The Climate Crisis Is Real
by Tim Ellis | 28 Nov, 2022

The Climate Crisis Is Real 


The headline screams from the yellow corrugated plastic signs that adorn letterboxes and wheelie bins around the neighbourhood. If their appearance is any indication, there are a lot of people around Adelaide, South Australia, very concerned about there being a climate crisis. They believe the crisis is real. And they want something done about it.

These signs are available from all sorts of organisations, such as the conservation councils of South Australia, NSW, Queensland, the Climate Action Network, the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre, etc.

I, for one, don’t like the signs. There are a few reasons.

Climate change and global warming, the popular story goes, are caused by greenhouse gas emissions, which are caused, in turn, by burning fossil fuels. If this is true, and if we want to reduce global warming and stop climate change, then printing and distributing plastic signs around the nation is a stupid, ignorant thing to do. Plastic, you morons, is created from oil. Every person who displays one of these oil-based signs is displaying their ignorance.

So that’s one reason I don’t like them.

What Is The Difference Between Global Warming And Climate Change?

We are not looking here at what the actual difference is. We are looking at what the difference is in terms of a narrative and potential influence.

If asked, most people will provide a general, broad-based definition which they apply equally to global warming and climate change, as if they are the same thing. Which they’re not. Both terms, unfortunately, are political footballs. And herein lies the danger. The crisis, if you will.

Global Warming was the term that was popular towards the end of the 20th century. The idea was that the earth was warming up, and that humans had a major effect on that. One problem proponents of global warming faced, however, was that the historical data didn’t always support the theory. There were always variations. The easiest thing to do in this case was to use computer modelling to predict the future. The computer models will always tell you the story you want them to. They are designed to support the theory. But again, as cold winters or wet summers inconveniently occurred, thoughts of a Saharan future seemed less likely to more and more people. Weather rained on the global warming parade.

Global Warming Is Measurable

Global warming, then, was not the uniting force it had been hoped it would be. The real reason for this was that it was too empirical. How much warming would occur? Over what period of time? What would the flow-on effects be? How much of it was due to mankind? These questions were, and remain, far too difficult to answer. But they are what were needed.

Worse still for the global warming theorists, is that any changes that might occur were measurable. And if the measurements didn’t fit the narrative, then what were the theory proponents to do?

The New Global Warming

And so Climate Change became the new global warming. Why? Because of the benefits. Global warming is difficult to sell when temperatures are decreasing or ice is growing. But climate change? Temperatures go up? Climate change. Temperatures go down? Climate change. More fires? Climate change. More storms? Climate change.

It doesn’t matter what is happening, climate change can be blamed. It is so vague.

Climate Change: Is it Real?

I believe in climate change. I believe the scientists who say there have been a number of changes in the Earth’s climate since it came into being. I believe there have been multiple ice ages and multiple warmings in a series of cycles.

I don’t know why they occur. As far as I can determine, what causes the climate to change is not well understood, even by climatologists. They theorise. Solar flares and volcanic eruptions are a couple of suggestions that make sense.

Most of these cycles have occurred before humans existed on the planet, and all of them have occurred before the industrial age.

I don’t see why that cycle of climatic changes would suddenly stop, so of course I believe in climate change.

There are so many question marks over the climate change dialogue occurring today that it is difficult to know where to start. Timeframes is as good a place as any.


The Last Ice Age: When Was It? How Long Did It Last?

Let’s talk about the last ice age, more properly known as the Last Glacial Period (LGP). This ended roughly 11,500 years ago. That’s quite a long time, by the human time scale. It started, scientists say, about 115,000 years ago. That’s a little more than a 100,000 year time period.

The previous glacial period ended about 128,000 years ago. So the interglacial period was about 13,000 years. That’s not long compared to the length of the LGP, but still. 13,000 years. And these sequences of glaciation have been occurring for some 2½ million years. 2,500,000 years. At least 17 of them, we are told.

Before we go any further, let me fess up. I’m not a paleoclimatologist. I’m not a regular climatologist. I’m not any kind of expert on the climate. I haven’t looked into the background of the information I have read on glaciation.

I understand that these dates are derived from research using a combination of sources, including tree rings, sediment cores, lake deposits and ice cores, amongst other things. But how they come up with (what seems to me to be a rather specific) 2,588,000 years for the start of quaternary glaciation and how they work out that that was the start, is something about which I cannot enlighten you. At this point, I am taking it at face value, but understand it is based on current knowledge, thus subject to change.

What I can say is there is not consensus within the climatology fraternity.

