In this Introductory Paper we will primarily look at the impact a warming climate could or would have on all of us, but we will also look at how I have approached Climate research and why I have done it the way I have. This will help explain how the work will progress.
I am sure most of us simply don’t realise just how serious a warming world would be for each and every one of us, and without that knowledge we are unlikely to give sufficient attention to the problem or to our efforts to solve it if we need to. We are also going to see some information we have surely not seen before, starting with this Paper, that I believe will be enlightening. You won’t have read any of this before. I hope and intend it is an interesting journey that will lead us all to future climate probabilities or maybe even climate conclusions.
During the course of this work I will often summarise where the work has led us, or there will be sections I consider especially important – these will be highlighted in dark red. We will also be working with facts, which means they are unarguable, these being highlighted in green; while when I reach any hypothesis it will be shown in bright blue.
There are other points I also need to raise at the start:
I am well aware many people are ‘number blind’ – they simply don’t get numbers – but this is a scientific work and cannot be presented without numbers. In many instances there will therefore be images, charts or plots which will convey the numerical information, but if that doesn’t solve the problem, you can pass the numbers by and read the text – you will just miss understanding the proof.
This work is written to be read by the general population and not just academics. The language will not therefore be fully scientific and will often not conform to the finer principles of the English language – but hopefully it will therefore be easy, interesting and sometimes ’fun’ to read. Apologies to academics in advance, but I hope we will be pleased if this is widely read.
In the late 1990’s I spent many years working through all the significant global resources to discover the truth about how much damage we are doing to our planet, and the impact that may have on us and all life here. But ignoring climate when working on environmental issues would be like having a Christmas dinner with no main course or pudding. I decided to tackle Climate, knowing it would be the most difficult by far of all the subjects I had to work through, and knowing that simply reading widely published matter could lead nowhere as most people writing on the subject clearly don’t really understand it. That much was very clear. Snippets of information and misinformation are spread liberally and regurgitated to suit the objectives of the next writer, with the media having the ability to give undue air time and column inches to those with little if any knowledge but a lot to say. I needed a new approach.
This series and the book are therefore the result of a completely different way of working on climate – based, I will argue, on reality. And you don’t need to be a climate scientist to read and understand it.
Even in my teens I was concerned about the climate warming (it is old science) and wrote a paper in the early 1960’s on renewable energy. Then I proposed 3 tidal barrages around the UK to provide electricity round the clock but I was rather ahead of my time.
I started this time with many official reports and documents then bought the 2001 IPCC report – all 3 volumes, 2550 pages, and 7.5kg of it. The amount of information and detail in these reports is legendary, and clearly outside the scope of most journalists and most not involved in the science, but going through significant parts of ‘The Scientific Basis’ led me to many concerns. And as I was primarily trying first to understand climate, the volumes on ‘Mitigation’ and ‘Impacts’ were not a priority. First try to get to grips with Climate and then work through the implications.
Let’s get the subject into perspective –
What impact would a warming world have on us?
Time for a holiday or to worry?
I suspect many of us think a warmer planet will be great and holidays better . What’s to worry about? Well, let’s consider a few things:
Our climate oscillates between cold periods (called the glacials) and the warm periods (called the inter-glacials), with the period of the oscillation being relatively constant at about 105,000 years through recent climate history. So first let’s consider what impact there would be on us of both the cold and warm extremes the planet has already moved between. After all the total temperature range has only been around 11.5° from deep glacial to the warmest periods (which have been almost 2½° above where we were in 1850).
A colder world
We will look at the last Ice age when global temperature was about 8½° lower than in 1850 which is taken as the base year as it was the effective start of the industrial revolution. The map of the Earth has been worked by scientists so here it is:
Earth map during the last ice age
Don’t worry about working through the legend as we are about to simplify the map. But before doing anything else, we have to understand that just as there will be much higher rainfall in a warmer world, there is very little during ice ages. The colder the planet, the less the moisture that evaporates, and as what goes up must come down – in a cold world it doesn’t rain or snow much. Antarctica is the biggest desert on earth even though covered in snow and ice! Deserts, tundra and savannah are the norm during a glacial period even where it is warmer, so agricultural productivity would be low at best. You may also notice the coastline isn’t quite what you expected – Where has the UK gone? Well, in the colder world there is a huge amount of ice piled up on land and at both Poles, and water to make that ice comes from the sea – so sea levels were about 120m below where they are now. Humans could go from Tasmania to China with the help of just a canoe! The map is correct courtesy of NOAA.
