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Is climate change all a ghastly mistake? Someone please tell me

In the early days of TV in South Africa, ie the late 1970s, a programme portentously called “Is the Ice Age coming?” was screened. After watching it, and being of a naturally panicky disposition, I spent a long time afterwards worrying about our imminent freezing to death. Had I been born twenty years later, I would have been in a state about sizzling and shrivelling in the not too distant future. The Scientists had spoken, after all.

Now, frankly, I don’t know what to think. What is a layman to make of, for example, the article “And now it’s global COOLING! Record return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 60% in a year” that appeared in the UK Daily Mail on September 7? According to this, a colder-than-expected Arctic summer has left well over a million more square kilometres of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year, this coming just six years after the BBC had reported that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2013 because of global warming.

Then there is an article by Rupert Darwall, author of The Age of Global Warming – A History that appeared in the July 13 issue of The Spectator. According to him, the UK Met Office had just held a crisis meeting to discuss why they had gotten the weather “so wrong for so long”.
In September 2008, he wrote, the Met Office had “forecast a trend of mild winters: the following winter turned out to be the coldest for a decade”. With regard to its ominously warning of the “barbecue summer” that was supposed to follow, a season of “unrelenting rain” ensued. Last year, it forecast a “drier than average” spring. What Britons received instead was “another historic deluge that was accompanied by the coldest temperatures for 50 years”.

Darwell’s explanation for this disastrous record is that the Met Office has allowed itself to become “a propagandist for global warming alarmism”, with the result that its predictions have been consistently scuppered by its reliance on climate scientists’ assumptions about global warming. In short, he writes, the Met Office had “become an accomplice to a climate change agenda that now affects where and how we travel, the way houses are built, the lights we read by”. At the bottom of it all was the culpability of global warming scientists themselves for having “abandoned science as the disinterested pursuit of knowledge to become political cheerleaders”.

It would be quite easy to dig up and quote from similar articles purporting to demonstrate that the climate change is a gigantic fallacy that is now inevitably unravelling in the face of undeniable evidence to contradict it. However, go to Wikipedia, which can always be relied upon to present the Establishment point of view, and the first thing you will read is “In the scientific literature, there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused primarily by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. No scientific body of national or international standing disagrees with this view … disputes over the key scientific facts of global warming are now more prevalent in the popular media than in the scientific literature, where such issues are treated as resolved … ”

That’s just — forgive the execrable pun — the tip of the iceberg. The overwhelming thrust of both the scientific and popular literature will essentially tell you the same thing. So what is one to make of it all? Anyone even superficially familiar with the history of science will know that far from the majority view always being the right one, it is the minority viewpoint that time and again has emerged on top.

The stakes are incredibly high: If the Climate Change Affirmers are right, then it is crucial to take drastic action today (no matter how massive the expense might be) to ensure our future survival. If the Deniers have read things correctly, then our collective prospects are being torpedoed by pseudo-scientific panic-mongering that threatens to lead to perhaps the greatest squandering of human resources and potential in history.

While I fully acknowledge being a complete novice in the area, if you put a gun to my head and forced me to take sides, I’d probably put myself in the Sceptics camp. There is something a little too pat and categorical about the way the establishment has gone about dismissing challenges to its notions, and I also suspect that having gone out too far on a shaky limb, the all-too-human response of most academics involved in the field will be to close ranks and defend their theories to the last come what may.

What if Climate Change does turn out to be essentially accurate? In that case, I have a theory regarding how at least one of the envisaged disasters to the planet can be offset, namely rising sea levels. Just off the Egyptian coast, in the largely uninhabited Western Desert, is an enormous area below sea level known as the Qattara Depression. Would it not be possible to cut a channel to it from the sea and create a large off-shore lake, thereby syphoning off the extra ocean volume caused by the melting ice caps? I really don’t see why it shouldn’t work. If anyone can explain why it would not, I’d love to hear from them.


