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Does Sir David King Still Believe The Drivel He Spouted in 2004?

April 19, 2017

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".–literally-561947.html


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.


Sir David King at Launch of Human Dynamics of Climate Change map crop.jpg

David King

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The comments that Lean reported on were originally made at the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environmental Audit, on 30th March 2004.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.

For instance:


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.

  1. Broadlands permalink
    April 19, 2017 3:29 pm

    Nature 461, 1110-1113 (22 October 2009)…
    Atmospheric carbon dioxide through the Eocene–Oligocene climate transition
    Paul N. Pearson, Gavin L. Foster, Bridget S. Wade

    Geological and geochemical evidence indicates that the Antarctic ice sheet formed during the Eocene–Oligocene transition 33.5–34.0 million years ago. Modelling studies suggest that such ice-sheet formation might have been triggered when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels fell below a critical threshold of ~750 p.p.m.v.

    During maximum ice-sheet growth, pCO2 was between 450 and 1,500 p.p.m.v., with a central estimate of 760 p.p.m.v.

    “We also find a sharp pCO2 atm increase after maximum ice growth as the global carbon cycle adjusted to the presence of a large ice cap.”

    This period in earth history serves to illustrate that large and rapid increases in atmospheric CO2 have taken place w/o the burning of coal and oil or deforestation. The late Eocene and early Oligocene were periods of luxuriant plant growth in an equable climate at CO2 levels double what they are today.

  2. April 19, 2017 3:30 pm

    Please ask him directly!

  3. martinbrumby permalink
    April 19, 2017 4:25 pm

    Please note that, in my considered view, the Professor was not unfortunately appointed as the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor but turned out to be an eejit and talk drivel, much to everyone’s surprise.
    That cannot be the case because it would be very bad luck indeed if every advisor the Government appoints turned out to be an eejit. Which is (with exceedingly few exceptions) precisely the case.
    He was appointed specifically because our Beloved Leaders want and require their Expert Scientific Advisors to talk drivel.
    If they are incapable of farting and chewing gum simultaneously, they will be put on a higher grade!

  4. AlecM permalink
    April 19, 2017 5:26 pm

    David King is an angry, arrogant bar-steward. But he was a professor at Oxford where such behaviour is the norm. Cambridge is a bit less ostentatious, but not much.

    The fact is, no-one who does an engineering thermodynamic analysis accepts King’s claims. He is a loon with little credibility.

    • April 21, 2017 6:28 am

      Still a professor, at any rate emeritus, and Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford, not to mention a Fellow of my own college, it is mortifying to acknowledge. Whilst he may lack credibility amongst real experts/authentic scientists, it is not true to say that he lacks credibility. His continuing influence is enormous and malign, qv his appointment as the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change.

      Like Al Gore, Michael Mann and others he continues to enrich himself on a rich diet of unsupported assertion and outright mendacity.

  5. Tom Dowter permalink
    April 19, 2017 5:32 pm

    No, David King is not a climate scientist. Does this matter? I suspect that most of the contributors to this blog are not climate scientists either.

    What matters is whether or not DK has examined the evidence in the true spirit of scientific inquiry, I suspect that he hasn’t.

    • AlecM permalink
      April 19, 2017 5:39 pm

      King is a physical chemist, expert in catalysis, who jumped aboard climate alchemy when it was recruiting fast. Consequently he seemed good at the time. However, he wasn’t.

      • AlecM permalink
        April 19, 2017 5:42 pm

        Furthermore most climate alchemists do not know basic thermodynamics and teach it badly, so no-one picked him up.

      • Broadlands permalink
        April 19, 2017 6:42 pm

        Sounds like NASA’s chief physicist… Start a new movement in 1987 (after the “global cooling” frenzy died down) and ride it to the top with bamboozled “policy makers” following and providing lots of $$$. Then tell us all that we must take CO2 back to 1987… 350 ppm to save the planet… and his retirement check?

      • April 19, 2017 10:49 pm

        Broadlands April 19, 2017 6:42 pm

        “Sounds like NASA’s chief physicist… Start a new movement in 1987 (after the “global cooling” frenzy died down) and ride it to the top with bamboozled “policy makers” following and providing lots of $$$. Then tell us all that we must take CO2 back to 1987… 350 ppm to save the planet… and his retirement check?”

        Such true history! Do not forget his buddy in gas investment AlGore! Together their ‘good business plan to put the competitor king coal out of the picture’ almost\did work! All then stolen by greenies, then re-stolen by the even more viscous entities for “new world order”!
        All the best! -will-

    • Gerry, England permalink
      April 20, 2017 12:45 pm

      The Warmists are the ones who say you need to be a climate ‘scientist’ to speak on the subject so how does he get away with it? How did a railway engineer / sexual harasser get to be in charge of the IPCC? Appliance of rule number one of socialism – hypocrisy – is how it works,

  6. Graeme No.3 permalink
    April 19, 2017 7:57 pm

    “the unreliable Geoffrey Lean” ?? I always found him, on the few occasions I read him in The Telegraph, to be completely reliable if you wanted to ignore facts, science and common sense and be told what to believe if you were a brainwashed little Greenie.

