This article opens a debate between David Bellamy and George Monbiot regarding global warming. For the entire debate, visit http://www.zmag.org/MonbiotBellamyDebate.htm . For more debates, visit http://www.zmag.org/znet_debates.htm
9th July 2004
WHATEVER the experts say about the howling gales, thunder and lightning we've had over the past two days, of one thing we can be certain.
Someone, somewhere - and there is every chance it will be a politician or an environmentalist - will blame the weather on global warning.
But they will be 100 per cent wrong. Global warming - at least the modern nightmare version - is a myth. I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy makers are not.
Instead, they have an unshakeable faith in what has, unfortunately, become one of the central credos of the environmental movement. Humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide - the principal so-called greenhouse gas - into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up.
They say this is global warming: I say this is poppycock.
Unfortunately, for the time being, it is their view that prevails.
As a result of their ignorance, the world's economy may be about to divert billions, nay trillions of pounds, dollars and roubles into solving a problem that actually doesn't exist. The waste of economic resources is both incalculable and tragic.
To explain why I believe that global warming is largely a natural phenomenon that has been with us for 13,000 years and probably isn't causing us any harm anyway, we need to take heed of some basic facts of botanical science.
For a start, carbon dioxide is not the dreaded killer greenhouse gas that the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the subsequent Kyoto Protocol five years later cracked it up to be. It is, in fact, the most important airborne fertiliser in the world, and without it there would be no green plants at all.
That is because, as any schoolchild will tell you, plants take in carbon dioxide and water and, with the help of a little sunshine, convert them into complex carbon compounds - that we either eat, build with or just admire - and oxygen, which just happens to keep the rest of the planet alive.
Increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, double it even, and this would produce a rise in plant productivity.
Call me a biased old plant lover, but that doesn't sound like much of a killer gas to me. Hooray for global warming, that's what I say, and so do a lot of my fellow scientists.
Let me quote from a petition produced by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which has been signed by over 18,000 scientists who are totally opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, which committed the world's leading industrial nations to cutting their production of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels.
They say: 'Predictions of harmful climatic effects due to future increases in minor greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are in error and do not conform to experimental knowledge.' You couldn't get much plainer than that. And yet we still have public figures such as Sir David King, scientific adviser to Her Majesty's Government, making preposterous statements such as 'by the end of this century, the only continent we will be able to live on is Antarctica'.
At the same time, he's joined the bandwagon that blames just about anything on global warming, regardless of the scientific evidence. For example, take the alarm about rising sea levels around the south coast of England and subsequent flooding along the region's rivers.
According to Sir David, global warming is largely to blame.
But it isn't at all - it's down to bad management of water catchments, building on flood plains and the incontestable fact that the south of England is gradually sinking below the waves.
And that sinking is nothing to do with rising sea levels caused by icecaps melting. Instead, it is purely related to an entirely natural warping of the Earth's crust, which could only be reversed by sticking one of the enormously heavy icecaps from past ice ages back on top of Scotland.
Ah, ice ages. . . those absolutely massive changes in global climate that environmentalists don't like to talk about because they provide such strong evidence that climate change is an entirely natural phenomenon.
It was round about the end of the last ice age, some 13,000 years ago, that a global warming process did undoubtedly begin.
Not because of all those Stone Age folk roasting mammoth meat on fossil fuel camp fires but because of something called the 'Milankovitch Cycles', an entirely natural fact of planetary life that depends on the tilt of the Earth's axis and its orbit around the sun.
The glaciers melted, the ice cap retreated and Stone Age man could resume hunting again. But a couple of millennia later, it got very cold again and everyone headed south. Then it warmed up so much that water from melted ice filled the English Channel and we became an island.
The truth is that the climate has been yo-yo-ing up and down ever since.
Whereas it was warm enough for the Romans to produce good wine in York, on the other hand, King Canute had to dig up peat to warm his people. And then it started getting warm again.
Up and down, up and down - that is how temperature and climate have always gone in the past and there is no proof that they are not still doing exactly the same now. In other words, climate change is an entirely natural phenomenon, nothing to do with the burning of fossil fuels.
In fact, a recent scientific paper, rather unenticingly titled 'Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Over The Last Glacial Termination', proved it.
It showed that increases in temperature are responsible for increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, not the other way around.
But this sort of evidence is ignored, either by those who believe the Kyoto Protocol is environmental gospel or by those who know 25 years of hard work went into securing the agreement and simply can't admit that the science it is based on is wrong.
The real truth is that the main greenhouse gas - the one that has the most direct effect on land temperatures - is water vapour, 99 per cent of which is entirely natural.
If all the water vapour was removed from the atmosphere, the temperature of the planet would fall by 33 degrees Celsius.
But remove all the carbon dioxide and the temperature might fall by just 0.3 per cent.
Although we wouldn't be around, because without it there would be no green plants, no herbivorous farm animals and no food for us to eat.
It has been estimated that the cost of cutting fossil fuel emissions in line with the Kyoto Protocol would be pounds 76trillion. Little wonder, then, that world leaders are worried. So should we all be.
If we signed up to these scaremongers, we could be about to waste a gargantuan amount of money on a problem that doesn't exist - money that could be used in umpteen better ways: fighting world hunger, providing clean drinking water, developing alternative energy sources, improving our environment, creating jobs.
The link between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming is a myth.
It is time the world's leaders, their scientific advisers and many environmental pressure groups woke up to the fact.