  • David Saks has worked for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) since April 1997, and is currently its associate director. Over the years, he has written extensively on aspects of South African history, Judaism and the Middle East for local and international newspapers and journals. David has an MA in history from Rhodes University. Prior to joining the SAJBD, he was curator -- history at MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg. He is editor of the journal Jewish Affairs, appears regularly on local radio discussing Jewish and Middle East subjects and is a contributor to various Jewish publications.


  1. Stephen Browne Stephen Browne 12 September 2013

    I find myself in a similar position i.e. ignorant by all accounts, but a little disconcerted by the increasing thumpin’ and decreasing honest debate by those in favour of (human-driven) climate change being a real thing.

    Whatever the actual answer is, I have my popcorn in hand, eagerly awaiting the incoming mud-slinging.

  2. Lee Hall Lee Hall 12 September 2013

    Excellent article – many thanks! To answer your question, climate change has been around as long as the planet has, and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. The question is really whether the present cycle of (apparent) change is natural or anthropogenic. I say apparent because – statistically – no trend currently exists; the data all lie within the noise level, notwithstanding the efforts of Michael Mann et al to prove otherwise.

    As you so rightly point out, the economic implications of climate change are colossal, and following the money has always been very good advice to those who want to know what is really going on. The really inconvenient truth is that people like Al Gore have made vast fortunes out of carbon trading – which after all just shifts the blame without really doing anything for the planet. ‘Global Warming’ – a potential misnomer indeed – is a convenient political stick with which to beat people into doing things in ways which they would never otherwise consider. Not that we as a race don’t desperately need to clean up our pollution/consumption act – but basing motivation for that on dishonest ‘science’ is perhaps not the best way to proceed.

    The pro-anthropogenic lobby may not be in as overwhelming majority as it appears. What is unarguable is that they are far more vociferous and get much more exposure than the sceptics. They also use emotive terms like ‘denialist’ – which makes them sound more like religious fanatics than serious…

  3. Call for Honesty Call for Honesty 12 September 2013

    The one point that makes me most sceptical about the claims of those pushing the Global Warming threat is the money trail. I cannot believe people who stand to gain huge fortunes through pushing this agenda and convincing the richest governments in the world to pay up. If there were no financial benefits to these people then I would believe they may be honest. We also have no reliable data to show that spending huge sums of money will in fact make any significant change in the climate. Would it not be much wiser to use this money to adapt to the climate change when it becomes a reality – whether warmer or cooler?

  4. David David 12 September 2013

    It’s now almost 20 years since global temperatures stabilised. This is according to the UN’s own IPCC figures. This despite an increase in C02 levels – the air we all breathe out! All the doom and gloom forecasts of the alarmist brigade have failed to materialise. Even die hard alarmists are having to admit that global warming is just not happening as their dodgy computer models forecast. Here’s what some of them had to say:
    Hans von Storch, a professor at the Meteorological Institute of the University of Hamburg and a respected climate scientist, who was adamant that C02 was causing global warming had this to say in an interview with Spiegel OnLine (June 20), Von Storch agreed that carbon dioxide emissions have risen ever more steeply. “The increase (in temperatures) over the last 15 years was just 0.06 degrees Celsius — a value very close to zero. This is a serious scientific problem that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will have to confront.”

    Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the railroad engineer who for some reason chairs the IPCC’s climate “science” panel, has been compelled to admit there has been no global warming for 17 years.
    The Hadley Centre/CRU records show no warming for 18 years (v.3) or 19 years (v.4), and the RSS satellite dataset shows no warming for 23 years (h/t to Werner Brozek for determining these values).
    Quotes from other “alarmist scientists”:

    Dr. Phil Jones – CRU emails – 5th July, 2005
    “The scientific community would come down…

  5. Yaj Yaj 12 September 2013

    There is a concept known as the precautionary principle which means that, essentially, based on the balance of evidence currently available, we have to act proactively an decisively especially when the actions required are not destructive and may indeed be beneficial from a sustainability point of view with regard to the issue of the depletion of finite resources.
    Endless/compound/exponential growth on a finite planet is neither possible nor desirable. We have to shift away from the perpetual growth paradigm and transition to a steady-state economy, dynamic but a balanced state of equilibrium. However, to achieve this we require fundamental monetary reform of our debt-based money system of fractional reserve banking and compound interest to one based on public debt-free credit and 100%reserve banking.

