The Zeppelin File


Global warming | Global cooling | CO2 | Computer modelling



Global warming? Donít make me laugh. For the past 10 years or more weíve been getting it in the neck from the rabid doom-mongering green hysterics, and as far as I can tell, pretty much everythingís the same as it ever was. Yes, the seasons seem to have shifted slightly. But so what?


They've done that before, and have shifted back.


Twenty five years ago we were told that an ice age was coming our way, give or take 10,000 years. Sixty years ago we were all scheduled to get vapourised in a nuclear war before the millennium. One hundred years ago London was predicted to be six feet deep in horse manure. And before that, there was death by Napoleon; death by the Spanish armada; the black death, death by English civil war; death by solar eclipse; death by Norman invader; death by Viking invader; death by Roman conqueror; and, of course, death by ordinary death.


I probably missed a few significant ďdeath bysĒ in that lot, but you get the general idea. Itís always been death by something.


This time its global warming. Supposedly, weíre all for the chop because our love affair with the internal combustion engine and industrialisation has been slow cooking the atmosphere.


Only, I donít believe a word of it.

And I donít disbelieve it either.


This kind of alarmist talk goes straight into my Zeppelin File; named not after the Whole Lotta Love rock band but the Zeppelins that raided London during the First World War and killed almost nobody (relatively speaking), but spread tremendous alarm and panic throughout the land. I use that file for all the biblical forty-days-and-forty-nights pessimism and scare stories that come down the wire these days.


The fact is, we don't know what the hell is going on, weather-wise, if anything. It might be getting warmer. It might actually be getting colder. And it might be doing a little of both, depending on where you happen to be.


But don't trust the climate computer models, because meteorology is still just too complex. NASAís been trying to figure it out since before John Glenn hit the stratosphere, and even that illustrious organisation, with its billion dollar mainframes and orbiting telescopes, canít say with any certainty that weather patterns have shifted significantly in living memory.


And remember that word "significantly".

It's significant.


Computer modelling, like any modelling, is just a representation of the facts and not the facts themselves. You can extrapolate the information in a variety of ways and directions and end up wherever you're predisposed to end up. And the output of the worldís best meteorological computers is only as good as the inputówhich is always politically charged.


"Riding our oily Triumphs, Nortons or BSAs or whatever, or using a hairdryer, or leaving an extra light burning in the garage simply isnít tantamount to creating the apocalypse."


Scientists donít live and breathe in a vacuum. They live in the same world as you and me. They arrive at their laboratories with all kinds of social and intellectual baggage and agendas. Supposedly, they look impartially at chemical and physical truths and theorise themselves into a lifetime of honest experiments and then publish the conclusions, regardless.


But it simply doesnít work that way in the big boys playground. There are corporate and government interests that need to be taken into account. And scientists (notably pure research scientists) rely on fundingóand you donít generally get much of that if all youíre trying to do is figure out why chickens cluck. Because everyone knows why chickens cluck. They cluck because theyíre chickens.




So you have to come up with a much better pitch if you want a government handout.

Investigating the chances of an asteroid slamming into the earth will help loosen up the cheque books. Studying the likelihood of a monster tsunami wiping out New York City is also bankable. A global influenza virus is always a cash card. Ditto for bird flu, mad cow disease, cholesterol, HIV and MRSA. And if you can combine them all into one huge collective scientific project, such as: The Chances of Something Killing Everyone On Earth From One Thing Or Another Sooner or Later and How To Avoid It, youíre quids in.


More pertinently, we've somehow got it into our heads that we can really alter this climate change (assuming it exists, and assuming that it really has anything to do with us). Weíve become so smug and arrogant that we think we can stand out en masse and talk to the clouds and tell them to stop warming. But no government policy is likely to make a difference, one way or the other. The world (as an eco system) is a lot bigger and more sophisticated than that. And it has a longer memory. Much longer. Systemic weather pattern changes take centuries to resolve themselves. The oceans store heat for decades. And the interaction between the sea and the sky and the rain forests and the deserts is still nobodyís business.


