Galileo, climate change and the case for debate

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In the early 1600’s in Pisa, Galileo Galilei, a professor of mathematics, developed a keen interest in spyglasses, telescopes and observing distant planets. He got so involved in it that he made a conclusion which went against the entire scientific establishment of the time. Of course, this conclusion was that the Earth in fact goes around the Sun, which went against the consensus of the day, which was that the Earth was the epicentre around which all the planets revolved. He then published a couple of papers around this. The Catholic Church were less than pleased with Galileo. They summoned him to Rome, where they labelled him a heretic and banned him from publishing ever again.

The overly politicised nature of this world has made some topics strangely difficult, and dare I say dangerous to talk about. The very act of writing this seems like some sort of brave act of rebellion, which of course is ludicrous, because it shouldn’t be. I’m no Galileo, and don’t aspire to be one. I merely want to illustrate the danger of blind consensus.

By way of disclaimer let me say a few things in advance. I think climate change is a pressing issue, and one that does require some sort of common sense action. The nature of the issue and related action is something I’d like to write a few things about in this post. I’m not some kind of loony climate science denier. Secondly, I’m not an expert on this topic. Indeed, hardly any of us are. Politicians are not, the media is not, you and I are not. I can only present a certain take on this subject. The point I want to put across in the following few paragraphs is that everything should be questioned in life, and this topic is no different.

It’s also worth saying this – there can be no doubt that human beings have been the most destructive force imaginable to our natural environment. Yet the humans of today pale in comparison to our hunter gatherer ancestors, who barbarically slaughtered most large animal life they were forced to cohabit with. Perhaps we berate the current form of human beings a little too easily, but then again, religions need scapegoats.

 A New Religion?

The climate movement has picked up steam over the past decade, but particularly in the last couple of years. It’s almost like some sort of switch has gone off, and a co-ordinated effort across government and media have helped accelerate this.

It’s reached a point with many people where environmentalism has become very much like an indoctrinated religion. In many ways it resembles pre-enlightenment Christianity. Any questioning of the topic is forbidden. Questioners or doubters are given labels and outlawed. There’s a belief in an original sin of man. There is a constant fear of a hellfire end to the world. Prophets spread the message and invoke fear (David Attenborough, Bill Nye, Al Gore). The only thing this religion is missing thus far is a messiah. Perhaps it has found one in Greta Thunberg, the autistic teenager being thrust in front of cameras and in front of parliaments to preach to them of what is coming. And just as the religions of the day require a tithe from their faithful, so hard environmentalist seem all too ready to give their tithing in the form of extra taxes, not to the church, but to the government.

In fact, some are already making the messiah leap:

In an increasingly secular world, where turning one’s back on religion has become somewhat fashionable, there nevertheless remains a human desire to bow down to something. To serve something higher than ourselves. As Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov states: “So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.”

Many have turned to worship this god of environmentalism. This is what has made criticism of this topic of any kind particularly difficult to express. If you went against the Church in large parts of Europe in pre-enlightenment times you were an outcast. Like Galileo, probably labelled a heretic. A dangerous citizen in need of silencing. If you question the climate movement in the current times, you’re a ‘denier; an idiot, possibly a dumb redneck, an oil lover who’s ok with pollution. And yes you should be silenced. How dare you question. Blind consensus – a defining feature of religion, is it not?

The other element at play here is the fact that people in western nations are living in the most stable, peaceful and prosperous time in the known history of the world. Things have literally never been this easy and convenient. With no wars to contend with, no pressing poverty or hardships and with all the luxuries of modern western life, it’s almost as if middle class westerners need some cause. Some perceived battle. They need a war of their own. By this token the climate change movement has become the ideology of the urban elite. I stand corrected, but I don’t see climate strikes or protests coming from poorer nations.

At the end of the day this is just another ism. I’ve seen it for myself on social media, where perfectly rational criticisms of certain climate topics have led to the relevant authors being vilified. Often the phrasing is something along the lines of “XX doesn’t believe in science” or “This is proven by science, idiot.” ”I always find these quite ironic statements since it is through science itself that has allowed one to poke holes in this ideology.

And yes, there are a good few holes to be poked.

Zero Accountability

Where shall we begin? Here are just a few example of failed predictions.

In the 1970’s Paul Ehrlich, a professor at Stanford University, suggested that “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people.” He added, “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000 and give ten to one that the life of the average Briton would be of distinctly lower quality than it is today.” On a personal note, I moved to the UK in January of this year, and I can confirm quite the contrary. The people in fact, look a little too well fed rather than hungry.

John Holdren, another high profile scientist and advisor to presidents, suggested in the 70’s that a “Billion people would die in “carbon-dioxide induced famines” as part of a new “Ice Age” by the year 2020”

Then there’s Guy McPherson, acclaimed scientist in the U.S. who decided in 2002 that climate change would likely drive humans to extinction by 2030. Sixteen years later, we’re now more than halfway to 2030 and the global human population has grown from 6.3 billion to 7.6 billion.

