Flat White

Net zero: a monument to delusion

1 November 2021

2:05 PM

1 November 2021

2:05 PM

World politicians are assembling at Glasgow to worship, with varying degrees of faith, the new religion symbolised by net zero. The religious shaman are the climate scientists, few of whom understand the science whose gospels they are preaching.

The message of the shamans is that industrial emissions are polluting the atmosphere with, amongst other deadly greenhouse gases, CO2. Why, may you ask, is CO2, the essential foodstuff of plants, so dangerous?

CO2, we are told, absorbs radiation from Earth and keeps our planet snuggly warm. But beware, too much CO2 (much like too many blankets, to use another common metaphor) and we will sizzle, the planet will fry. And we rapacious humans with our satanic mills are continually adding CO2 to the atmosphere. We are, apparently, the architects of our own demise.

Thus, the world comes to Glasgow seeking a consensus to decarbonise society – zet zero.

Unknowingly, the world has been misled by false gospels; the shamans are charlatans.

 True, CO2 and other greenhouses gases absorb radiation emitted from Earth’s surface. What is not mentioned is that the greenhouse gases also emit radiation, both to space and back to the surface. Greenhouse gases tend to cool the atmosphere at a rate of about 2 degrees Celsius per day. Of course, the atmosphere does not actually cool because heat and evaporation of latent energy from the surface offset the radiation loss. 

It is agreed that increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere will reduce the rate of energy loss to space. The grand shamans, the keepers of the computer models, decree that, having low heat capacity, the retained energy rapidly warms their make-believe atmospheres – and the make-believe world is claimed headed for disaster.

Hold on though, if radiation from the greenhouse gases is cooling the atmosphere at a rapid rate, then how can retention of a small quantity of radiation energy change a cooling rate of about 2oC/day to a warming rate of about 3oC/century? For having demonstrated to his acolytes that it is possible, the grandest of all grand shaman recently received a Nobel Prize.

Reality is more prosaic. Increased CO2 adds to the radiation emitted back to the surface and the surface temperature rises in response. Earth is the water planet; its surface is 70 per cent ocean, and transpiring vegetation covers much of the land. The increased back radiation to the surface is largely offset by the evaporation of latent energy.

Evaporative cooling constrains temperature rise. Imagine if you will, Earth as a giant Coolgardie safe with evaporation keeping the surface cool.

Runaway global warming and all that implies is a figment of fertile imaginations that lack scientific grounding. Computer models are not science, they are scenario builders. Science tells a different story.

If the world politicians achieve their objective in Glasgow, will the world change? Well, the planet will not be saved because it is not in danger. Not from CO2, anyway.

Governments, or at least the more gullible taken in by the false gospels, will implement national plans that claim to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. 

As reality begins to collide with ambition there will be a reassessment. Nobody, especially the shaman concocting the net zero gospel, will admit error; they will either return to their inauspicious ivory towers or discover a new bandwagon for fleeting fame.

As the public mood shifts, politicians will discover new shamans with their own gospels promising mass gratification and personal accolades. The net zero delusion will pass into history as the world finds a new perceived threat requiring ambitious government action.

William Kininmonth is a retired meteorologist from the Bureau of Meteorology who has represented Australia in intergovernmental and international fora. He is the author of Climate Change: A Natural Hazard (2004).

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