- A.N. Other
- None noted
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2017 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By David F. Flakelar
David Flakelar is a retired naval reservist who served as a Weapons Electrical Officer and later in naval intelligence. In industry he worked an electrical engineer, and more latterly as an industrial engineer.
(Note: Quotes from the original article in bold italics.)
The Naval Historical Society is to be congratulated for publishing John W. Wells’s piece Climate Change and ‘future wars between nation states’ (September 2016 edition). Science is showing that climate change is having profound consequences for our planet and any argument to the contrary needs to be carefully and clinically examined. This can only be done by referring to the peer reviewed science. By so doing the reader can be assured the material is based on evidence rather than personal opinion.
Wells’s dangerous article is typical of those published by the climate change denial community. His views are unattributed, are not based on current peer-reviewed science, abound in misrepresentation and unwarranted doubt and magnify minority views.1
Who Should You Believe?
There is ample, well documented evidence to show our environment is changing. Atmospheric and surface level temperatures are rising as is sea level. Oceans are becoming more acidic as excessive CO2at surface sea level is absorbed. There is observable glacial retreat and sheet ice at the poles and on Greenland is disappearing. These are matters of fact – not matters of opinion. And these changes can only be explained by science. The reason for these changes, their impact and how we should mitigate them is studied by climate scientists. Climate science is a comparatively new field of study so that those conducting the research are also relatively young, usually with a PhD in a climate science related field. They are actively engaged in teaching, supervising and conducting research. They conduct their work at universities, and agencies such as CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology in Australia, NASA and National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) in USA and the Met Office in the UK. Some will also contribute to authoritative scientific sites (blogs). Probably the best and most reliable of these are Realclimate2and Skeptical Science.3
As in any academic discipline, research has no standing in the scientific community until it has been the subject of rigorous review by subject experts to determine its suitability for publication and acceptance. Scientists are inherently sceptical of each others’ work. So, if it survives this scrutiny, it is published in a prestigious scientific journal. The value of a scientist’s contribution to the body of scientific knowledge can be gauged by the number of times their work is cited by their peers and other academics. They are the climate scientists that make up the 97% of the climate change consensus.4,5,6,7On a voluntary basis, thousands of them from all over the world contribute to the work of IPCC as authors, contributors and reviewers of IPCC reports. They are the ‘credible’ (Wells’s word) climate scientists.8
The names of a few ‘credible’ climate scientists are provided by the authorand these include Professor Bob Carter (dec.), Dr Ian Plimer, William Kininmonth and Patrick Moore.
A number of rebuttals of the work of these ‘credible’ scientists can be found at these references.9,10,11,12,13,14
Of Dr Plimer’s book, Professor David Karoly, Professor of Earth Sciences at Melbourne University has said15,16
Given the errors, the non-science, and the nonsense in this book, it should be classified as science fiction in any library that wastes its funds in buying it.
Patrick Moore is also cited as a ‘credible’ scientist because he co-founded Greenpeace but, according to Greenpeace, Patrick Moore did not form that organisation. He was President of Greenpeace Foundation in Canada but left in 1986 after differences in policy could not be resolved. On their website, Greenpeace17has said:
Patrick Moore often misrepresents himself in the media as an environmental ‘expert’ or even an ‘environmentalist’ while offering anti-environmental opinions on a wide range of issues and taking a distinctly anti-environmental stance. He also exploits long-gone ties with Greenpeace to sell himself as a speaker and pro-corporate spokesperson, usually taking positions that Greenpeace opposes.
Key IPCC Findings
The peak UN body that provides the forum for the synthesis and publication of climate scientist’s findings is the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCCs Fifth Assessment Report, Summary for Policy Makerscontained the following four key findings18(as reported by NASA):
- There is 95 percent certainty that human activities are responsible for global warming
- Carbon dioxide is at an ‘unprecedented’ level not seen for the last 800,000 years
- Sea level is set to continue to rise at a faster rate than over the past 40 years
- Over the past two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been melting and glaciers have retreated in most parts of the world.
The IPCC report was the work of 209 lead authors and 50 review editors from 39 countries, and over 600 contributing authors from 32 countries.
For anyone attempting to decide who to believe, probably the most convincing evidence is to be found on this NASA site under the heading ‘What is Climate Change?’ Scroll down to Evidence, Causes, Effects and Solutions. If you read nothing else, read this! http://climate.nasa.gov/
In the detailed examination of Wells’s paper that follows, the author’s headings, words, phrases and sentences are shown in bold type and double quote marks. Space has not permitted all of Wells’s contentious assertions to be commented on.
What’s It All About
Predictions of Armageddon: Given that Armageddon refers to the end times these predictions are not found in the scientific literature. However scientists agree that if greenhouse gases continue to be emitted and global temperature rise, the world will be a very unpleasant place to live. The full impact of global warming on planet earth will be dependent on the extent and timing of emissions reduction.