Peter Wadhams, a professor of Ocean Physics, and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at University of Cambridge predicted in 2012 that the Arctic would be ice-free in the summer by 2016. Research in fact shows that in 2016 the Ice volume of arctic sea ice had grown.

Of course, the more famous example is Al Gore, who said in his 2006 documentary that sea levels would rise by 20 feet “in the near future”. They’re more or less the same today as then, and the rate of change of sea level has not increased.

When I was in junior school we were all taught about the hole in the ozone layer. The fear of death was put into us. This ‘hole’ was apparently increasing in size, and soon we would all be doomed. The ozone layer issue has gone strangely quiet in the last two decades, and the latest reading I’ve done on the topic suggests that it’s pretty much a non-issue now.

Here are time magazine covers from the 70’s warning of a coming ice age. As we know, that never materialised, and two decades later the focus turned to warming.


How bad is it?

All the major religions of the past and future have relied on stories and symbolism to bring their messages across and resonate with large audience. There are similarities here as well with the climate movement. Two popular images are portrayed to us – the dying polar bear as the ice melts, and of course, rising sea levels.

A closer inspection though finds that polar bears are actually doing ok. More than ok. The WWF website estimates polar bear numbers to currently be between 22 000 and 31 000 worldwide. And although the data isn’t precise, it appears that polar bear numbers seem to be increasing. Strangely this is not reported on.

What about sea levels?

The following graph shows that the rate of sea level rise hasn’t in fact changed in 160 years or so. The trend has remained largely the same.


Here’s a graph showing the estimated temperature trend over a period of 10 000 years. A couple of things are striking here. Firstly the fact that for the vast majority of the last 10 000 years, temperatures have been warmer than they currently are. Secondly, although pretty much all of this data is pre-industrial age, the temperatures nevertheless went through significant periods of change. That’s what the climate does – it goes through periods of warming and periods of cooling. Long periods. We’re currently coming out of a mini ice age, which means warming will slowly and steadily continue for another century or two, according to one or two experts on this. Are we humans arrogant or stupid enough to thing we can stop this?


What about natural disasters and their repercussions?

Here’s a graph showing all the hurricanes to hit US land in the last 150 years or so. No definite trend.


In terms of the deadliest tropical cyclones ever recorded, the only one that makes the top 20 from the last 50 years is 2008.

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Here’s a graph of global precipitation anomalies. Again. No real alarming trend here.


The rainfall trend in the UK has stayed remarkably consistent in the last 17 years:


Droughts have been in the news quite a bit. Here is a graph showing drought severity in the US for over 100 years. If anything the last 40 years show a very slight downward trend.


The heat wave index in the US shows no alarming increase or trend in the previous 25 years.


What about the ultimate cost – the cost of lives? The following graph shows the number of deaths from natural disasters for the past 100 years. This shows a drastic decline from over the past 100 years.


Another odd thing is how Western nations have largely cleaned up their act in the last decade or two, and continue to do so. It’s not like we’re doing nothing. Last year alone, global investments in renewable energy hit almost $273 billion, according to a report by BNEF, UN Environment and the Frankfurt School. That’s three times the estimated spending on coal- and gas-powered generation. Production and availability of electric cars keep increasing. This appears to be accelerating in some countries.

This is what I find rather ironic – as I alluded to earlier, the countries protesting climate change the loudest are the ones who’ve made the most progress in terms of moving to cleaner energy and lowering waste and pollution. This graph shows that carbon emissions are largely on the decline in Western nations, and have been for a while. India’s trend is on the up, and the real culprit is China.


Recent actions from our friend Greta show how farcical this is. She and 15 other children filed a complaint with the United Nations during September of 2019 alleging that five of the world’s major economies have violated their human rights by not taking adequate action to stop the alleged climate crisis. Curiously missing from this list of five are China and India.

The following are the CO2 emissions trend of China compared solely against the US. Yet at a the recent UN Climate Summit in September 2019, China was invited to speak to the conference. The US was not. The US is in fact Only industrialized country to substantially reduce emissions in the last few years.


So why is it never enough? Why are Western countries constantly berated and told that immediate “Action!” is required? Why it is then that protests seem to be targeting the nations showing positive trends? Once again, it seems as if we’re desperate to berate ourselves. Desperate to frame ourselves as sinners in need of punishment.

Follow The Money

As always with these things, one needs to follow the money. The common cry you hear at these climate marches and on social media is “We want action now!” Nobody ever seems to articulate very well what the action entails, but when you read the actual demands made it becomes pretty clear. More levies, more tax money to government, more expensive living.

The political parties around the world who are loudest on the climate issues are the left leaning to far left parties. Is it any co-incidence that this is the political side that invariably push for greater government control, higher taxes and more centralised economies?

The “New Green Deal” tabled by certain U.S. politicians goes far deeper than mere environmentalism. It contains areas where government has far greater control of lives, and the economy. Almost as is a socialist agenda is hidden within the idea of environmentalism.

I shouldn’t just blame the political left here. The general trend of the last century is increasingly larger governments, higher taxes and an erosion of individual liberties. Which leads me to my primary concern, and why I feel so wary of this issue. It seems to me that the climate change issue has become a very convenient gateway for the elites around the world to wield greater power over us. Has anyone marching on the streets screeching hysterically about the world supposedly ending thought that climate change may well be the ultimate Trojan Horse being used against the individual to usher in an era of totalitarian levels of state control?