  6. Yaj Yaj 12 September 2013

    It is very difficult to address the possibility of climate change or rapidly depleting finite resources without changing the way money works and therefore how the economy functions. Monetary and banking reform in a fundamental way is absolutely essential.
    The end of cheap oil , the lifeblood of our modern industrial economies hitherto , is one of the underlying causes of the global financial crisis of 2008 and is a major constraint to future economic growth and therefore a major impediment to recovery from this depression on a global basis.

  7. David David 12 September 2013

    Dr. Phil Jones – CRU emails – 5th July, 2005
    “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has!

    Dr. Phil Jones – CRU emails – 7th May, 2009
    ‘Bottom line: the ‘no upward trend’ has to continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.’
    (It has now been almost 20 years!!)
    Dr. Mojib Latif – Spiegel – 19th November 2009
    “At present, however, the warming is taking a break,”…….”There can be no argument about that,”

    Dr. Phil Jones – BBC – 13th February 2010
    [Q] B – “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming”
    [A] “Yes.
    Dr. Robert K. Kaufmann – PNAS – 2nd June 2011
    “… has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008…..”
    Dr. Gerald A. Meehl – Nature Climate Change – 18th September 2011
    “There have been decades, such as 2000–2009, when the observed globally averaged surface-temperature time series shows little increase or even a slightly negative trend
    Dr. James Hansen – The Economist – 30th March 2013
    “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.” .
    Given the lack of global warming, introducing a “carbon tax” would appear to be not only unjustifiable but bordering on criminal. South African’s already are charged a carbon tax on new vehicles, non of which is used for any environmental purpose, but goes straight into the ANC gravy train. I trust new vehicle owners will…

  8. Momma Cyndi Momma Cyndi 12 September 2013

    If it makes humans kinder to Mother Nature, I’m willing to go along with the charade. Truth be told, the unpronounceable volcano which erupted in Iceland a few years back, put more ‘greenhouse gases’ into the atmosphere in three days than man has in the last 50 years. We also have proof that CO2 levels have been higher during history.

    The one theory that does fascinate me is the polar swap one. Are we really overdue for one and, if so, what exotic flowers will we see in the Sahara?

  9. Peter Win Peter Win 12 September 2013

    I can’t agree. Take a look at the global temperature figures published by the EPA :

    If these figures are correct, then there is certainly a growing trend upwards, which cannot be good. Irrespective of whether this is going to lead to massive natural disaster, the mere fact that people consider the environment, reduce CO2 emissions and look for alternatives has to be good for the quality of life of all of us.

    There’s no doubt that people – and unbridled development – have had a huge and deleterious impact on ecology. It is time to redress the situation.

  10. mmmm mmmm 12 September 2013

    yes it is.

    pollution and the end of the buffering capacity of soils, oceans, rivers to absorb our muck is not a myth however.

    our “civilisation” is absolutely hammering the land and waters.

    meanwhile the greenie scientists continue to get junkets and build bigger institutes and earn more and send their kids to fancy schools…. money that would be well directed away from govt to the private sector to solve some of these issues

  11. Baz Baz 13 September 2013

    Yes , agree. Interesting article. We are heading for more gobal warming.
    Also seasons are changing gradually and one can’t pin point the exact months,so to speak. Very clearly the build up of toxic waste over the years throughout the gobal continent. We ,however, have ignored the signs, and the evident birth pains of climate change has ignited with very little attention to it’s consequences.
    Less air pollution in industrail areas, air travel, public transport universally BECOME more user friendly, bringing a reduction of transport (vechicles ) to a mininmum would
    radicate the current volumes of emmissions into our atmosphere.

  12. proactive proactive 13 September 2013

    While most of us remain confused and uncertain by all these opposing scientific reports about global climate change and its possible consequences- our immediate concern should rather be focused on our local environmental impact and its varied damages to nature due to:

    urban sprawl, failing municipal capacities- particular in human waste disposals, over and illegal mining in many areas (Mpumalanga) without ‘effective measures’ of protection for the surrounding communities and failures by authorities to enforce liability and demand prevention and immediate rectifications to the damaged environment, like e.g. widespread water pollution.