Future wars between Nation States: A report released by the US Department of Defense19concludes climate change is a security risk because of its impact on water resources, sea level rise and food security, living conditions etc. on vulnerable nations. It says: The Defense Department already is observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, the Arctic, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America.
A report from the Australian Climate Council titled Be Prepared: Climate Change, Security and Australia’s Defence Force20 concludes: Climate change poses significant risks for human and societal well-being. It acts as a threat multiplier with potentially devastating security implications by heightening social and political tensions and increasing the risk of conflict and violence.
However the report conclusion continues: In Australia, comparatively little action is being taken to ensure that the Australian Defence Force is prepared for climate change and its security implications.
One of the authors of the report was Admiral Chris Barrie (Ret.), a former Chief of the Australian Defence Force.
These views have been echoed by both the UK and US Governments in separate reports.
The Observer21cites a classified Pentagon document when it predicts: … abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.
Pacific islands being swamped by rising sea levels
From Environmental Research Letters22 :Using time series aerial and satellite imagery from 1947 to 2014 of 33 islands, along with historical insight from local knowledge, we have identified five vegetated reef islands that have vanished over this time period and a further six islands experiencing severe shoreline recession.
… the emotive narrative and alarmist language used by those pushing their respective agendas …There is certainly plenty of this language to be found in denier blogs but there is no place for it in scientific discourse. The journal editing process should ensure the language is unambiguous, unemotional and detached. Science need not be ‘pushed’. It speaks for itself.
Young men and women …. in the Defence Forces …. appear to have been placed on notice … Our young men and women in the ADF will continue to serve their country in the national interest, as they always have.
The author attempts to counter the validity of climate change science by stating: Because there has always been climate change on planet earth …This is certainly true. Climate scientists readily acknowledge that in the past the climate has changed but there has been an identifiable cause. Currently it is the rate of temperature rise that is most disturbing. A good explanation may be found at Skeptical Science.23
Resist the urge to follow the herd by accusing CO2 or more particularly, man-made CO2 as being the culprit The current level of CO2in the atmosphere is around 404 ppm (CO2parts per million by volume). This represents about a 40% increase since before pre-industrial times when it was about 280 ppm. When other greenhouse gases are included it is now about 470 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). According to Tripati and Roberts24, the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today, humans did not exist. According to Skeptical Science25,26 There are many lines of evidence which clearly show that the atmospheric CO2 increase is caused by humans. The clearest of these is simple accounting – humans are emitting CO2 at a rate twice as fast as the atmospheric increase (natural sinks are absorbing the otherhalf).There is no question whatsoever that the CO2 increase ishuman-caused. This is settled science.
… CO2 has been linked unfairly to global warming by those supporting and deriving benefit from the climate change industry … As an ‘industry’, climate change has spawned the growth of the renewables industry and that is no bad thing. Equally much of the opposition to the science of global warming is coming from the fossil fuel industry27– for they have most to lose.
Informed Judgement. The author asserts that pivotal to ‘informed judgement’ (presumably on matters such as climate change?) is academic freedom and the need for that material to be the subject of the peer-review process. No-one could challenge that assertion: it’s Science 101. But by claiming the need for ‘informed judgement’ is to suggest that climate change is a matter of judgement or opinion. In matters of science, personal opinion is irrelevant.
University of East Anglia/Climate Research Unit (CRU) or ‘Climategate’. Presumably to highlight where these fundamentals of peer review and academic freedom have been violated the author cites the so called ‘Climategate’ controversy in which in 2009, the server of the CRU was illegally hacked and a large number of emails stolen and published. A few suggestive quotes from these emails were seized upon by many claiming ‘conspiracy, collusion in manipulating data, destruction of embarrassing information and organised resistance to disclosure’. It was claimed that global warming was a conspiracy and the name ‘Climategate’ took hold.
Subsequently, four independent enquiries were instigated to investigate the conduct of the scientists involved, particularly the head of the CRU, Professor Phil Jones. The studies were conducted by Pennsylvania State University, University of East Anglia’s Scientific Assessment Panel, a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, and the Royal Society. In summarising the findings of the four committees Skeptical Science28said: Though some of the CRU emails can sound damning when quoted out of context, several inquiries have cleared the scientists. The Independent Climate Change Email Review put the emails into context by investigating the main allegations. It found the scientist’s rigour and honesty are not in doubt, and their behaviour did not prejudice the IPCC’s conclusions, though they did fail to display the proper degree of openness. The CRU emails do not negate the mountain of evidence for Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). All four enquiries exonerated the scientists involved.29
According to Wells:… the saga provided fascinating insight to the strategy employed by some to link CO2to climate change, but more particularly global warming: It was reported that Climategate emails revealed ‘an orchestrated vilification of ‘sceptic’ scientists; deliberate attempts to exclude the publishing of their work including organising the dismissal of editors who allowed such publications; and insights on how data had been manipulated to prove a warming effect to coincide with industrialisation, while preventing raw data being made available for peer review.
