Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Warming on hold

This is getting like the latter days of the BSE scare. When the panic over "mad cow disease" was rampant and half a million people were going to die every year from it, the incubation period was two years. When the epidemic did not materialise, it became five years and when, obstinately, the epidemic still did not appear, it became ten and then 20 …

Eventually, we hypothesised that the incubation period was really 100 years. We would all die of BSE but for one minor problem … we were all going to die of old age first. And so it is with global warming. It looks as if an awful lot of people are going to be in their graves before we next see any of the blessings of higher temperatures.

That is according to Kyle Swanson and his climate team at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Following a 30-year trend of warming, they have finally recognised that global temperatures have flat lined since 2001 "despite rising greenhouse gas concentrations."

Swanson, however, is not going to let go of his one true God. Global warming has only "gone into hiding". While the current cooling trend may continue for 30 years, that is "just a hiccup". With humans' penchant for spewing greenhouse gasses, it will certainly come back to haunt us.

"When the climate kicks back out of this state, we'll have explosive warming," says Swanson. "Thirty years of greenhouse gas radiative forcing will still be there and then bang, the warming will return and be very aggressive."

That should see him nicely through to his pension and beyond, giving him and his many fellow-travellers plenty of time to continue their careers before it the final whistle blows on the most expensive scare in history – an ingenious device which enables evidence of cooling to be discounted.

Unfortunately, it also gives plenty of time for the "colleagues" in Brussels to play their dire games, although some of these seem to be grounding not on the evidence of cooling but lack of money.

EU environment ministers met yesterday in Brussels to consider EU aid to "poorer countries" to enable them to reduce their own emissions, only to confront the spectre of having to find €175 billion per year by 2020.

Somewhat daunted by the prospect of a sum which is actually bigger than the entire EU budget, environment commissioner Stavros Dimas noted that, "We were not quite able to reach consensus on the financing mechanism." He added darkly, "This is an issue where the (EU) council (of nations) will need more discussion time."

Perhaps Mr Dimas should consult Kyle Swanson. According to him, they might have 30 years. But, by the end of that period, it will become 40 and then 50 and then 60. Eventually, we're all going to die of global warming but for one minor problem …