It is a little difficult to interpret, so let me pick out the important things. I have divided it into 3 zones for ease of understanding:
- Uninhabitable shown in solid black. I have included semi deserts as by our standards these regions can be self-sufficient for tiny populations – nomads really. The Sahara’s 9m sq kms is home to just 1½m people so there is 1/6th of a person/sq.km [1 person needs 6 sq kms] compared with the UK’s 253/sq.km. If the UK was populated at that density we would only have 42,000 people living here compared with the 63m we do have. And 42,000 is the population of one small town.
- Lightly habitable shown with black dots – humans could survive in smallish numbers but not in cities. Dry steppe, Savanna etc.
- Habitable left clear – but not as productive as our land is now.
Global Habitation Map during the last Ice Age
Oh dear! Glad I wasn’t around then. But remember the human population on Earth – 20,000 years ago when it was last like this – was only about 1.5m*¹ and the Neanderthals went extinct during this period. True, agriculture was not developed, but 1.5m compares with 7,000m in 2011. Or we have almost 5,000 times as many people. Remember also that humans can now live in deserts because their food can be grown elsewhere and transported in, or the population would be insignificant. Classic examples are Las Vegas and Dubai. Big populations but self-sufficiency = zero. In the glacial world there wouldn’t be the food to ship in.
Clearly we could do little better now dealing with such a climate so, as many of us are not good at World geography, let’s home in on Europe which we might know better:
Europe Habitation Map during the last Ice Age
The map below IS Europe and as we can see, almost none of it is truly habitable. The area in blue is classified as ‘Forest Steppe’ or ‘Wooded Tundra’ so this is not highly habitable either and was considered to be semi-habitable on the global map above. Europe is home now to about 770m people or over 10% of the global population and clearly couldn’t be home to but a tiny tiny fraction of that under glacial conditions.
As we can see from the global map– the picture is the same everywhere. I had a good idea what to expect, but when I finally put all these maps together even I was shocked. I mean, there isn’t much habitable land is there?
So we can see that just an 8.5° temperature drop annihilates the human population.
The implications for us of such a drop would be horrendous.
This is big!! This is huge for humanity. However we are not getting colder but warmer.
A Warmer World
Maybe fortunately (or maybe not) the temperature isn’t going down but up, so what happens when we get warmer? Could the problem be as bad? This is difficult to quantify for a much warmer world as the Earth has been glacial in recent geological history, but not more than 2½ to 3° warmer, so if we are going to get warmer than that – we have no history to work from. We would be moving into the climate unknown. I have however managed to obtain a map of the Earth with the temperature at the glacial minimum – or the top of a warm period. This therefore represents the Earth only that 2½ to 3° warmer, and here it is.
Global surface Map during the last Warm Period
I don’t have the legend for the colours but it is very clear much of our productive land will become very arid, even with the climate up just a couple of degrees. The Earth could only therefore support a limited population, and nothing like it does now. But first we should understand two things about the map:
It might seem there will be a lot more land available for agriculture and habitation near to the North Pole but the Earth isn’t a flat rectangle. It is a sphere, so the top and bottom of the map should be points! The North and South Poles are not long lines but single points on the Planet’s surface. The normal map above therefore distorts the land areas the further we get from the Equator.
The map shown here better represents the land area as we go towards the Poles, so we can see the area through Siberia is quite small.
- The other item of interest is that while the glacial map has been adjusted for the sea level drop – the map above has not been adjusted for sea level rise. I assume this is because the temperature can rise very quickly while sea level may not, but in the warmer world 128,300 years ago sea level was between 25m and 30m higher. This would submerge much of our best agricultural land; the Nile, Mekong, Ganges and Irrawaddy deltas (so Egypt, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Myanmar lose most of their productive land as does Thailand and Pakistan); The Caspian sea doubles in area swamping a huge area of very fertile land; the Netherlands, much of Denmark, Belgium, East Anglia and Florida all go under the ocean, and Baghdad almost becomes a coastal town. Oh, and huge areas of Eastern China become history including Shanghai which submerges very quickly. And that is with only a 25m sea level rise.
