I have previously outlined some of the fundamental problems with the rationale behind net zero. There are “falsifying events” that disprove the underlying hypothesis that man-made greenhouse gases are the “prime mover” causing climate change. There are also factual observations that in themselves exonerate CO2 and methane beyond reasonable doubt.

Precisely how climate alarmists have therefore managed to get away with the canonisation of their beliefs – such that they were excused from scientific cross-examination and are now consensus – is a debate for another day. One thing is for sure, the planet’s future shouldn’t be left to the catastrophist prophets of doom.

Thankfully, there is now pushback from realists who recognise that the prognosis is the polar opposite of what the climate alarmists would have you believe. The new head of the IPCC, Jim Skea, recently (and somewhat sheepishly) declared that “the world won’t end if it warms by more than 1.5 degrees” and, even if temperatures do rise that much, it “is not an existential threat to humanity”.

This is quite a significant paradigm shift, in fact, a gigantic climbdown, and it comes from a significant watering down of the IPCC’s doomsday forecasts. Much of the arguments for drastic action come from scaremongering related to some ‘worst case’ climate modelling called RCP8.5. RCP stands for Representative Concentration Pathway (a set of scenarios for modelling future energy source usage and possible outcomes) and RCP8.5 is so off-beam from reality that even ardent believers in man-made climate change are disassociating themselves from it as fast as they can: “The subsequent use [of RCP8.5] as such represents something of a breakdown in communication between energy systems modellers and the climate modelling community”.

While RCP8.5 is not in itself a climate model (it is a scenario), it was used as the psychological ‘stick’ to beat the populace into accepting various incredibly wasteful and damaging policies. Here’s a simple analogy. People were spooked into accepting a hand-brake turn on energy policy on a false prospectus. But hand-brake turns – though a quick way to execute a U-turn – are dangerous, leave a lot of rubber on the road and run the risk of going disastrously wrong or, at the very least, creating a substantial overshoot.  

Why impose these policies at breakneck pace and huge risk when a more cautious approach is acceptable?

Even if one accepts the premise (which I do not) that emissions following the Industrial Revolution are a material cause of recent climate change, the evidential base for the proposed drastic policies that are being foisted on us has been shot down in flames. 

Not only have current climate models consistently failed to accurately forecast the future, but they also cannot tell the difference within stated margins of error between two ‘realistic’ scenarios – specifically RCP4.5 (“current policies”) and RCP2.6 (what is currently deemed “climate policy success”) – until later this century.  Furthermore, the validity of such modelling as a whole has been further questioned by a recently published paper that finds that real-world observational data indicate a “unidirectional, potentially causal link with T[emperature] as the cause and [CO2] as the effect” and that “that link is not represented in climate models, whose outputs are also examined using the same framework, resulting in a link opposite the one found when the real measurements are used”.

In layman’s terms: the climate models – written assuming that CO2 causes a rise in temperature – show this assumption in their outputs, whereas real-world observations do not show this causality. Yes, temperature and CO2 are correlated, but if you assume causality in your models, then the model output will only confirm your bias.

These are not nuances that I have heard David Attenborough or, for that matter, the Prime Minister touch on, despite Sunak’s recent promise to replace “imposition, obfuscation and ideology” with “accountability to the British public” and “consent, honesty and pragmatism”. Tacit though it was, it was still an admission that “imposition, obfuscation and ideology” have permeated both public discourse and legislation in recent years.

A panicked rush to net zero is, therefore, an orphaned policy based on a combination of unjustified fear-mongering and dodgy modelling. Worryingly, it is promoted by those who have generated obscene wealth from vested interests. Not only have the British public been promised honesty and pragmatism, but they should also demand that each and every one of the proposed measures is ruthlessly interrogated, and that the underlying justification for net zero is carefully analysed, sense-checked and properly costed.

After all, you do not have to look further than HS2 for an example of a ruinous, damaging juggernaut of a policy that should have been put out of its misery before the damage was done and the money spent.  Or consider Germany, where the current lunatics in charge of the asylum recently presided over the shutdown of its final three perfectly functioning nuclear power stations – to be replaced by electricity from coal-fired, CO2-belching furnaces – despite noting at the time that keeping them open would “would result in annual reduction of about 25-30 million tonnes of CO2 in the German electricity supply”. You will not be surprised that German newspapers had to litigate to have these unredacted papers released to the public. It makes one think, what else might the authorities be hiding?

These are not rational decisions, even if viewed through the net zero prism, flawed as that crystal is. It is time that a full discussion was had to avoid us continuing to leap from one catastrophe to another. 

