Climate change uncertainty


Thursday, September 21, 2017

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I'm certain that we will hear it ad nauseam that Harvey and Irma, the two recent destructive hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, were caused by climate change and that they are incontestable evidence of man ravaging the planet to his own detriment.

Is this so? I doubt it.

It will also be said that these destructive hurricanes are unprecedented, because in the past there was no climate change to cause the likes of them.

Here is why I doubt. For most of man's existence there was no reliable forecasting of the weather-climate over a short period of time, and keeping records of it for us to know how the weather behaved in the past compared to today. The BBC said in its online magazine in April 2015: “There was no such thing as a weather forecast in 1854 when Fitzroy established what would later be called the Met Office. Instead, the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade was founded as a chart depot intended to reduce sailing times with better wind charts.”

Fitzroy was Admiral Robert Fitzroy of the British Navy. Called the father of meteorology, he used the recently invented telegraph to predict storms that were causing horrendous loss of life at sea. Before that, what passed for weather forecasting was superstition, conjecture and and forklore, not science.

The website, Earth Observatory, of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in the US, said recently: “Around 650 BC, the Babylonians tried to predict short-term weather changes based on the appearance of clouds and optical phenomena such as haloes. By 300 BC, Chinese astronomers had developed a calendar that divided the year into 24 festivals, each festival associated with a different type of weather.”

In light of this, all we can say with certainty is that, since climate has been around from man was created, it has been unstable and unpredictable. We can't say that there are more hurricanes and earthquakes now than in the past, and that they are more destructive. Or that forest fires are more frequent and destructive now. And we definitely can't say that the disputed severity of hurricanes now compared to the past is caused by man's behaviour.

Yet people pontificate with magisterial certainty that the activities of man are causing the climate to warm to unprecedented levels leading to destructive hurricanes, earthquakes and fires, and more of them than in the past. And if we don't radically change our way of life, the Earth will soon be uninhabitable. And further, that those who deny this pontification are to be derided and persecuted as denying incontrovertible evidence and they should be ostracised to the lunatic fringe of society.

Am I then saying that there may not be increased instability of the climate now? No. I believe, as I said before, that weather — climate over a short period — by nature is unpredictable and unstable; so possibly now, like in the past, there have been destructive earthquakes, hurricanes and fires. But I remain unconvinced that they are being caused by man, and not by nature; or maybe by what we do not want to hear: the judgement of God, as happened Old Testament.

I'm also not saying that we shouldn't be more careful in how we use the resources of the Earth? No. We should; for God gave us this planet to steward and we have a responsibility to treat it well. Its resources may not be unlimited and, who knows if the Earth continues for long some of them may run out or decrease to the point where they aren't able to meet our needs.

I'm also prepared to accept that we can ruin parts of our environment by our misuse of resources. If you fish certain areas of rivers indiscriminately the fish may just migrate away, causing a decrease of food stocks. Similarly, if you continue to extract coal from mines they will soon be exhausted.

We should behave responsibly, but not like liberals who decry the supposed destruction of the climate and order us to trammel our lifestyle, while they live in palatial mansions requiring tons of oil to heat and fly across the world in private jets which discharge reams of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

O, the hypocrisy of it all.

Ewin James is a minister and freelance journalist. He lives in Longwood, Florida. Send comments to the Observer or




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