And now something about the possible or likely temperature rise:
The 2007 4th IPCC Assessment Report says “the temperature will probably rise by between 2.4° and 6.4° by 2100”. Even the lowest figure would take us to the world you have just seen, and the highest takes us well into the unknown, but would mean that in the lifetime of those being born today – the world would be able to feed very few. It is a sobering thought but we will be working through to our own temperature conclusions.
Even 2.5° up we would be losing much of the world’s most productive land which, combined with much greater aridity, doesn’t bode well for feeding life on earth does it? Those of us alive today inherited the most amazing Planet, home to a wealth of species, but we may be leaving something very different behind us.
Having travelled a lot of the world I am aware just how rapidly agricultural production changes, and from other work I have done I found THE most naturally agriculturally productive region of the world bar none (excluding the impact of irrigation) is north western Europe. Ireland wins, but we run close as do northern France and the Low Countries. Italy and Spain by comparison are only 62% and 59% as productive respectively, so even a few degrees of temperature increase has a radical impact on food production. It isn’t therefore surprising that even a slightly warmer world will be a less productive one. Let’s try another comparison – Africa under glacial and warmer conditions.
The two maps are shown below but there are some things to notice. The ‘Cold’ Africa (down 8½°) cannot be home to many but the ‘Warmer’ Africa (up 2½°) has also lost nearly all its forests (the equatorial ones as well) and most of its vegetation. It is a hot arid continent which would produce hugely less food than it does now.
The Cold Africa
The Warm Africa
Given many are trying to increase the Africans’ standard of living, and that its population is growing very rapidly – Africa cannot survive a much warmer world. And what if the temperature were to be rising more than this? It doesn’t matter what we do, Africa is in deep trouble if the climate changes at all.
Now I happen to know much of Africa well, and many Africans scratch a living off soils that are degrading (or have gone) and the problem is spreading even with our current climate. Last time I was in the northern Rift Valley, instead of finding a productive area I found herds of camels. And much of the landscape was lunar with no organic matter being put back into the soils as even what manure there is – is bagged and sold for fuel. Now let’s compare the glacial and warm maps of the world:
Do you notice anything that connects the two? How about both can only produce a fraction of the food produced now. It doesn’t matter which way the climate moves, the world will be a less friendly place that can support less and less people.
Unquestionably the climate we have lived with over the last 11,000 years is about the best for the human animal. Move climate either way and food supplies will decline or collapse, and with that the size of population the Earth can support.
Now if you think this alarmist, I have two things for us to consider:
Let’s go back in time to when stromatolites inhabited the planet which they did for well over 1 billion years, while modern man has only managed about 150,000 so far. Had they been able to speak they would have said “Perfect climate for us but if it changes we could be in trouble”. Well, it did change and they went extinct. [For the specialists, the climate may or may not have been directly responsible, but the improving climate allowed other life forms to populate the Planet and out compete them].
The point is that populations of each life form grow while their environment is good for them and other life forms don’t remove them.
Populations of life forms struggle to start with; explode when the conditions are great, and often decline or collapse as the conditions change. [Sometimes a population can oscillate until it reaches an equilibrium state]. Notice anything with that statement? About the human population?
- We struggled through various periods of history, and the charts here show the human population over the last 1m years and the last 10,000 years respectively. These are courtesy of Prof Joel E Cohen from his work “How Many People can the Earth Support” *¹ – are real and not schematic. The first plot really is an L shape.
If anything demonstrates just how perfect the climate has been for the human animal at least since the end of the last Ice Age, this is it. We have driven, and are continuing to drive, the human population to unsustainable heights – even with our current climate. But transform the climate and this population will be in very deep trouble indeed.
If the climate actually moves more than a degree or so our life on Planet Earth is going to be transformed. However ‘the scientific community’ tell us it it might well be going up a lot more than that.
