Closing Comments

Any assessment of the complexity of the climate change debate can be clouded by the claims and counter-claims that now surrounds numerous issues of contention. As a result, many of the previous sections of discussion have attempted to use linked cross-references to what it is hoped are reliable sources of information, even though some of this information contradicts other sources. Despite some obvious differences in opinions, it is argued that there are reputable climate scientists working on both sides of the debate, whose work and ideas need further consideration, not name calling.

So, first, by way of an overall summary of the discussions so far:

  1. Scope of Climate Change is essentially a timeline of events that mark the development of the climate change debate, which also tried to highlight that this debate extends beyond the remit of science, as it has come to include both political and economic perspective and plus the self-interest of individuals and nation-states. It was also highlighted that despite the IPCC being in existence for the last 40 years, the global usage of fossil fuels has simply grown to meet the energy demand of nation-states around the world.

  2. History of Climate Change tried to outline the sequence of long-term cyclic ice-ages, which predated any increase in man-made CO2 emission. We might also highlight as both sides of the debate agree that climate change has happen, is happening and will continue to happen, while disagreeing on the scope of man-made climate change since the industrial revolution. However, in this wider context, there must be mechanisms that lead to climate change that work, independent of CO2 levels, over timescales counted in thousands of years.

  3. Energy Dimensions was an attempt to outline an aspect of the wider debate surrounding climate change, as any solution to restrict man-made CO2 might have an adverse effect on the lives of many millions, if not billions, of people in developing economies. For these economies might reasonably perceive that fossil fuels are the only large-scale and economic option open to them to satisfy their growing aspiration for a better life, which many have argued will depend on their ability to generate electricity.

  4. Energy from the Sun works on the general accepted assumption that the Sun is the primary source of energy that drives Earth’s climate. As such, it was felt that some explanation of the Milankovitch Cycles covering Earth’s eccentricity of orbit, its axial tilt and precession around this axis was important in order to separate the causes of long-term climate change, i.e. thousands of years, from more recent changes, i.e. hundreds of years. In this context, it was concluded that the Milankovitch cycles were only a factor over the long-term cycles. However, it was also suggested the variance of the Sun’s energy output in terms of sunspots and the solar wind might trigger indirect effects that may have implications on more recent climate changes, which also pre-date man-made industrialisation.

  5. Climate Change Mechanisms was an attempt to outline a number of mechanism, over and above CO2 emission, which might be effecting climate change, e.g. Solar Cycles & Sunspots , Plate Tectonics , Volcanism , Earth’s Oceans , Earth’s Atmosphere , Earth’s Albedo , Space Weather , Cosmic Rays , Geomagnetic Reversal . However, while it was recognised that this discussion was not authoritative on any of these issues, it was felt that there was scope for further debate and it would be premature to simply assume that the science was already settled.

  6. Climate Change Models it was accepted that this was only a very limited investigation into how climate model work centred on an article entitle ‘Climate Model for the Layman ’ published in 2017 by Professor Judith A. Curry. While many might refute the implication of this discussion, it was felt that these models were also subject to their own limitations, especially when attempting to extend prediction into the future on timescales measured in decades. If the IPCC policy recommendations are to be based on these models, it was felt that their accuracy needs to be more clearly and widely recognised, not as a criticism, but more as an incentive for further development.

  7. Climate Model Assessment was an extension of the previous discussion of climate models that attempted to consider the sensitivity of these models to any initial data assumptions. In part, the discussion also attempted to consider why there might be two very different interpretations of the accuracy of current climate models given by John Christy, a climate scientist, and Gavin Schmidt , a climatic scientist. This led to a questioning of the IPCC’s confidence in climate models, which appeared incongruous to all the issues outlined.

While this review has raised a number of issues of concern regarding some of the scientific assumptions, especially in the area of climate models to accurately predict long-term climate change, we might put these concerns aside to ask a more fundamental question at this point:

If we can mitigate CO2 emission, then should we not start this process straight away?

In part, this might be seen as a reasonable assumption of the current mainstream consensus, although we possibly need to further question the implications of this assumption on the economy of various nation-states, especially those of developing economies. While the following outline is not really part of this review of the climate change debate, as it is the focus of another discussion, in development, entitled Brave New Worlds that is attempting to characterise the complexity of ‘human ecosystem’, as simplified below, as an interaction between multiple facets of present-day modernity and potential developments that have to be projected into the future.

For much of humanity’s million-year history, its population existed on a knife-edge in that only a few extra deaths, rather than births per year could have resulted in extinction. Two thousand years ago, the global population had increased to 200 million, by the start of the industrial revolution in 1750, it had increased towards 700 million and over the next 250 years, the global population grew to exceed 6,000 million. Within the last 18 years, the global population has increased to 7.4 billion and expected to rise to 9.7 billion before 2050. While these increases actually reflect an exponential growth, not linear as possibly implied in the table below, we might realise that most problems may be related to the impact of population growth on the ecosystem, as defined, where the problem of climate change is but one of many.

Year Years Population Population
Increase
Increase
per year
0 n/a 200,000,000 n/a n/a
1750 1750 700,000,000 500,000,000 285,714
2000 250 6,000,000,000 5,300,000,000 21,200,000
2018 18 7,400,000,000 1,400,000,000 77,777,778
2050 32 9,700,000,000 2,300,000,000 71,875,000

This population increase has always been dependent on an ability to harness energy, which since 1750 has been dominated by the use of fossil fuels, which has probably been responsible for the 40% increase in CO2 emission over the same timeframe. However, irrespective of whether the increased use of fossil fuels is responsible for climate change or not, it would appear that the world at large is not prepared to stop using fossil fuels unless a better alternative can be developed. So, embedded within the climate change debate is the issue of how we not only maintain energy usage, but how we increase global energy usage and reduce costs. While it is not within the scope of this discussion to fully consider this issue, initial reference might be made to a 2014 report entitled ‘Our High-Energy Planet: A Climate Pragmatism Project’. An extract from the executive summary states:

“Today, over one billion people around the world, five hundred million of them in sub-Saharan Africa alone, lack access to electricity. Nearly three billion people cook over open fires fuelled by wood, dung, coal, or charcoal. This energy poverty presents a significant hurdle to achieving development goals of health, prosperity, and a liveable environment. The relationship between access to modern energy services and quality of life is well established. Affordable and reliable grid electricity allows factory owners to increase output and hire more workers. Electricity allows hospitals to refrigerate lifesaving vaccines and power medical equipment. It liberates children and women from manual labour. Societies that are able to meet their energy needs become wealthier, more resilient, and better able to navigate social and environmental hazards like climate change and natural disasters. Faced with a perceived conflict between expanding global energy access and rapidly reducing greenhouse emissions to prevent climate change, many environmental groups and donor institutions have come to rely on small-scale, decentralized, renewable energy technologies that cannot meet the energy demands of rapidly growing emerging economies and people struggling to escape extreme poverty. The UN’s flagship energy access program, for example, claims that ‘basic human needs’ can be met with enough electricity to power a fan, a couple of light bulbs, and a radio for five hours a day. A reconsideration of what equitable energy access means for human development and the environment is needed.”

However, while this report may quantify the scope of a problem, primarily in terms of wealth and energy inequality, it is not clear that is has any specific solution or necessarily wants to discuss some of the wider implications of supporting further population growth. While environmentalists and supporters of ‘green energy’ may simply assume that renewable energy, in the form of solar and wind, can meet all global demands at a cost that the developing economies can afford, the reality of this position has to be seriously questioned along with the current assessment of climate change. For in reality, climate change is not ‘the only problem’  but rather only one of many problems that may come to seriously challenge the future of humanity.