    The ever increasing heavy road traffic and reconstruction demands of damaged roads instead of building new rail links, acid rain, smog and dust creation mainly by Eskom’s water thirsty coal fired power stations and the issuing of water permits by government being already larger than the natural flow capacity of its rivers!

    Those who are able to observe and can compare e.g. the Olifants river present water flow or lack of flow (it stopped to flow for 78 days/year already)- to its past capacity- by looking down from the Olifants Rest camp in the Kruger Park- should become very, very worried indeed!

    Take some time & check it out on the web- using various reports! This is no fiction!
    Melissa Wray is a vivid reporter on such issues.

  13. Enough Said Enough Said 13 September 2013

    “[There is a] willingness to sacrifice large numbers of people in the way we respond to climate change – we are already showing a brutality in the face of climate change that I find really chilling. I don’t think we have the language to even describe [geoengineering], because we are with full knowledge deciding to allow cultures to die, to allow peoples to disappear. We have the ability to stop and we’re choosing not to. So I think the profound immorality and violence of that decision is not reflected in the language that we have. You see that we have these climate conventions where the African delegates are using words like “genocide,” and the European and North American delegates get very upset and defensive about this. The truth is that the UN definition of genocide is that it is the deliberate act to disappear and displace people. What the delegates representing the North are saying is that we are not doing this because we want you to disappear; we are doing this because we don’t care essentially. We don’t care if you disappear if we continue business-as-usual. That’s a side effect of collateral damage. Well, to the people that are actually facing the disappearance it doesn’t make a difference whether there is malice to it because it still could be prevented. And we’re choosing not to prevent it. I feel one of the crises that we’re facing is a crisis of language. We are not speaking about this with the language of…

  14. Phase Change Phase Change 13 September 2013

    A quick scan of the deniers and warmers responses shows an interesting shift. The warmers now seem to be on the defensive. A number of their responses seem to say… “even if there hasn’t been any warming for quite a while, we still should be good stewards of the planet, because we know damage is being done. This is a marked shift from the prior view of “the sky will fall because this is a documented, scientifically proven problem”. It seems like those who have faith in man made change, totally regarded the quotes of their own high priests, which are extremely well documented in the article. The EPA has a chart that show warming, therefore it is so. Of course their chart will show warming, their head has already said publicly that she will not have anyone with different opinions on her staff.

    Well here are the facts, as well documented in this article: True, objective science (looking at the numbers) no longer supports man made, or any other kind of global warming. The models that predicted this disaster were, and still are, based on TOTALLY inaccurate assumptions. The icebergs, regardless of Al Gores propaganda, or Hollywood’s push, are not disappearing. But the open minded people that have been brainwashed by the media, because they feel good about saving the planet, and have little regards for the facts.

    Generally speaking, the best indicator of what will happen in the future, is what has been happening most recently in the past. It has not been…

  15. Gerhard Gerhard 13 September 2013

    I can´t help but think of a cartoon I saw recently: “What if climate change turns out to be a hoax, and we have created a better, cleaner, less degraded, greener world for nothing?” Realitiy is that much of climate change adaptation and mitigation actually helps the world become a better place anyway!

    The UK Daily Mail is about the least reliable UK paper to quote in any serious conversation – it is widely known as tabloid sensationalist – hidden by a slightly more formal look than other tabloids.
    If you talk to rural communities especially in less hospitable areas like high mountains, desert edges etc. they don´t even need scientific models to realize that their rainy season is less predictable, water is scarcer etc. than ever before (I recently did a survey for a Masters study asking that).

    Climate change is real and the evidence is piling up (the major new IPCCC report will finally be out in the next weeks, replacing the now old 2007 report and there is no indication that predictions will be lowered) and we would be really stupid to simply ignore this. Some things might take longer than expected and the scientists surely get a lot of details wrong, but to really think that a tiny minority will be right on this issue is really a bit naive and caused media framing: the tiny number of (mostly discredited) dissenters get disproportionate media attention far beyond the Daily Mail.