  7. April 19, 2017 9:34 pm

    Video : Climate Change: Risk & Energy Future Analysis: Prof Sir David King (February 2017)

  8. John F. Hultquist permalink
    April 19, 2017 9:50 pm

    … very live technological issue with the potential of hydrogen fuel cells taking over from petrol-driven engines …</em"

    Some dozen years ago, General Motors was working on a future car-series platform using hydrogen fuel-cells. The idea was to make the fuel-cell a slide-in – slide-out module. I think Tesla more recently got credit for this concept but hasn't delivered that in a battery package either.
    One of the fancy magazines (SciAm ?) had a multipage article on GM's "plan" and would have gotten the basics from the GM design and PR teams. Part of the push was to reduce foreign oil imports.
    Both Honda (Clarity) and Toyota (Marai) are possible fuel-cell autos (with other power also) but the numbers produced are smaller than a gnat's behind.

    Your Mr. King may have been aware of the plans of these big corporations.
    He may be "an experienced scientist" but not likely one that has tried to work with Hydrogen, and not one that has any common and practical sense.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      April 20, 2017 3:32 am

      Many years ago when computers “read” holes punched on cards, if a hole wasn’t the expected/correct thing the deck of cards would be returned with a note from the operator saying to correct your mistakes and resubmit.
      Now, many decades later, the computer technology ignores the obvious and prints the material in a manner any 10 year old would know is wrong.
      Thus, for want of an angle bracket the entire thing is printed as italics.

  9. richard verney permalink
    April 20, 2017 9:58 am

    Is this the same chief scientific advisor who was behind the diesel car fiasco? Says it all really, doesn’t it?

    He talks about 55 billion years ago. I wonder whether he has heard of the time of the dinosaurs; a time when the world was hot and life flourished. In fact conditions were so benign and bountiful that creatures were able to grow very big indeed; even insects.

    It is no coincident that all the large land animals are today found in warm climates, and no coincidence that the places where there is the greatest biodiversity is in warm (and wet) tropical rain forests.

    By comparison in cold climates eg., the Arctic there are no large animals (the polar bears are only able to survive since they feed off the sea, not off the land) and the strategy of animals living in these cold climes is to migrate south, if possible, and if not, to hibernate so as not to face the harshness of the winter. Many animals spend half their life in a catatonic near death state hoping to wake up when the winter is over, but for many they never do. For many animals, when the sun sets in the autumn, that is the last time they see daylight.

    The position in Antarctica is even worse, there is all but no life, apart from bacteria.

    The man obviously has no understanding of this planet, or life on Earth. It paints a damning picture of education in the UK.

  10. dennisambler permalink
    April 20, 2017 11:10 am

    He was brought in by Tony Blair to ramp up the ante, prior to the Exeter Conference on Dangerous Climate Change in 2005. Benny Peiser was there:

    “I have just returned from the most depressing conference I have ever attended. After two days of relentless barrage of doom and gloom predictions at the Met Office conference on “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change” (), I decided that enough is enough.

    “The unmitigated exposure to prophecies of imminent ice ages, looming hell fire, mass starvation, mega-droughts, global epidemics and mass extinction is an experience I would not recommend to anyone with a thin-skinned disposition (although the news media couldn’t get enough of it). But such was the spectacle of pending disaster that anyone who dared – or was allowed – to question whether the sky is really about to fall on us (and there were at least half a dozen of moderate anti-alarmists present), was branded a “usual suspect”, a slur hurled against Andrei Illarionov (Putin’s economic adviser) by the IPCC’s Martin Parry.”

  11. April 20, 2017 11:12 am

    You state above: “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.”

    At this time in history, “scientific” and “integrity” should only appear in a sentence together if preceded by “lack of”.

  12. April 20, 2017 1:30 pm

    The lack of accountability for outlandish past statements is appalling. …in the field of Climate Science it is celebrated as integrity.

  13. Vernon E permalink
    April 20, 2017 3:47 pm

    It is widely reported that during the so-called carboniferous age (ca 300 – 400 million years ago) atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached over 3000 ppm and averaged 800 ppm over millions of years. This statistic is physically supported by the huge forest growths that became today’s coalfields. Is all this data wrong?

  14. April 21, 2017 6:09 am

    The real question is did King ever believe the nonsense. Or did/do any of them? I contend that it is quite impossible – outside the realms of religion or lunacy. So, what’s the explanation? The answer is that, for both individuals and institutions (especially academia), it is easiest way to pad the bank balance.

    In passing, that also explains much about religion.

  15. Derek Colman permalink
    April 22, 2017 12:11 am

    Here we have a prime example that scientists are just as human as anyone else. They are just as likely as the next man to have irrational beliefs which over rule what their training tells them. Just as in medicine there is a percentage of doctors who believe in homeopathy, so in climate science there is a percentage of scientists who believe in catastrophic global warming.

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