A single erupting volcano can undo a century of pollution control. And it isnít just the volcanoes. Thereís all that algae in the Atlantic and Pacific and elsewhere that no one has quite figured out what role it plays in the eco system. Thereís the question of the ever-shifting polar regions that grow and shrink like a bulimicís waistline. Thereís a natural sunspot cycle switching on and off every eleven years or so which can make or break the earthís weather for a generation or two. And then there are all those Chinese moving about on the other side of the world whichówho knows?ócould theoretically unbalance the planet and tip us off into the path of the next passing asteroid.


Sounds extreme?

You bet it is.


Itís all extreme predictions. The variables are enormous. The world is too complicated (and fickle) to key into a computer. The scientists are not trustworthy (not when it comes to the risk of having their funding cut). Politicians lie through their teeth. Big corporations protect their own interests and profits. And people are just afraid of change. Thatís at the heart of it.



We all want the world to be as it was, way back in the sunshine of our youth. We donít want grey in our beards. We donít want the coastline to shift (which it always has). We want the Arctic to stay bloody cold. We want the Antarctic to stay even colder. We want the deserts to stay deserts. We donít want to shift a single atom out of line in the great molecule of life. And the fear of something worse, or just different, is for most people a mental bridge too far.


Of course, it could all be true. The world really could be warming upóas measured between now and, say, two hundred and fifty years ago when the records startedówhich, on a geological timescale, is almost too small to indicate on a pie chart unless that chart is the size of, say, an average galaxy.


And global warming, like religion, is one of those things you can prove with the most specious arguments. If God canít hear the death cries of six million Jews, well, thatís just God for you. He knows best. Heís got some greater plan. And if the summer is unnaturally hot, or cold, or dry, or wet; well, thatís all global warming at work. If this happens, itís global warning. If that happens, thatís more evidence of global warming. If a piece of buttered toast falls the wrong side up, thatís probably global warming. And if you donít believe the global warming orthodoxy, youíre talking Gallilean heresy and treason and must be thickónever mind that year on year, seasonally adjusted, all things considered, life is more fulfilling and rewarding for the greater part of the human race than at any time since the cosmic clock started ticking.


And if the ice caps melt, weíll just have to adjust and move to higher ground just as people have done forever. And when things cool down again, in however many thousands or millions of years it takes, we can bitch about global cooling and wax lyrical about the good old days when Siberia was a pretty good holiday destination.


But if weíre all on our way to a fiery hell, knocking a couple of degrees off the thermostat in our living rooms isnít going to make the slightest difference, except that we're going to shiver when watching re-runs of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Riding our oily Triumphs, Nortons or BSAs or whatever, or using a hairdryer, or leaving an extra light burning in the garage simply isnít tantamount to creating the apocalypse.


The big bad carbon genie (if he exists) is already out of his bottle and heís not going back in on demand. We donít control the climate. The climate controls us. And thereís no conclusive evidence anyway that any aspect of human activity is going to raise the sea level by a single millimetre. Meanwhile, the human fear threshold is constantly hovering around the red line keeping us all on the boil and desperate for the next news fix.


See how it works?


Which is why Iím not in the slightest bit worried about CO2 emissions. These days Iím conserving energy not because Iíve got the vaguest concern about my carbon footprint. Iím conserving energy because the prices keep going up. Iím taking my holidays at home not because Iím afraid that the jet stream might get slashed to ribbons but because Iím trying hard not to export any more Sterling than is essential (and I genuinely like Clacton-on-Sea). And the reason Iím not driving my Chelsea tractor round to the shops for a pint of milk (when the shop is two hundred yards away) is because you just canít park around here anymore without running foul of the council.


In short, the future will take care of tomorrow just as it always has. And having just endured the coldest February since I can remember, Iím looking forward to seeing the mercury smash through the thermometers this summer and set some tinder ablaze.


Yes, save resources. And yes, keep an eye on the incoming tide. But keep a closer eye on the incoming news because the greater enemy is hysteria, eco-based or otherwise.


And given the choice between global cooling and global warming, Iíll take the heat any day. Just donít expect things to stay as they are, because they never do. The graph goes up, the graph goes down. And if, at this moment in time, weíre headed for the heat, then bring it on.


Iím going for a ride on my Triumph.



ó  Danny DeFazio




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