  16. Call for Honesty Call for Honesty 14 September 2013

    I wonder why not a single AGW advocate blogging here has been prepared to argue with any of the points I have made above?

  17. Julian Frost Julian Frost 14 September 2013

    @Call for Honesty (yeah right!):
    “I wonder why not a single AGW advocate blogging here has been prepared to argue with any of the points I have made above?”
    Because your points are full of it. Oh, and here’s a takedown.
    “The one point that makes me most sceptical about the claims of those pushing the Global Warming threat is the money trail.”
    What money trail? You’ve presented no evidence.

    “I cannot believe people who stand to gain huge fortunes through pushing this agenda and convincing the richest governments in the world to pay up.”
    Are you serious? Oil companies have financed “climate sceptic” organisations. Also, again, how do these people “stand to gain huge fortunes” from this?

    “If there were no financial benefits to these people then I would believe they may be honest.”
    Pot, Kettle, Black. And once again, stump up the evidence of financial gain by those “pushing” the “AGW Line”.

    “We also have no reliable data to show that spending huge sums of money will in fact make any significant change in the climate.”
    Riiight. Making fuel efficiency in vehicles a priority and using electricity generated from renewable resources (not coal) won’t be enough. Oh wait.

    “Would it not be much wiser to use this money to adapt to the climate change when it becomes a reality – whether warmer or cooler?”
    Prevention is better than cure. And it is becoming a reality.

  18. Frank Frank 15 September 2013

    Dear David Saks – its not too difficult to get a balanced view on this issue, but then you would not have the basis for an article in the M and G. Here are some quick thoughts; 1) We have no credible explanation except greenhouse gases for the observed enhanced warming in both the ocean and atmosphere since at least the 1950’s, which is at least twice that expected due to natural causes alone (ie greenhouse gases are not the sole explanation!) 2) The warming trend since the industrial revolution began has always progressed in a series of steps and pauses (see for the “Elevator” explanation). This is likely due to heat being chanelled into the ocean (think about what happens when you warm a kettle – it starts making that rushing sound, then quietens again as the energy is redistributed due to water circulation, then goes again and then boils). 3) The ocean has already absorbed significantly more (ie several times more) heat than the atmosphere has, and small changes in the rate of absorption and recirculation of this vast amount of energy can make a big difference to the heat in the much smaller atmospheric reservoir. 4) the global atmospheric temperature has not cooled despite the fact that we have had a naturally cooler la Nina weather phase and a sun in a relatively cool state for some years. 1998 was a massive el nino, and despite this, we have not dropped much below that level, especially in southern hemisphere (ie where we live, mate).

  19. Gerald Wilhite Gerald Wilhite 16 September 2013

    Ms. Klein,

    As of today the global warming fraud is unraveling at internet speed. I look forward to your reflections on being so thoroughly suckered by true deniers, who have been intentionally lying to us all.

    Help us find out who what is behind the curtain of monumental pseudo-scientific scam.
    As for your reference to the poor being hurt by the deniers …. well, you can count the bodies better than I can.

  20. The Praetor The Praetor 16 September 2013

    I have a theory…

    It is that from time to time someone dreams up a story that sends the world into panic. Other than financial gain, I cannot imagine why this could be.

    A case in point is the Y2K bug that was supposed to send all computers crashing by the stroke of midnight and onset the year 2000. This idea was spun to the world, in the media 24 hours a day. Business and private individuals went into a frenzy to buy the Y2K patches which was suddenly designed as the only way to save your data. I can only imagine that billions were spent on these ‘patches’.

    I was a bit skeptical about this matter, and at the risk of losing the data on my computer I decided to to risk it…Midnight at the slotted time came and went, and there my data was perfectly safe. Not one word was breathed about the epic failure of the Y2K bug after.