The Medieval Warming Period

According to Huber Lamb, one of the first paeoclimatologists, the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) occurred somewhere around 950AD-1250AD, and that temperatures rose 1°C-2°C. That is, according to Britannica. (Ref 1) According to Wikipedia, that temperature rise globally was only an average of 0.03°C. (Ref 2) Science Direct claim a figure of 1°C (Ref 3) And the Columbia Climate School suggests “a few degrees” above average. (Ref 4)

But this is a controversial subject, even within the climatology field. Whereas Lamb suggested the MWP was a global event, some argue that it was not a global event, that it affected mainly western Europe, Iceland and Greenland.


Yet others cite studies that indicate warming in not just these regions, but also in other northern hemisphere locales such as North America and China. In the southern hemisphere, these studies reveal, the Andes, Tasmania and New Zealand experienced warming, whilst in certain regions of South America, amongst others, the temperatures were essentially no different from today.

And just to muddy the waters even more, there are scientists who claim their data does not indicate any warming anywhere over this period. Remember, we are talking about people who are supposed to be experts in the field.

Despite these disagreements, there does seem to be general consensus that there was a medieval warming period somewhere between 900 AD and 1300 AD. There also seems to be a tendency to quote an increase in solar radiation, a relative absence of volcanic activity and ocean current changes as probable causes.



The Little Ice Age

The Medieval Warming Period was followed by the Little Ice Age (LIA). The start of this varies from 1300 AD to the 1500’s. It ended around about 1850. The reasons for this are – logically – a decrease in solar radiation and an increase in volcanic activity. Makes sense, right? Other reasons proposed include changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation – atmospheric pressure changes – (Ref 5) and variations in the earth’s orbit and axial tilt (Ref 6).

One proposal for the Little Ice Age that grabbed my attention was decreases in human population from events like Europe’s Black Death and epidemics following contact with Europeans in the Americas. Consider this proposal for a moment.

If a decrease in temperatures, even regionally, can be caused by the death of a few million people – none of whom were burning fossil fuels – then the logical extension of that thought is that population is the problem, and the only way to stop interglacial warming – climate change – is to immediately and drastically reduce the human population.

The Experts Cannot Agree

Whether taking about the degree of warming or cooling, or the cause of the change, or the extent of the change, words that are commonly used by the experts are along the lines of, “generally thought,” “probable,” “likely,” and “estimated.” What this means is it’s a guess. It may be their best guess, but it’s still a guess. From people who are the experts. Who can’t agree.

Regardless of disagreements over details, it seems to be mostly agreed that there was a medieval warming period – lasting maybe 400 years – followed by a little ice age in the order of 300-500 years. The point to note here is that even events that arguably don’t qualify as global climate change take place over hundreds of years.

When we’re talking about global interglacial periods (warming periods), timeframes are measured in thousands of years. And when we’re taking about global glacial periods (ice ages), timeframes are six figures. Climate change is not an overnight event, warming or cooling. Makes it a bit difficult to measure in real time, don’t you think?

I have pointed out that previous glacial and interglacial periods occurred at a time when human population was low to non-existent and the burning of fossil fuels was not a factor. This is also true of the medieval warming period and the following little ice age.

An Argument Against Human Influence On Climate

Some point to this as an argument against human influence on climate. That a warming planet now is just normal variability. This argument is refuted by the Science and Technology Department of the University of Texas. (Ref 7) For the moment, let’s disregard their interchangability of the terms global warming and climate change.

Their position is that solar radiation and volcanic activity are the definitive reason for the MWP. And, without prejudice, they also throw ocean current changes into the mix. Their claim is that

  1. There has been warming over the last few decades, and
  2. Solar radiation, volcanic activity and ocean current changes have not been detected in the last few decades

They go on to reference computer models as supporting evidence. (Stop laughing. They’re serious.)

However, the effect of solar activity on our climate is not as solidly understood as they suggest. (Ref 8) This geophysical research letter also points out not only that there have been changes in solar activity over the last few decades, but that solar activity fluctuates over 11 year irradiance cycles.

As for volcanic activity, that appears to be a bit of a feedback loop. Some sources claim that volcanic activity will impact climate change. Other sources claim the opposite; that climate change will result in increased volcanic activity. Either way, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Global Volcanism Program does not see any evidence that volcanic activity is increasing, nor do they comment that it is decreasing.

Volcanos emit many gasses, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) Whereas a large increase in CO2 from a volcanic eruption can theoretically result in global warming, a large increase in SO2 from a volcanic eruption can definitively result in global cooling.

This has happened in recent history. In 1991, the Mt. Pinatubo explosion in the Philippines released an estimated 20 million ton SO2 cloud, which cooled the Earth’s surface for three years, by more than 0.7°C at the height of the impact. (Ref 9)


Has any of this convinced you that solar radiation and volcanic activity will cause climate change? I remain unconvinced, yet willing to accept the possibility. How important is that, though? I have not heard anyone suggest that humans have the ability to influence such natural events. (And should we even try?) Therefore, climate change caused by natural cycles and natural events will continue.