The climate issue is as big as any can be for humanity, and more important than all the other issues put together. Sweeping it under the carpet says we are not as clever as we think we are. Listening to those discussing the current turmoil in many of the world’s economies tells us they don’t get it. Listening to those in Durban at COP17 (the recent global climate conference) must tell us they don’t get it either. And when they come out claiming success with no agreement other than to “find an agreement by 2014″ which would be ’enforceable’ from 2020 guarantees they don’t get it. We are being led by the ill–informed.
This work hopes to bring clarity to the Climate Issue, which should not be a debate. There are facts to work from.
Note: I can estimate the sustainable population for the range of temperatures we could have to deal with.
My Approach to the Research
I have argued, and will continue to do so, that the Climate Models simply cannot produce the answers we need, and likely never will, at least until it is too late.
Much of the basic research is long term because the scientists cannot reach conclusions (for example) on how and how fast some of the huge Antarctic ice rivers will move with one year’s data. It also takes years to go from a research idea to it being in process, and it can be a decade or more after that before there is a scientific conclusion. Yet the models keep churning out their ’results’ without the programmes being able to include so many even critical factors.
A moment on Antarctic research to demonstrate: This is not the place to consider ice issues except in so far as this explains failings in the Climate model approach: Pine Island glacier is interesting for many reasons and the focus of a lot of research right now. It drains one side of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet while the Ronne drains it on the other. Both are showing great instability and the sea level implications are huge from either let alone both. Think metres of sea level rise not millimetres. There are two areas of interest on the Pine Island side: one is what is happening under the Ice Shelf, and the other is the speed of the Ice River feeding it and the smaller Ice Streams feeding the Ice River. Under the Ice is worrying us as we think the Shelf is melting from both top and bottom, and the reducing mass of the Shelf will cause the Ice River to speed up. And only about 2 months ago (October 2011) a huge crack was discovered running along the Shelf.
The research was proposed 5 years ago yet is only just getting under way. A small submersible has gone under the shelf from the seaward end and discovered the originally grounded shelf is in fact floating, so is melting from the underside, but the further new research involves drilling holes through the Shelf down which instruments are to be lowered to measure what is happening underneath. As for the Ice Streams and Rivers, they are measuring the speed of the flows of all the main feeder Streams close to bedrock. But all this takes great periods of time while we need the answers now. Or at least we need the very best information on which to base our global action plan.
There is one other problem with the modelling approach as ONLY the scientists themselves understand what they are doing and what their results mean or don’t mean. This leaves the rest of us (99.99999999999% of the population) to take it or leave it and the sceptics to make a meal of anything and everything they want to. Oh and for politicians to avoid taking action as there are too many imponderables with the models which have generated too much argument for too long. It simply isn’t possible for the politicians to personally study the subject objectively so they cannot reach their own conclusions – they can only get confused by contradictory statements. Nobody is laying their reputation on the line by saying it how it is or taking the big decisions which is what we are meant to have leaders for.
Computer Modelling as a means of defining problems and solutions
I have some history of computer modelling and know the output is only as good as the input, so only by going through every detail of the inputs and algorithms of the climate models could I at least decide how much faith I could put in the outputs. That would be a big ask and I didn’t expect anybody to take me through them, though I would love that. As I am inviting you to travel a ’non-modelling’ approach with me, I feel I should put forward some modelling credentials, but I am sure you will like the approach anyway and hope this Paper, Part 1 of the series, has intrigued you. Many if not most of the Papers will be equally surprising:
- Working for a major business decades ago, the ’new’ stock control programme had been built by a Maths professor. But the sales teams were saying they were losing sales. I finally found the problem by going through all the maths (algorithms) in the programme: if sales declined – the computer reduced stock levels. Seemed logical to the professor, but when a supplier failed to deliver product – we ran out of stock so sales dropped. The computer then reduced stock to match the declining sales! We were in a death spiral stopped just in time.
