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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE by Professor Will Alexander March 16, 2009

Posted by honestclimate in Discussions.
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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE by Professor Will Alexander

Received via email Thursday 12 March 2009

By Professor Will Alexander

The climate change issue is like those runaway fires recently experienced in the winter rainfall areas of South Africa and Australia. They cause tremendous damage. But eventually they burn themselves out. The issue then becomes how much damage will be caused and how long will it take to restore normality? This is the position that we now face in South Africa and elsewhere.

The attached memo describes the broader scene. There is no way that the proposed objectives will be achieved without causing serious damage to the welfare of the people of this country.

The proposals and actions will also divert attention, funds and research away from the real, pressing needs facing the future of our country.

Memo 14/09

Climate change – Mission Imposible

Will Alexander 

Thursday 12 March 2009

[Cartoon of this writer in Noseweek]

I have attached some comments that I submitted to an overseas publication. They provide the broad picture. For those with a closer interest I suggest that you visit the Climate Change Summit’s website at http://www.ccsummit2009.co.za . You should download the conference statement dated 6 March 2009 in the media information section. Another item of general interest is the presentation by the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry.

Both statements are very ambitious. But are they achievable? In some respects South Africa’s approach could set an example to other nations. You will notice that the issues were discussed and debated with representatives from various sectors of the economy. Target dates were set. These targets commenced with written submissions by stakeholders by 15 May 2009. [Stakeholders specifically exclude hundreds of us in the engineering and other applied sciences who have decades of experience in these matters.]

The first policy draft will be ready by August 2009. This will be used to form negotiating positions for Copenhagen. It will be further evaluated and the responses published in a White Paper in December 2010. The process will culminate in the introduction of legislation, regulatory and fiscal packages to give the effect to the strategic direction and policy by 2012.

The unstated significance of 2012 is that this will coincide with the lapse of the Kyoto Protocol and the introduction of an internationally meaningful commitment by other major developed and developing nations.

International hurdles

In my view there are several very serious hurdles that will have to be overcome during the international negotiations. Everybody realises that close to unanimous agreement will have to be reached at Copenhagen. This is not a situation where either a majority vote or the influence of affluent nations will be sufficient. Reluctant nations will have to be persuaded to come aboard. The most persuasive instrument is money. Plenty of it.

The first hurdle is therefore economic. The developing nations, including South Africa, insist on receiving substantial financial assistance from the affluent nations to finance their emissions control and adaptation measures. This obligation is based on the fact that it is the affluent nations that are the cause of the problem.

However, the world is in an economic recession that is now described as the worst since the Great Depression of the early 1930s. People are suffering world-wide with increasing loss of jobs – tens of thousands of them. It is most unlikely that taxpayers in the affluent nations will agree to further taxes to pay for assistance to the developing countries.

Now consider the very likely situation where no enforceable agreement is reached on financial assistance at Copenhagen. Promises and will not be sufficient. African countries have experienced in these unfulfilled promises before.

How will South Africa’s bold policy be affected when it becomes obvious that no substantial international agreement is reached at Copenhagen.

A secondary aspect is that the gaps between west and east (developed and developing nations), as well as between north and south (affluent and poor nations) are widening not closing. At Bali, South Africa aligned itself with the major developing nations – India and China. These two nations have become our major trading partners. At Midrand the Minister targeted the USA and Australia for failing to meet their commitments. What will be the position if India and China also refuse to implement these restrictive measures? Will our Minister dare insist that they follow South Africa’s example?

Media support

The next problem is in public relations. Until now the climate change fraternity have relied very heavily on media support. The Midrand summit received very little mention in the daily press despite media briefings. There was at least one cynical article based on a claim made at the summit that we should stop eating beef because cattle produced more undesirable emissions than our coal-burning power stations. Ignoring the normal scientific ethics as well as the deliberate exclusion of any contrary views, the alarmists have gone overboard. Totally unrealistic pressures by the NGOs are not helpful. Nor was the claim that recent floods were obviously the consequence of climate change. The alarmists are now fouling their own nests.

The science.

This brings me back to the science. The Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry began her presentation with the words The overwhelming scientific consensus is that we must continue to prevent the emission of greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. [I receive emails on this subject at a rate of about ten per day. Claims of an overwhelming consensus are provably false.]

As I recall, nowhere in the IPCC assessment reports is this degree of certainty stated unequivocally. Rather the opposite. The IPCC continues to function with its next set of assessment reports due in 2014. Even the conference statement refers to the need for further research. Why then have the South African authorities consistently denied the existence of contrarian views? They have even gone to the extent of deliberately denigrating those who express them. I have personal experiences of this.

Even if there is only a 10% likelihood that the theory that the increasing global discharges of carbon dioxide will result in meaningful increases in global temperatures can be shown to be groundless, surely this should be investigated considering all the costly actions listed in the Summit’s assessment reports.

I have repeatedly stated that despite a diligent search I can find no evidence of abnormalities in the hydrometeorological data that can be attributed to climate change. I have gone further. I can state with confidence that the postulated linkage between climate change and our water resources does not exist. I have not seen a single publication by climatologists that provides numerical proof of this relationship in a format that can be used for water resource studies. This includes presentations at the summit.

