Not much warming in the Antarctic

While not offering solid evidence for or against global warming beliefs, it is at least ironic that the 2013 Australasian Antarctic Expedition which got itself trapped in the ice over Christmas and New Year had set out with the intention of making definitive measurements of the Antarctic ice boundaries which the expedition had expected to provide proof of long-term shrinkage.

It seems that the crucial factor in the expansion of the ice which trapped the ship on which they were travelling (the Russian research vessel Academik Shokalskiy) was a sudden increase in wind from the high Antarctic plateau (over 1,500 metres high).  This drove pack-ice towards the ship trapping it and the putative Chinese rescue vessel so that members of the expedition and accompanying journalists had to be helicoptered individually, first to a nearby ice-floe, and then a 40 minute journey to an Australian ship in open water.

While on-the-ground sampling will continue to be necessary for some purposes, the huge advances in satellite monitoring of temperatures, terrains, and atmospheres, as well as radiations, make many ‘scientific’ expeditions completely unnecessary.  But the ‘scientific community’ is itself continually expanding (no shrinkage there!) and ‘climate warming’ expeditions are very much grist to its mill.

Interestingly, satellite observation of the Arctic ice in the summer of 2013 showed that it was more extensive than it has been for several years, running against the idea that the Artic would ‘soon’ be ice-free in the July-August periods because of supposed anthroprogenic (man-made) global warming (AGW).

CO2’s role in climate change very improbable

Standing back from the mass of climate related data that has been collected over the last 20 years, it does seem extraordinary that many physical scientists seem to have convinced themselves that this data (where it shows any consistent trend) is all down to an increase of about 50 parts per million concentration in the atmosphere (0.005%) of one of the least reactive of all gases known to man, namely CO2[1], before about 1990 usually described as a trace gas in the atmosphere.

CO2’s power of absorption and emission of infra-red radiation, so often invoked as the reason for its supposed role, is actually both less and narrower than water vapour’s which is present at a concentration of up to 3%, or 75 times as plentiful as CO2.

Doubts about CO2’s role no reason not to use hydrocarbons sparingly

Compared with eleven year cycles in sunspot activity, variable cosmic ray intensities hitting the earth, and consequent changes in magnetic fields surrounding the earth, it seems bizarre to focus on one unreactive, trace element in our atmosphere.

However, burning is the least useful application of nature’s hydrocarbon bounty.  Hydrocarbons, which are what oil mostly contains, are at the heart of modern polymeric materials: man-made fibres, plastics, composites, sheet, foams, elastomers, as well as pharmaceuticals.  Methane (natural gas) is a partial exception to this generalisation, because it can be used in chemical synthesis, but it is energetically expensive to do so.  Another exception is octane, the most valuable, large-scale product of oil refining.  This has the highest energy density of any common combustible liquid so is uniquely suitable for land and air transport where fuel has to be carried with the vehicle.

What to do

  1. Do not let emissions targets compromise Britain’s ability to provide itself with cost-effective energy supplies in the specific forms it is needed for industry and the consumer.
  2. Bear down on waste heat and combustion inefficiencies wherever you can.
  3. Bring forward nuclear power in its various forms as fast as can be to provide Britain with a long-term large-scale energy source independent of the vagaries of world prices and supply.

References

[1] One measure of the reactivity of a substance is its energy of formation.  CO2 has one of the lowest – which is why it is the final product of the complete combustion of carbon.

 


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