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Why climate is unlikely to be changing

FRIDAY JULY 04, 2014

pic: Tahunanui Beach, Nelson

Humans walk at about 3mph, and run at around 5mph. It is the shape and musculature of the human body that determines this.  We are neither gazelles nor snails. If we went back a hundred or two hundred years to a busy street, we would see folk walking and running at the same speed as today. This can be verified by watching old movies and newsreels.


In a century or two’s time, people will also be walking and running at the same speed as today, the speed they have always done, because average walking speed is determined by height. But although humans are no faster, records are being broken every few years for the faster speeds people can move, at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. So are we as a species averagely moving faster?


The seldom addressed fact is that record-breaking is separate from normal behaviour. It is an industry unto itself. Record-busters are given sponsorship and endowments to endorse products, in the name of business. The media courts local heroes spotlighting their countries for the eyes of the world, all which is good for their sponsors and tourism of their country. It eventually makes fincial sense because it boosts economies.


These so-called records are artificially generated. There are enough bizarre ones to fill a Guiness Book. In the drive for the Olympic record, input variables continually change making previous same events incomparable. Athletes have lighter, less wind-resistant clothing, special diets, new supplements, faster tracks and computer-fashioned footwear. Each has a psychologist, diet and fitness coach, strategy planner and computer analyst, dedicated to breaking some previous record.


A new set of variables arises every four years at a new Olympic Games location. Fastest speeds creep forward by tiny fractions of a second, and the record-breaker captures our collective imagination, thrust forward by the frantic media. Consider the language. Records are not gently replaced – they are "slashed", "obliterated", and "smashed".


It is not as if some obscure country bloke from the African interior will one day turn up at the Olympics and sprint at 95mph. We are not built to do that. Most records are being broken by ever-smaller fractions. It is mostly a function of advanced stopwatches. We will probably one day hear of a record being ‘shattered’ by 0.0000005sec.


Now compare climate, largely influenced by the distance a country is from the equator, which determines the angle and strength of the sun’s rays. This is the biggest factor setting how warm or cold you will be and how dry or wet may be your seasons. Canberra and Cape Reinga, each at latitude 35°35’, have the same annual maximum temperature average which is 20°C. In a similar way Perth, Broken Hill and Taree, each at latitude 31°43’ have annual average maximums of around 24°C.  You could also compare Dublin with Amsterdam


Even though Broken Hill is 1000 ft above sealevel and Perth and Taree are on (opposite) coasts right at sealevel makes little difference. These places must always have a similar temperature regime, hence climate, year in and year out, because their latitude remains constant. It does not matter if temperatures go way up one summer or plunge way down one winter. It evens out. It does not matter one iota how many trees are planted, wind turbines or solar panels installed, nor how many Greenpeace bumper stickers there are. 


Climate hype mirrors competitive sport. The public have been fed the media frenzy of records broken in national temperatures, rainfall amounts, hurricanes or droughts.  We are harangued that we have never been this warm before or as cold. This or that is ‘worst ever’, 'worst since records began’ or ‘worst in living memory’.


Weather records exist for the qualification for more funding for research, leading to revenue-gathering, new taxes and eco-laws to “protect the environment” against “more extreme” conditions. The public get their only idea of climate change from published accounts of temperature records being smashed.


But it is a swindle. The climate was the same 100 years ago and it is just the record-breaking industry running at full steam, making us think something frighteningly strange is happening in the world of nature, completely independent from the world of business.


Nothing is further from the truth. We might read of a hottest May in 45 years. We ignore that this also means that the May of 45 years ago was actually hotter, and we further serve sensationalism by ignoring that we are not measuring apples with apples.


Measured catchments are larger now than in the past, temperature gauges are relocated closer to warm downtown locations to boost tourism, technology updated, more or less trees may shade or expose and asphalt reflect, and nearby increased traffic generates heat and wind. Successive teams of operators bring different biases of interpretation.


In the 4.5 thousand million year geological timescale of the planet the idea of extremes collected over barely a century is meaningless. Discussion of conditions being now more extreme is just more meaningless. Extreme comes from the Greek word eskhatos meaning outermost and last. You cannot get further out than outermost, nor more last than last.


Tropical storms, tornadoes, floods, drought, have occurred a zillion times and aren’t permanently on the rise. Even if they were, overall wouldn’t floods exactly cancel out droughts and heat-waves balance snowfalls? If +n is added to –n the result is 0. Wouldn’t this mean zero change?


So it could be said we are not so much breaking records, as that rhetoric about it is record-high. It is also selective. What doesn't fit pre-agreement by media and moguls with money gets manipulated or not even measured. The public seldom hear about evidence that contradicts well publicised supposed consensus, like that Antarctica ice has been expanding over the past 20 years.


It is no coincidence that record alarmism matches intensification of digital technology available since the 1990s. A 0.4°C temperature rise can be called a new record. Most readers only see ‘record’ not realising a 0.4°C rise is within natural fluctuation levels anyway. Pre-1990 glass thermometers couldn’t accurately read tenths. Any temperatures with a decimal point referring to pre-1990 are guesses.


Revolution of measurement brings revolutionary measurements. More weather statistics of extremes make their occurrence seem more frequent. Nature is balanced and self-regulatory. There is no absolute up, down, great or small, worse or better. At all times we are at a point in a cycle. It may seem to impressionable younger folk we are having more hotter, colder, wetter and drier weather but they are not old enough to make comparisons.


The same lack of comparison leads to an illusion that we can run faster at night.  But it is a lie. At night we have almost nothing visual to compare ourselves to, but our leg muscles cannot see light. It is a human need to feel special, unique and exemplary and perception of difference drives our lives. We love saying we were there when, because it makes us sound like we made a difference by being there, and so we love stories that have us in them.  If it was a fact that people are getting smarter with each generation then we should as a species be getting progressively wiser.


But we are not. There are just as many old fools as ever there used to be.  And because some have been downright liars we now have petrified youngsters who cannot sleep at night for fear that climate is changing. That in every case it is supposed to be changing for the worse should reveal the scam that it is. Running in the dark is risque and allows the imagination to soar. Your feet are light and the wind is in your hair. You can conjure up imagined enemies that you are escaping. You can dream that by outpacing dark-dwelling demons and goblins you can be saving the world.

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