I do not wish to go any further into this aspect as I have made some constructive recommendations to overcome this difficulty.

All that I wish to add at this stage is that while there are many references to the years 2020, 2050 and the end of the century in the climate change summit’s media releases, I could not find a single reference to our water supply situation by 2020, let alone 2050 and later. Surely, the real future water supply problems facing South Africa as well as in many other countries of the world, should be of much greater concern than the postulated (i.e. unproven) consequences of climate change.

– – – – – – – – – – – –


These are some comments from this part of the world that throw more light on the whole climate change debate. For a start I would like to point out that, apart from South Africa, most countries on the African continent are NET ABSORBERS of carbon dioxide. It is therefore altogether unreasonable to expect them to adopt additional emissions control measures.

The next point is that the IPCC literature is replete with claims that the disadvantaged people in Africa will suffer most from the consequences of climate change. Another claim that is often repeated is that climatic extremes, particularly floods and droughts, are already happening in Africa and elsewhere.

Two weeks ago a Climate Justice Dialogue – the Human Impact of Climate Change – was hosted jointly by the University of Pretoria and the Global Humanitarian Forum based in Geneva. The principal presenters were Kofi Anan, via a video link, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who is highly respected in South Africa, and Mrs Mary Robinson.

It was pointed out that the 50 least developed countries of the world are responsible for less than one per cent of global emissions. A few days before the event a flash flood occurred in a nearby township. Two people drowned and a lot of damage was caused. Archbishop Tutu commenced his presentation by stating that the flood was an obvious consequence of climate change.

The Forum will make representations at Copenhagen. It will justifiably claim that the developed countries are directly responsible for the present and probable future consequences of climatic extremes on the African continent. They are therefore obliged to compensate the disadvantaged people of Africa for these consequences. It will be very interesting to see whether or not this claim influences the Copenhagen discussions.

The third point is technical. I am continually surprised that international scientists on both sides of the fence remain ignorant of the periodic changes in solar energy received on earth and their synchronous relationship with the hydrometeorological processes. These changes in received solar energy are the consequence of changes in the earth to sun distance as the sun wobbles along its trajectory through galactic space. Note that the earth orbits the solar system’s centre of mass and not the sun’s centre of mass.

The alternating multi-year sequences in rainfall and river flow, known as the Joseph Effect, have been observed and studied for decades. Our more recent studies demonstrate the undeniable linkage with the double sunspot cycle. The fact that solar cycle 24 is quieter than cycle 23 comes as no surprise to us.

If any readers require more information, I will gladly e-mail a copy of our five-authored, refereed paper Linkages Between Solar Activity, Climate Predictability and Water Resource Development, together with recent comments. Our paper was published in the Journal of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering<click for paper> in June 2007. In our comments we demonstrate that changes in received solar energy are more than 17 times larger than changes caused by undesirable greenhouse gas emissions reported in the IPCC documents. Our analyses can be replicated by others.

My fourth point is of international interest. Climate change is not a party political issue in South Africa. With our general elections coming up within the next month all the parties have poverty reduction and job creation high on their priorities. Our authorities are nevertheless committed to taking positive action to control our undesirable emissions but always within the constraints of poverty alleviation.

A high level summit on climate change has just ended here in South Africa. Its purpose was to persuade our business and industrial communities to join the authorities in limiting the consequences of climate change. Of interest is that the measures include encouragement to undertake energy efficient action. There will be incentives for those who succeed, and penalties for those who do not. This is a far more satisfactory approach than that of imposing threats and penalties adopted by most developed countries.

Another point of interest is that discussions will continue for the next 20 months before legally binding commitments will be imposed. It seems that South Africa will go to Copenhagen where it will inform the participants that South Africa is committed to climate change reduction measures. An unstated requirement will be that other nations must also adopt these measures. The following is an interesting statement by our Minister of Environmental Affairs at the opening of the conference.

The Minister lashed out at developed nations including the US and Australia for failing to commit to significant global reductions. We cannot accept anything that suggests that because the US has done nothing for so long we must allow them to do less than required by science in future.

These are brave words. The Minister is obviously aware that both the US and Australia are encountering domestic difficulties in achieving legally binding commitments. This statement is also an escape route. If no substantial internationally binding agreements are reached at Copenhagen this will let us off the hook.

Looking into my crystal ball, with the assistance of all those reports published in CCNet, it is obvious that substantial internationally binding agreements will not be reached by the end of this year. I believe that further delays are not an option as they were at Bali. I attended the Bali conference as an outsider. The organisers successfully prevented those of us with contrarian views from expressing them. The same happened at the recent climate change summit here in South Africa. The science is settled the delegates were told.

When all else fails, there will be only one face-saving option. When pressures start building up on reluctant nations, sooner or later one or more of them will argue that the science is not settled. Indeed our Minister stressed the need for further research. President Obama also used the phrase listening to what scientists have to say.

Once one or more leaders acknowledge that there may be doubts, this will open the floodgates of opposing views. Politicians will heave a sigh of relief. The world will be saved from anarchy. Those of us in Africa who have strong humanitarian concerns, can return to addressing the real issues of poverty, malnutrition and disease that affect tens of millions of people on our continent.





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