Writing in these pages, Gerald Warner and I – arguing from different starting points and by no means in full agreement about everything – have set out what we see are the flaws in the fundamental premise of net zero, which on its current trajectory represents Lysenkoism at least an order of magnitude worse than the Great Leap Forward.  

On the basis that sunlight is the best disinfectant, I have spelled out a challenge to the net zero faithful – and published variations of it elsewhere – in an attempt to provide a basis for the promised “honesty and pragmatism”, and invited critique. 

So far, I have not been convinced by responses. For starters, a recent ‘defence of net zero’ from my fellow Reaction contributor Giga Watt makes a somewhat unfair judgement. The piece attempts to smear climate sceptics as “conspiracy-addled nutjobs” and “idiots”. Parading Piers Corbyn and David Icke to rubbish an argument by association is highly inappropriate when, instead, one could choose Dr John Clauser, the recipient of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics, or the late Professor Freeman Dyson, world-renowned physicist and a “force-of-nature intellect”, as poster boys of the mainstream sceptical movement.

Putting that aside, the piece fails to address the above-mentioned “falsifying events” and doesn’t explain various inconvenient observations that are fatal to the mainstream narrative. It relies on appeals to authority rooted in the consensus. Which of course, is usually worth listening to. But authority and consensus can be wrong, and in this case, it looks like it just might be. The authorities have a terrible forecasting track record and are frequently caught with their hands weighing the scales.  For example, in the 1970s, these same outfits were attempting to convince everyone that a global ice age was imminent. What changed? In the context of the last 10,000 years – noting the Medieval Warm Period (1 degree warmer, a millennium ago) and the Climatic Optimum (2.5 degrees warmer, 5-8 millennia ago), the newly reduced IPCC temperature prognosis for the end of the century is a relative triviality.  

Note also what historians have to say: the Medieval Warm Period was a time of relative plenty in the UK. Robert Tombs describes a Shakespearean “well good land”: “The population tripled in 200 years, reaching… a level not attained again until the eighteenth century…people on average were taller than in the early nineteenth century (the low point) but slightly smaller than today…this reflects diet and health throughout childhood”. He goes on to describe what happened next: “In the second half of the thirteenth century, a disastrous fall in global temperature began, whether due to a series of volcanic eruptions or changing solar activity. It caused extreme weather fluctuations and poorer harvests round the globe”.  

The inference here is that the risk is to the downside. A sudden drop in global temperatures would be catastrophic, and as Tombs points out, temperatures can – and have – fallen rapidly and disastrously, whatever today’s self-proclaimed climate ‘experts might claim. The current scientific projections of a gentle increase in temperatures by 1.5 (or even 2) degrees should elicit a shoulder shrug, an appreciation of a greening world (good for crop yields!), and some sensible contingency planning, not societal self-immolation while the rest of the world looks on, chuckling to themselves at our stupidity. As others have pointed out, it is only the West that is tossing away energy security. The poorest will suffer the most

A third line of attack is a rehash of the extreme weather claim (referred to as “attribution”), with an attempt to argue that due to an increase in extreme weather one can say that “with 100% certainty” man-made global warming is real. This is an unscientific statement straight out of the scare-mongering textbook that is contradicted by sober evidence-based analysis to the contrary. 

Even believers in man-made climate change think this. Roger Pielke Jr, the American political scientist, says: “Studies that normalise disaster losses occupy a prominent place in scientific research — they are widely published and cited, have reached conclusions that are frequently and successfully replicated and are commonly utilised in insurance and reinsurance. However, despite all this these studies are all but comprehensively ignored by the media and the scientific assessments of the IPCC and US National Climate Assessment”. (Incidentally, while I do not think that weather should be confused with climate, I would like to see some explanations for the multi-year anomalous deep-freeze cold in the Antarctic and elsewhere. It would be great if we had some reassurance that the upcoming ice age is at least a millennium away rather than a decade or so). 

If you want more evidence of the extent to which attribution is unscientifically presented, note the recent confession of a climate scientist who explains how he presented his work in an unsound fashion to ensure publication: I knew not to try to quantify key aspects other than climate change in my research because it would dilute the story that prestigious journals like Nature and its rival, Science, want to tell”.

I can categorically state that this is not how science should work. What if every scientific paper in the orbit of the so-called consensus has been biased like this? How wrong can a whole colony of lemmings be? 

So, defenders of net zero: back to the drawing board, please. You can do better than this. Open your minds, understand net zero’s inconsistencies and discrepancies, and come up with some credible rebuttals. Let’s have a grown-up debate without the mudslinging. 

Dr Alex Starling is an advisor to and non-executive director of various early-stage technology companies. Follow him on Substack (https://alexstarling77.substack.com/) and Twitter (@alexstarling77)

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