    About global warming…I can recall a story that sent the media abuzz, about a certain academic, whose e-mails was supposedly hacked, speaking about nuclear-powered heaters being installed at the poles by some nefarious group…I thought this was just plain ridiculous, but some people gave a lot of credence to this story, which after a while also just fell from the radar, never to be heard of again.

    So I have my doubts about the global warming theory as well.

    The Praetor

  21. Momma Cyndi Momma Cyndi 16 September 2013


    It snowed in Pretoria last year
    I have never been so traumatised!

  22. Frank Frank 16 September 2013

    Momma Cyndi
    It snowed in Pretoria – yes? Well the theory does no preclude extreme events happening on both the cold and warm side of the probability curve. What you need to look at is the overall pattern of change. In this regard, there are far more high temperature records being set than low temperature records around the world. That is the balance of evidence, and what the theory predicts. You can of course choose to ignore the overall pattern and decide that a single event is more important to form your opinion, but I dont think that is particularly wise.

  23. Frank Frank 16 September 2013

    The Praetor:

    “Not one word was breathed about the epic failure of the Y2K bug after.” Really? I recall plenty being talked about the y2k bug non-event. Google it why don’t you. As for nuclear powered heaters, are you serious? You’re not mixing this up with the Michael Crichton pseudo-science novel “State of Fear”? Which is pure fiction? Actually it amazes me what people will believe based on an interesting sounding idea, vs what they refuse to believe based on thousands of (boring) carefully analysed records. Extraordinary, but there you go!

  24. Frank Frank 16 September 2013

    Gerald Wilhite – have you actually looked at a single IPCC report (they’re downloadable), or do you take what you are fed at face value?

  25. Frank Frank 16 September 2013

    Phase change:

    “True, objective science (looking at the numbers) no longer supports man made, or any other kind of global warming.” You simply cannot be aware of the trends, and yet you are convinced of this. Extraordinary how ideological bias works.

    “The models that predicted this disaster were, and still are, based on TOTALLY inaccurate assumptions.” What disaster? the climate models project a gradual warming trend, no disaster? The base “assumption” is that CO2 is a greenhouse gases absorb infra red radiation – actually a scientific fact.

    “The icebergs, regardless of Al Gores propaganda, or Hollywood’s push, are not disappearing.” So you are simply regurgitating what you have read in support of your ideology. “the icebergs”, lol. Why not check out

    I’m still amazed by how easily people will be led by the nose and not actually do the work needed to inform a strong opinion. oh well.

  26. St John St John 16 September 2013

    Human caused climate change from burning fossil fuels is going to murder more people that Hitler ever did. Is that a good thing?

  27. DeeGee DeeGee 17 September 2013

    I watched a very interesting documentary on the BBC a few years back on global dimming. That could account for the temperature decreases (if indeed they have decreased).

  28. Momma Cyndi Momma Cyndi 18 September 2013


    ?? so it is warming with some cooling and drought with some heavy rain ??
    Sounds like the same thing weather has been doing since time immemorial.

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  30. Jessia Ann Levandowski Jessia Ann Levandowski 9 October 2013

    There is an amazing article up on AlterNet – please go read the full article.
    • It’s happening and we’re doing it: This report concludes that the earth is unequivocally changing, and the evidence is clear that humans have a large role in how it has changed over the last 60 years.
    • 95-100 percent certain: Each of the IPCC’s last five big reports found that climate science has gotten increasingly certain that the planet is warming, and humans are the main cause. Scientists have a 95-100 percent certainty (“extremely likely”) that humans are causing temperatures to rise. Directly from the report: “It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.” The report in 2001 was 66 percent certain, and the 2007 report was 90 percent certain. Scientific conclusions that cigarettes are deadly and that the universe is about 13.8 billion years old have similar levels of certainty.

  31. Kyle Kyle 4 November 2014

    As a consumer, it seems prices only ever go up fast (and come down slowly), but I’m sure that there are good reasons for this (at least I hope
    there are). For example, paraffin, a common refined oil component,
    causes refined oils to thicken and flow poorly in cold temperatures.
    This can be especially beneficial to the younger generation, as many of their “first cars” burn through oil more quickly than newer
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