Does Sir David King Still Believe The Drivel He Spouted in 2004?
By Paul Homewood
Antarctica is likely to be the world’s only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the Government’s chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, said last week.
He said the Earth was entering the "first hot period" for 60 million years, when there was no ice on the planet and "the rest of the globe could not sustain human life".
Professor David King was Tony Blair’s Chief Scientific Advisor between 2000 and 2007. Despite being only a chemist specialising in surface science, King convinced himself that climate change was a huge threat for the world.
He even claimed in 2004 that “climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today – more serious even than the threat of terrorism".
Shortly afterwards, the unreliable Geoffrey Lean revealed that according to King Antarctica is likely to be the world’s only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked.
When, in 2007, Channel 5 repeated this comment in the programme The Great Global Warming Swindle, King complained to OFCOM, who upheld his complaint that he had been misrepresented.
The fact that King did not object when Lean wrote his piece, one which of course supported his alarmist agenda, raises serious questions about the Professor’s scientific integrity.
The comments that Lean reported on were originally made at the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environmental Audit, on 30th March 2004.
These were his exact words:
I will not spend too much time on this, but if we look back in time for the globe we probably have to go back 55 million years before we find carbon dioxide levels as high as we are now at, and, of course, our carbon dioxide levels are still rising. Fifty-five million years ago was a time when there was no ice on the earth; the Antarctic was the most habitable place for mammals, because it was the coolest place, and the rest of the earth was rather inhabitable because it was so hot. It is estimated that it was roughly 1,000 parts per million then, and the important thing is that if we carry on business as usual we will hit 1,000 parts per million around the end of this century. So it seems to me that it is clear on a global and geological scale that climate change is the most serious problem we are faced with this century.
OK, he may not have specifically said what Lean claimed, but the implication of his statement is abundantly clear. That the levels of CO2 made the Antarctic the only habitable place 55 million years ago, and that we were rapidly heading towards the same scenario.
We need to bear in mind here that King is an experienced scientist. Furthermore, he is one who has been used to public appearances such as this one.
These were not simply the sort of throwaway comments, which a layman might have uttered. Instead, they were clearly intended to have a deliberate effect.
But this was not the only outlandish claim that King made in front of the Select Committee.
1) One such effect is that the melting of ice which contains no salt and the effect of melting the ice on the Polar caps (and, for example, the South Pole is now 40% as thick as it used to be, so we are losing a lot of that ice)
This, as anyone with a basic knowledge of the subject knows, is utter drivel.
Latest studies show that the Antarctic ice sheet is probably growing in thickness. But even back in 2004, nobody seriously suggested that 40% of it had gone.
(And this was not simply a misspeak, really meaning the North Pole, because he talks about “no salt”).
2) “One such effect is that the melting of ice which contains no salt and the effect of melting the ice on the Polar caps (and, for example, the South Pole is now 40% as thick as it used to be, so we are losing a lot of that ice) is that fresh water going into the saline water around it could affect the thermohaline current—our Gulf Stream. If it turned off the Gulf Stream we would paradoxically go into a mini-Ice Age in Europe, so our temperatures would drop by around 5 to 10C. “
This was never more than a fringe theory, and one that has been long debunked.
3) “Of course, in geological time centuries is quite sudden, so when we talk about temperatures rising to the point where the Greenland ice sheet will melt—the Greenland ice sheet has a large heat capacity which means that the process has a lot of inertia in it, so it will take some time. The ice on the Antarctic landmass is considerably bigger and would probably take about 1,000 years. The ice on the Greenland ice sheet is a more difficult one; it may take 50 to 200 years—we do not know.”
There is, and never has been, any evidence that the Greenland ice sheet could possibly all melt in 50 to 200 years.
If he had any knowledge of the subject, King would surely know that Greenland has been much warmer than now for most of the last 10000 years. During this time, the ice sheet has changed very little.
4) “I think I would turn your comment on its head, if I may. I was in India two weeks ago and I had a meeting with the Chinese here in London yesterday, and my intention in all those discussions was to say that we need North/South science and technology capacity-building in which we engage in knowledge transfer so that those countries can leapfrog into modern technologies and do not go through the development process that we went through. I think we have to understand that simply preaching to developing countries "you must cut back your emissions" is never going to work; we are simply going to get hackles up and rising, for understandable reasons. The West, as they call us, is responsible for most of the carbon dioxide emissions today; the United States is responsible for one quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, in China their emission per person (if I take the tonnes of carbon dioxide produced in China, divided by the number of people) comes to about 2 tonnes per person; the UK is at about 9 tonnes per person and the United States is 21 tonnes per person. Therefore, you can see some justification in the Chinese saying to me "Why should we tackle the problem?"
He was quite right, of course. China and India had no interest in pursuing emission reductions, because they wanted to improve the lot of their people.
What is interesting though is that China’s emissions per capita have expanded so quickly since then that they are now actually greater than in the UK.
According to CDIAC, China’s emissions of CO2 were 7.5 tonnes/carbon per head in 2014, compared to 6.5 in the UK.
Indeed, the UK only ranks at a lowly 54th on the per capital list, below countries such as Qatar, Trinidad, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Japan, South Africa, Iran and Poland.
Clearly this has nothing to do with per capita emissions, if it ever did.
5) The issue of, for example, surface transport—cars—is already a very live technological issue with the potential of hydrogen fuel cells taking over from petrol-driven engines. I think it is a very real potential and I think we can say that in 10 or 15 years’ time we will see massive penetration in the market.
That one went well didn’t it?
As Chief Scientific Advisor, it was King’s job to provide sound, fact based and objective advice to Parliament, which clearly he did not do.
All this was, of course, a long time ago, so does any of it matter now?
Well, unfortunately King now happens to be the government’s Special Representative for Climate Change, so he still has influence over climate policy.
It would be interesting to know whether he still believes the same things as he did in 2004.
It would also be revealing to know why he thinks that the UK should continue to reduce emissions, while China, with a higher per capita figure, is allowed to carry on increasing theirs until 2030.