- Following that (still about 30 years ago) I was working for TNT, charged with getting their new central parcel sorting depot to work. It was the size of many football pitches; was designed to sort 12,000 parcels/hour – 24 hours a day – and that was what TNT thought it had bought. Put into perspective that is exactly what Heathrow Terminal 5 baggage handling system was failing to handle recently even though their baggage was all similar while TNT had to handle every shape and size. The depot was to unload 12 lorries in the inwards bays and load 24 in the despatch bays simultaneously – continuously. It was a complex operation and at the time the biggest such depot in the world by a factor of x 3. The first working trials only managed around 2,400 parcels/hour and life got interesting! The control system was simply nowhere near coping, and the operation physically dangerous for the operatives. What to do?
I decided to computer model it. It took about 3 months to write the programme (working all hours possible) and another 3 to de-bug it, but then it worked. I ran it until it produced statistically significant results and analysed them.
The computer controlling the depot then had to be increased in power by a factor of x 10, and after redesigning the entire controls to match the optimum model solution – the depot reached and maintained about 11,500 parcels/hour. 12,000 required a perfect operation – difficult if you have Christmas trees in your parcels!
So there is a great place for modelling – but you must be able to define all the functions perfectly for it to be valid.
I therefore have strong reservations about depending on the climate models even if some of the best people in the world have written them. We don’t understand climate perfectly and it is far too complex to model.
I have written and lectured on this subject, arguing I do not accept or believe the outputs of the Climate Models, nor therefore do I accept the periodic IPCC reports – so that far I might be thought to be with the climate sceptics. But they make a huge mistake assuming if the reports are not wholly valid, the climate cannot be changing. It might not; it might be changing less than they suggest, as they suggest – or it might be changing more than they suggest. And they do suggest! They don’t ‘conclude’.Most would think it insanity to take on the climate models and the IPCC, but in truth I am not doing that – just arguing the reports are incorrect, and might be found to have been causal in making humanity stall in dealing with any climate problem there might be. Science and knowledge sometimes takes sideways steps to go forward, and if we wait the decades needed for the climate scientists to reach their conclusions – on all accounts it will be too late. But this does not mean I am taking on the scientists as without their research none of us would have other than the weather to work from, so my respect for them is total. Believe me. Just search the web and you will find how totally open and honest they are.
Let me take just 5 examples to show why we shouldn’t depend on the Climate Models:
- If they worked, each report would agree with the previous one(s) which they don’t.
- The first in 1990 said the temperature would probably rise by 3° (all figures refer to 2100 unless otherwise stated). The last in 2007 has 2.4° to 6.4° as the range. Now consider the implications of just that increase.
- The 1990 report says sea level rise will be about 65cms and that “the effect of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is expected to be small”. Even in this paper we are looking at sea level rises measured in metres and not mms.
- If the next IPCC report due in 2014 paints a worse or different picture to the 2007 report – one has to be wrong! I will be stunned if it does agree, as all the evidence is piling up that reality is already much worse than even the 2007 report argued.
- Even a glance at climate history, which we will be looking at shorty in more detail than I think any of you will have seen before, shows the climate constantly changing direction. Usually incredibly quickly and seemingly without warning. But every single model prediction, and every model, shows either a straight or slightly upward curving projection for as far into the future as they have been run. Not one sees a blip anywhere, yet surely there will be reverses of direction at some points in time. The history tells us that. The reason is the models don’t have all the factors affecting climate in them.
- Most of the impacts of ice on the planet are not modelled, and as we all know – the ice all over the place is changing rapidly. I have two Papers published on this subject already on the web site. Ignore the ice or programme the effects of it incorrectly and you don’t have a functional model.
- We know a warming Arctic is going to release both Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4) in possibly huge quantities, but this isn’t in the models either.
I rest my case but could cover tens of pages with other examples.
So how are we going to study the subject?
Easy – well in principle at least. If we could understand why the climate has done what it did and when it did it through at least recent climate history, we would be in an especially good place to understand where it is going in future and maybe when. We might understand some of the triggers and some of the reasons why the plots change direction frequently. So that is how we are going to do it, and I think we will find it enlightening. But first a promise:
This work will be done without any pre-conceived ideas; without a determination to prove this or that; without emotion except that engendered by any situation we find ourselves in. In my ’book’ this is simply scientific research aimed at finding the truth and the reality. None of the data or information will be skewed to prove a point as there isn’t any point to prove, and where I have simplified it that will be for ease of understanding only. Much of the reporting in the media is hugely biased – this will not be. We will deal with facts and I will of course put my hypotheses (theories). I am very happy that any issues raised here are debated so long as equally good science is used.
