Thin on the Ground

Land Resources: Now and for the Future






363 000 people were born

154 000 died

World population increased by 209 000

Annual world population increase:
2008 77 M, 2009 80 M, 2010 78 M, 2011 76 M




Climatic change: are you being brainwashed?

Update February 2012

Again, in 2010 and 2012 there was no rise in mean global temperature. The value for 2010 was almost exactly the same as for 2003 and 2005. The value for 2011 was lower than almost every year this century. There has been absolutely no 'global warming' 2002-2011.

Throughout this period of no warming, atmospheric carbon dioxide has continued its steady rise. So there is no correlation with temperature whatever.

Has global warming come to a halt?

To listen to the media, politicians, and opinion among the general public you would think 'global warming' was proceeding apace.

But look at the data. ( Source 1 Source 2) 1998 was the world's warmest year since records began in 1850, and marks the peak in a period of warming which has been going on since 1980. Every year since then, mean global temperatures have been 0.25-0.45 C above the long-term mean.

But suppose for a moment that 1998 was the first year for which data were available. What would you see (above)?

  • 1998-2000 a fall
  • 2000-2002 a rise, although not to the 1998 level
  • 2002-2005 a period of near-constant temperatures
  • 2005-2008 a fall, every year for 3 years in a row.

Whilst the changes are so small that we cannot be confident (statistically) that cooling has taken place, there has certainly not been any further global warming.

Check the data yourself

Don't take my word for it. Nor the word of any other 'authority'. You can check out the original data, from the CRU site. You really can! Select CRUTEM3, then GL (=global mean), and take the last column, the annual mean values. Anyone who can draw a graph can see the trend for any chosen period. Teachers, get your class to do it. Then they will have found out for themselves, and not be dependent on the pronouncement of some supposedly 'eminent' scientist.

Americans don't like taking anyone else's word for scientific matters, so you can check their indempently compiled data on the NOAA site.

What about the benefits of climatic change?

The benefits? Have you heard about these? No, because it would spoil the prevailing party line to mention them.

From a British-oriented point of view, there are obvious benefits of warmer temperature. No-one wants a repeat of the bitterly cold winters common in the nineteenth century, and occurring sporadically since. The lower fuel costs of milder winters are a considerable saving. Likewise, the public would like hot summers, for leisure and sport.

But more widely, what about drought and heatwaves (or is it storms and floods?). From the broadest viewpoint, there is no reason why changes in climate should not bring about as many benefits as losses. It is, indeed, grudgingly admitted that crop growth in the cooler temperate zone might benefit from higher temperatures, and in the North American Great Plains there is evidence of this. In some regions, even the supposedly 'desertified' sahel zone of Africa, the drought constraint to plant growth has been reduced. (Source)

Increases in the global rate of plant growth

There is another striking effect. Two quite independent studies, one covering 1982-1989 and the other 1981-2003, have shown increases in global net primary production (the rate of plant growth) of 6% and 3.8% respectively. This increase is found in both hemispheres and in all continents. It covers in areas of forest, grasslands, dry zones, and crops. For this to be so widespread and continuous, the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is the most likely reason. (Source)

There is a natural checking mechanism here. Plants take up carbon dioxide and give out oxygen, so in the long run, the higher plant growth will extract more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

You are being brainwashed

The present attitude of politicians, the media, and thus necessarily most of the general public is uncomfortably reminiscent of the extremes of China's 'cultural revolution': go against the prevailing opinion, and you invite derision, disparagement or even insult. No politician dares breathe a word against the 'party line'. Only rarely does a balanced viewed get into print.

So what should be done?

First, by all means develop more efficient energy use. Fuel-saving measures, and alternative means of generating electric power, are much to be desired. This is not primarily to reduce carbon emissions, which is always given as the reason, but to conserve the world's limited reserves of fossil fuels. At least we are doing the right thing, if for the wrong reason.

Secondly, adapt. We cannot stop the climate changing, and it is a gross waste of public money to suppose we can. Adapt to changes as they become apparent. Some will be adverse, others beneficial. Adaptive investment is a far more efficient way of dealing with the inevitable climatic change.

Remember the basic truth on our previous page:

"The climate has always changed;

it will go on changing;

and nothing that politicians can do will stop it."

Anthony Young (2008)


July 2009, updated 2010, 2011 and February 2012

Update For the broader picture see Mike Hulme's book, Why we disagree about climate change". A highly condensed summary might be:

We disagree because of our differing attitudes, viewpoints, prejudices...Checking population increase will do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any other measure...If governments and people focus efforts on 'controlling climate change' we are doomed to failure. [See quote above]...So harness approaches to climate change with efforts to control other world problems, such as poverty and hunger.

But read the book yourself. Notice how Hulme, from a starting point in climatology, and Young, starting from soils and land resources, arrive at the same point: the millennium goals, to reduce hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation, cannot be achieved without checking population increase.