Accompanying the climate change hysterics is a new war on meat. Meat looks like it will be one of the first casualties of this movement. One of the great pleasures in life for those who choose to enjoy it could well eventually be priced out of the range of the average person. One less thing to enjoy in life. You could go one step further here and speculate that our elites know that red meat generally makes for physically stronger people. Take it away and you have weaker subordinates. Every day I’m seeing stories like this one pop up. Again, almost like is a co-ordinated effort.


On 20 September Greta Thunberg tweeted this (or should I say, the people who write her tweets, wrote this): “If you belong to the small number of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you. This it just the beginning. Change is coming. Like it or not.” Is it just me who feels slightly chilled by the Orwellian tone seeping through this? How long before blog posts like one this are outlawed and banned?

The scientists who opposed Galileo most probably did so because they were under the control of the Catholic Church, so they had to toe the line when it came to the idea that the Earth was the centre of the universe. And the current media and politicians who all maintain we’re on the verge of climate emergency – who controls them? I would suggest that perhaps too many of us are in the theatre looking only at what is being shown to us in front of the curtain, without considering that there are forces behind the curtain which need our attention.

Someone I once debated these very issues with defiantly pointed out David Attenborough, and was incredulous that I could go against the opinion such a seasoned thinker and expert on this topic. And there lies the sort of ‘blind faith’ element of all of this again. It’s worth considering who pays David Attenborough – i.e. the BBC. The state broadcaster. Should we blindly trust Attenborough, when he’s a state sponsored messenger?

As I alluded to, why does it seem like all of this has been co-ordinated. From the New Green Deal proposal in the US to Attenborough talking about 12 years to save the planet, to the rise of Greta Thunberg and the subsequent protests. Add to this the climate summits attended by the rich and the famous in their private jets, and the emergence of Extinction Rebellion in the UK. All the while the increasingly hysterical media cheers it all on. All of this within the last six months or so. It all just seems a little bit too . . . . synchronised.

Common Sense Solutions

Perhaps if we could sit and be rational about our planet’s near future instead of descending into hysterics, and if we can agree that certain change is coming, would it not be more optimal to rather start preparing for that world rather than throwing billions in trying to prevent it?

The New Green Deal I alluded to earlier aims to supply 100% of the power demand in the US through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources. According to economist Benjamin Zycher, a conservative estimate of the aggregate cost of that set of policies would be $490.5 billion per year, permanently. By my calculation this equates to over $8000 per year per US taxpayer. And this is over and above existing taxes.

Various reports are also showing limitations with solar, particularly around cost and reliability.

And does this solve the problem? From what I’ve read even complete elimination of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would affect global warming by only 0.083°C to 0.173°C 70 years from now which would be too small to affect weather patterns or other environment conditions.

Put that into perspective from a commercial planning perspective. They want to throw unprecedented amounts of money, into the trillions, into something that will only partially help us in decades to come.

So surely we need to be looking at all possible solutions here. Real change will be driven by the innovation of the private sector, spurred on demand from the public. Do we need government involvement at a grand scale? Why is nobody talking about rational solutions? Why is nuclear never talked about as a possible solution? Is it because a move away from solar would lower the control the elites have over us, and require less tax? A solar powered future would require a substantial overhaul of society as we know it, and would require massive tax funds funnelled into the black hole of government. Is this what they’re after?

Also, there’s a strange absence of investigative journalism on this to find accountability. Why do we never see the media hunt down and question those who thought we were entering an ice age back in the 70’s, or the people who scared us about an Ozone layer in the 80’s. What about the people who said the UK would be uninhabitable by now, and that polar ice caps would have long melted? After getting so much wrong in his first documentary, why did they give Al Gore millions to make another one? Zero accountability. Just scaremongering.

The scaremongering has reached a point that I see children on television in tears, thinking the world is about to end. Is this what we want? This article suggests that we could be facing unprecedented levels of child anxiety because of all this hyperbole flying around on this topic. In fact, the new trend of propping children up to carry your argument and making them the flagbearers of this fearmongering is a little chilling, and dare I say it, overtly propagandist.

Once again, don’t get me wrong here. Creating a less polluted world is a pressing concern. Lowering plastic levels in oceans, conserving wildlife and finding the leanest sources of energy should be one of our top priorities as a species. But we need a common sense approach to this based on open debate and rationality, which does not deplete economies or disintegrate individual freedoms. If we’re creating a better natural environment for tomorrow, is it still a world worth living in?

After reading this post some smart person could well present me with different sets of data to try to prove that there is in fact a very real emergency on our hands. And that’s fine. That’s to be encouraged. I’m not trying to win an argument here, I’m merely trying to state that there is an argument to be made, and that should be debating this issue rather than closing off all discussion and scepticism. This remains a grey issue. Unfortunately it’s a grey issue that’s been made black and white as a result of being hijacked by politics, and we should be very wary of its rigid consensus.

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