This is an unattributed part quote by Wells from Climate Science: The Facts(p. 10), a book published in Australia by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), edited by Alan Moran. The IPA is a right wing think tank which overtly denies the science of climate change. The IPA say contributors to the book include Andrew Bolt, Ian Plimer, Nigel Lawson (Nigella’s dad), William Kininmonth, Christopher Monckton and Joanne Nova and many others, all well-known climate change deniers.
… whilst preventing raw data being made available for peer review … According to the University of East Anglia,30over 95% of the CRU climate data set had been available to the public for several years before July 2009.
Credible scientists have recorded that the late 20th century warming has not been a period of steady warming … A graph of this NASA global temperature data set can be seen at http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20100121/.(Looks pretty steady to me!)
If you pick the start and end dates, as the deniers are inclined to do, it is very easy to show that, on several occasions, global warming has stalled or fallen. The overall trend shows the full picture. See also Skeptical Science.31
Given this disparity between actual climate and predictions made by inaccurate modelling … This inaccuracy of climate modelling is rejected by the climate scientists at Real Climate32and elsewhere.
According to NOAA33…there is considerable confidence that climate models provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at continental scales and above. This confidence comes from the foundation of the models in accepted physical principles and from their ability to reproduce observed features of current climate and past climate changes. Confidence in model estimates is higher for some climate variables (e.g., temperature) than for others (e.g., precipitation). Over several decades of development, models have consistently provided a robust and unambiguous picture of significant climate warming in response to increasing greenhouse gases.
… because nations are now accepting ‘consensus climate science’ Of course nations are accepting the consensus in science. At the Paris climate change summit (COP21) in late 2015, all nations, rich and poor, pledged to act on climate change, with the stated aim of restricting global warming to ‘well below 2oC above pre-industrial levels’ and to strive to limit it to 1.5oC. The commitment was reached by the 195 countries that attended and this reflects the consensus of climate scientists.34,35,36,37
CO2is not a pollutant. It remains a clean, colourless and odourless gas which is vital for the health of our planet and indeed necessary for our very existence on earth. The US EPA doesn’t say carbon dioxide is by itself a pollutant — it is, after all, a gas that humans exhale and plants inhale. Rather, it is the increasing concentrations of the gas that concern the agency.
… why was there climate change prior to the industrialisation of the earth? There was. Scientists have identified when the changes took place and why.38They were due to changes in the earth’s axis (perturbations), sun activity or CO2emissions – particularly from volcanoes.
Therefore I say to our readers, do not be afraid to have an alternative view, even if it means a difficult path to follow. But realise you are rejecting an accepted body of science. You are swimming against the tide!
Our foreign aid programs should continue to include assistance for our Pacific neighbours to mitigate the effects of climate change in terms of warnings, construction standards and rising sea levels. Also I believe the stresses from climate changecan be managed and mitigation strategies affected.[My underlining]. Oops. It seems the author has acknowledged the reality of climate change and at least one of its impacts?
Future wars between Nation States. This phrase has been used three times in the paper. It is shown in italics but is not attributed. As a result of the impacts of climate change, it is very likely there will be tension and possibly conflict between nations. Impacts such as extreme weather events (hurricanes, droughts, floods, bushfires etc.), rising sea levels, desertification, food and water shortages and species depletion (fish stocks). A range of serious impacts has been identified by NASA39and IPCC.40
There is sound empirical evidence that planet earth is warming and this is as a result of CO2released, principally from the burning fossil fuels and land clearance. The atmospheric, land and sea temperature increase, though seemingly small, is sufficient to have serious knock-on effects causing melting ice sheets at the poles and Greenland, sea level rise (from thermal expansion and ice water melt), glacial retreat, ocean acidification, and the increasing magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events.41
Hopefully my rebuttal of John W. Wells’s paper has encouraged readers to re-examine their views on this matter – a matter that threatens the future health and wellbeing of many millions of people throughout the world.
Arguably the most august scientific body in the world is the Royal Society. One of its most prestigious past presidents, Lord Rees, when commenting on climate change, said:
Those who promote fringe scientific views but ignore the weight of evidence are playing a dangerous game. They run the risk of diverting attention from what we can do to ensure the world’s population has the best possible future.
The eminent primatologist Dr Jane Goodall recently said on ABCs Catalyst:42 We haven’t inherited this planet from our parents, we borrowed it from our children. We’ve been stealing from our children. We’re still stealing their future. Denying climate change is stealing the future from our children just to make money now.
10 http://www.complex.org.au/tiki-download_file.php?fileId=91 (Enting on Plimer)
24 https:// scholar.google.com.au/scholar?