President Bush denounced the absurd Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse
gases, the global warmers said, ‘It’s payback time.’ They were referring
to the oil companies who had supposedly made big donations to his
election campaign. But, if Al Gore had won and given even more funding
to the warmers, it would have been payback time in a more pointed way.
The oil companies can easily diversify out of oil and into other forms
of energy — they are already doing so; BP is the world’s largest
producer of solar panels. The global warmers are a more constrained
vested interest, who depend upon frightening the public and who need
global warming. This is why they get so furious when anyone dares to
challenge the scare.
The fraud of the warming scare is seen most vividly when the warmers
propose their remedies for it. The best technology for avoiding the
emission of carbon dioxide is nuclear power. In operation, nuclear power
plants release no carbon dioxide and over their whole cycle
(construction, fuel processing and decommissioning) they release the
least carbon dioxide of any energy source, including wind and solar
power. Half of the 300 million tons of man-made carbon dioxide that
South Africa produces comes from coal power stations; South Africa could
halve its total emissions simply by turning to nuclear power for
Nuclear power has by far the best safety record of any large-scale
source of electricity. The worst-ever accident at a nuclear power
station in the West, at Three Mile Island in the USA in 1979, killed no
one, injured no one and had no ill effects afterwards. By contrast gas,
oil, coal and hydro accidents almost routinely kill thousands of people
every year. The Chernobyl accident, which after 16 years has killed
about 40 people, was caused primarily by bad reactor design, which would
never be allowed in the West. The waste from nuclear power is small,
solid, stable and of finite life. Nuclear power is the only large-scale
source of electricity that has procedures for disposing of its waste
(which is easy to do). The waste from coal stations is enormously
larger, much more dangerous and longer lived; it includes heavy metal
toxins, which last for ever, and radioactive elements such as thorium,
which has a half-life of 14 billion years. Coal waste is simply thrown
on to open ash tips or hurled into the air we breathe. But the global
warmers fiercely resist nuclear power. They do not want it precisely
because it offers the world bountiful electricity. What they want is to
turn away from the modern world of plenty to a primitive world of
scarcity. They do not want people in the poor countries to obtain the
standard of living of modern Americans; they want them to remain mired
in noble poverty.
Incidentally, the nuclear lobby is rightly guarded about promoting
itself on global warming. I am ashamed to say that in a Spectator
article advocating nuclear power some years ago, I made remarks about
the threat of rising global temperatures. I was wrong and now make
public penance for them.
One of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide is the motor vehicle. If
your speed doubles, you emit four times as much carbon dioxide. Some EU
politicians, especially in Germany, are very concerned about global
warming. So how about imposing a 50 mph speed limit on all roads in the
EU and limiting engine size to 1000 cc? Such a measure would make little
difference to most journey times but would save hundreds of lives each
year and greatly reduce greenhouse emissions. Ask the German politicians
who believe the warming scare: which is more important, the future of
the world or an infantile desire to travel at high speed? The answer is
clear: the latter. So much for serious debate.
The global warming scare uses almost every propaganda device. There are
continual appeals to scientific authority. The propagandists pretend
that there is scientific consensus that man’s activities are definitely
changing the climate in a dangerous way. This is an outright lie. You
will find no reputable scientist who says so. Graphs are carefully
edited so that parts showing cooling are removed and those showing
warming are kept. Cooling incidents, such as thickening of ice caps,
snow in Saudi Arabia and record low temperatures, are ignored. Warming
incidents, such as breaking ice shelves and record high temperatures,
are headlines. This is not a co-ordinated conspiracy but a fashion and a
trend in which self-interest and ideology combine, and Green activists,
politicians and journalists help each other to get more funding, more
sensational stories and more enemies to blame.
The climate of our planet is far too important for this nonsense. What
we need is more genuine scientific research so that we can understand it
better. If we do decide on the ‘precautionary principle’ of keeping
carbon dioxide levels stable, we can turn to those many technologies,
proven or in prospect, which release no or little carbon dioxide.
Nuclear power is the obvious first choice. There is no reason why the
world economy cannot continue to grow and prosper with reduced
greenhouse emissions. But, for heaven’s sake, let’s start by telling the
whole truth and giving all of the facts.