I have personally often found this work breathtakingly interesting and at times exhilarating when I have finally managed to work through to seemingly solve some problem or other. At other times it has been enormously frustrating, searching for a reason that must be there but has eluded me. Believe me, much of what we will go through may seem easy and logical, but it wasn’t simple to deduce. The fact is that the climate did do what it did when it did it – all we have to do is work out why!!!!
So my approach is to argue the case; present the hypotheses and produce my logical predictions. My request is that you follow me through this work and reach your own conclusions.
I usually work from first principles whatever problem I try to solve, and climate is and was no different. OK, so I don’t have a supercomputer here nor the time to write the complex programmes necessary, but why anyway do what others are already doing as competently as is possible with current knowledge. No match. I thought for some time before deciding to try to work through what the climate had done, as while the models create a pseudo theoretical world, at least the past climate actually happened. It has been the reality. If I could understand much of what it did, and particularly what made it do it, then I would be well placed to work out what would happen in the future. So that is what I have done, and we will go through this work in sections (in detail) and see where it leads us.
I am not here nor ever was to tell readers what to think, but to offer my information and analysis together with my arguments so you can decide for yourselves if you agree or disagree with me. You can then decide if we need to take action. I will conclude with a temperature prediction, but be aware that as we are stoking the atmosphere ever faster with GHG (Green House Gas), any prediction dependant on GHG concentration is a moving feast – and moving upwards.
Then it is for you to decide
I have always felt this work was best offered in a single published work, but events conspired against me – and I would argue the world.
Most of my conclusions were reached a decade ago, but I have had three attempts to get a documentary series made (all close but failing as apparently I am/was not well enough known), and many to get published (several publishers said they might rue the day they didn’t do it). Bizarrely I was told if I got a publisher I had a TV series, and publishers said if I got a TV series – I had a publisher. Recently I was told that if I had ‘Professor’ as my title – I also had a series. Now please, I am not comparing myself with any of the following people, but it is often not professors who produce the ground-breaking work:
Darwin (theory of evolution), Marconi (radio), James Watt (steam engine), Brunel (railways, SS Great Britain), Robert Stevenson (steam trains), Graham Bell (telephone), Barnes Wallace (bouncing bomb and vertical take-off aircraft) – the list of great minds that were not professors and often not even technically academics is endless. And in so many other cases like Sir Isaac Newton – they were appointed professors only after much of their work was done! Indeed, history tells us he was an ‘undistinguished’ pupil at university. So it was disappointing to be told the lack of academic status denied my work an airing.
Only our very survival may be at stake, but reality TV is either more important – or more profitable.
It doesn’t matter that this is an unconventional approach as it is now crucial the climate issue is fully and openly debated. ANY AND ALL information is good information, and if this work can be shown to be wrong then it has at least advanced the debate and thinking, but I am extremely confident even the climate scientists will struggle to argue against it. I am not into naming people but one of the lead BAS (British Antarctic Survey) team heard a presentation I made on this subject – I think in 2005. I was not aware he was in the audience but he introduced himself instantly afterwards. We had a deep and long discussion about my work, after which he asked if I would be willing to present it and my hypotheses to the climate community in Cambridge. I agreed I would do that (Ug!) but he said it was difficult to get a non-Cambridge academic to be allowed to present there. Anyway, it didn’t happen – yet at least.
Clearly this is a substantive work, but we will take it in bite size chunks and each should allow you to decide what you think. Consider it a long stairway which we will take one step at a time. I am not aware any of this work has ever been published and certainly I have not plagiarised anything (drawn anything from anybody else) excepting the basic research data. The end does become conclusive for me but there is much to go through to get there. Please be patient as I have to work full time on the Tranquility business as well.
Computerized digital images and associated databases are available from the National Geophysical Data Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/.
*² Amante, C. and B. W. Eakins, ETOPO1 1 Arc-Minute Global Relief Model: Procedures, Data Sources and Analysis. NOAA Technical Memorandum NESDIS NGDC-24, 19 pp, March 2009.