There are more important questions to consider.


The Anthropogenic Effect On Climate

  • Does human activity have an impact (anthropogenic effect) on climate change?
    Many people suggest the answer is a resounding “yes.” I have yet to see empirical evidence to support this, but readily accept that may be the case.

  • More importantly, how much impact does human activity have on climate change?
    I have not seen any guesses or estimates to answer that question. Without that answer, it is impossible to work out what difference any changes made to reduce the human impact would have.

  • Finally, and most importantly, what can be done to stop climate change, even that which may be caused by human impact? Nobody knows the answer to this one.

The common answers are to a) stop burning fossil fuels and b) get rid of cows (to reduce the methane, another greenhouse gas)

  • At the moment, stopping burning fossil fuels will ensure we freeze in the dark, as there is insufficient capacity from renewable sources to provide the energy we use. Heating, cooling, cooking, transport, communication, commerce. Every aspect of our lives would suffer
  • Setting arbitrary targets for “net carbon zero” are a good way to accelerate efforts to achieve this, but to rigidly stick to these ideals if the target won’t be met could result in devastating effects.

To see how fraught with danger this rigid ideology is, read Green New Deal and Germany Does An About Face).

And even if we did this, what would the effect be on climate change? No-one knows.

Get rid of the cows? How many people will go hungry as a result? Don’t know. How will the people who earn their living either directly or indirectly from cattle survive? Don’t know. What will be the effect on climate change? No-one knows.

This is the real problem: No-one knows how much impact humans are having on climate change (anthropogenic effect), no-one knows how quickly that impact will manifest itself, and no-one knows what to do about it.

To see how fraught with danger this rigid ideology is, read Green New Deal and Germany Does An About Face).

And even if we did this, what would the effect be on climate change? No-one knows.


Get rid of the cows? How many people will go hungry as a result? Don’t know. How will the people who earn their living either directly or indirectly from cattle survive? Don’t know. What will be the effect on climate change? No-one knows.

This is the real problem: No-one knows how much impact humans are having on climate change (anthropogenic effect), no-one knows how quickly that impact will manifest itself, and no-one knows what to do about it.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to find the answers those questions. It doesn’t mean we should do nothing until we know the answers those questions. Organisations such as the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre and ClimateActionNow offer some meaningful actions everyone can take that can make a difference for the better.

What Is The Real Climate Crisis?

The climate crisis is real. But let me be clear about this. Climate change is not the crisis. The real crisis is climate change activism. The real climate crisis is that everyone holding their yellow plastic placards demanding climate action NOW may actually spark the government into taking knee-jerk actions that, at best, may have ineffectual climate benefit and, at worst, may have a massive negative impact with no climate benefit. Well meaning but misguided organisations like the Australian Conservation Council don’t help in this respect.

Politicians will do anything if they think it will make them popular and either keep or get them in government. Incessant but nebulous demands for “Climate Action Now” pose a potential threat to our way of life without the offset of benefit. Stop it.

Any action intended to reduce impact on the climate should be assessed to ensure as much as possible that, when taken, it will provide a net benefit. This applies not simply in terms of economic cost, but also in terms of human cost.


Green Ideology In The Netherlands

The ideologues in the Netherlands decided that the Dutch farmers must immediately reduce their use of fertilizer. This has an immediate, measurably negative effect on the livelihood of those farmers, as well as on food supply for the nation, export markets (those markets also reliant on food supply) flow-on industry effects, and balance of payments.

And the benefit of their decision? Unknown. It was intended to reduce the amount of nitrous oxides released into the atmosphere that results from the breakdown of the fertilizers, but it is unknown what difference it would make.

Green Ideology In Sri Lanka

Similar action was taken in Sri Lanka by their president, who decided that the use of artificial fertilizers be stopped immediately and all the farmers must grow their food organically. The farmers didn’t know how to do that. The result? An immediate, measurably negative effect on the livelihood of those farmers, the tourism industry, as well as citizens suddenly being starved – literally.

And the benefit of his decision? Unknown. The people of Sri Lanka rioted, swarmed all over the presidential palace and the president was forced to flee and live on his yacht offshore. Do not underestimate the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Well meaning does not make it good policy.


Is Action On Climate Change Urgent?

How urgently does action on climate change need to be taken?


Given that climate change takes place over thousands and tens of thousands of years, there is no urgency for action on naturally occurring climate change. Perhaps there is no point to taking any action, if naturally occurring climate change cannot be stopped. Since we don’t know how quickly anthropogenic change may occur, nor to what degree, there are no answers to this question right now. So, all you well-meaning people, stop jumping up and down, put your silly yellow signs away and consider doing something constructive or beneficial.

This world needs less Chicken Littles.

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