Northern hemisphere sea ice area
Northern hemisphere sea ice area

Christopher Booker's Notebook

By Christopher Booker
Last Updated: 6:54PM BST 18/04/2008 | Comments 12 | Have Your Say

So it appears that Arctic ice isn't vanishing after all

There was some coverage of the chaos caused in central and southern China by their heaviest snowfalls for decades - but little attention was paid to the snow that last week carpeted Jerusalem, Damascus and Amman, none of them exactly used to Dickensian Christmas card weather.

Similarly, Saudis last month expressed amazement at their heaviest snow for many years, in Afghanistan snow and freezing weather killed 120 people and large parts of the United States and Canada have been swept by unusually fierce blizzards.

Polar bears on melting ice
The biologist who took this picture says this pair were within easy swimming distance of the Alaskan coast

If the northern hemisphere's chilliest winter in a long time was bad news for the propagandists of global warming, they also had to face serious questions about some of the most iconic images used to support the claims that the world is heating up towards disaster.

Last autumn the BBC and others could scarcely contain their excitement in reporting that the Arctic ice was melting so fast there would soon be none left.

Sea ice cover had shrunk to the lowest level ever recorded. But for some reason the warmists are less keen on the latest satellite findings, reported by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the website Cryosphere Today by the University of Illinois.

This body is committed to warmist orthodoxy and contributes to the work of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Yet its graph of northern hemisphere sea ice area, which shows the ice shrinking from 13,000 million sq km to just 4 million from the start of 2007 to October, also shows it now almost back to 13 million sq km.

A second graph, "Global Ice Area", shows a similar pattern repeated every year since satellite records began in 1979; while a third, "Southern Hemisphere Ice", shows that sea ice has actually expanded in recent years, well above its 30-year mean.

Still more inconvenient was the truth about an image that has been relentlessly exploited to promote this panic over the "vanishing" Arctic ice. It is the photograph of two polar bears standing forlornly on the fast-melting remains of an iceberg which has been reproduced thousands of times to show that there will soon be no bears left (ignoring evidence that their numbers have risen recently).

Northern hemisphere sea ice area
Northern hemisphere sea ice area

Now, thanks to a Canadian journalist, Carole Williams (on, we can read the story behind this picture, which was taken in 2004 just off Alaska by a marine biologist, Amanda Byrd. As Ms Byrd is happy to point out, the bears were in no danger so close to the coast (they can swim 100 miles). She wanted a photograph more of the "wind-sculpted ice" than of the bears.

The image was copied by another member of the crew and passed on to Environment Canada. Then it was eagerly adopted by the warmist propaganda machine - above all by Al Gore, who used it to powerful effect as an emotive backdrop to his highly lucrative lectures.

"Their habitat is melting," he likes to declaim, "beautiful animals, literally being forced off the planet."

As the old joke has it, it seems those famous bears were not drowning after all, they were just waving. But the BBC is no more likely to tell us that than it was to lead the news with last week's snow in Jerusalem.

Brussels steps in - to stop a wind farm

A delightful row has blown up in Scotland over the plan to erect 181 600ft wind turbines on the Hebridean island of Lewis.

For years we have been told how this largest onshore windfarm in Britain was going to help the UK to meet its now mandatory EU target to produce 20 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2020 - even though the 200 megawatts of electricity the turbines would intermittently produce represents only a quarter of the output of a modest-sized gas-fired power station.

But the 500 million scheme, which would involve building 100 miles of new roads, has aroused vehement opposition not only from the majority of the island's inhabitants but from an array of conservation bodies, led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

They are horrified at the immense damage this vast industrial installation would do to wildlife over a huge area of specially-designated peatland, not least to Scotland's largest population of golden eagles.

Now the "Scottish government" (as it likes to call itself), which was shortly expected to give the go-ahead to this scheme, has been told by the European Commission that this would be in serious breach of various EU environmental directives.

So, on one hand, the EU exhorts us to build thousands more giant turbines, as the only way to fulfil our environmental obligations on renewable energy.

On the other, when a highly unpopular project is proposed to do just that, the EU turns round to say that this would be so environmentally damaging that, if the project goes ahead, the UK could face a colossal fine from the European Court of Justice.

If anyone suggests that, under the EU, you cannot win, who could disagree?

Tory MEP is hoist with his own canard

When smoking was banned in English pubs last July, many landlords realised that the only way to keep a good many of their customers was to install patio heaters.

As the Irish discovered when they introduced a smoking ban, the only pubs that didn't lose business were those that bought heaters, allowing smokers to continue their wicked habit in relative comfort outside. English publicans accordingly spent 85 million following suit.

But then up jumped Friends of the Earth to demand that, since these heaters give off carbon dioxide, they too should be banned. This naturally made a huge impression on the greenie Lib Dems, with the eventual result that last Thursday one of their MEPs moved a motion in the European Parliament calling on Brussels to ban patio heaters.

So imbued are MEPS with a priggish desire to save the planet that 526 voted for the ban, with only 26 against.

In a letter in next day's Daily Telegraph, a Tory MEP, Richard Ashworth, pointed out that the amount of carbon dioxide saved by banning patio heaters in the EU was only slightly less than the amount emitted every year by MEPs themselves, as they engage in the laborious farce of transferring the entire European Parliament every month from Brussels to Strasbourg.

Apart from the car, train and plane journeys of the MEPs, this involves a convoy of some 60 trucks trundling 100 miles between the two cities and back again, loaded with trunks-full of parliamentary papers.

Mr Ashworth will doubtless have won plaudits from Telegraph readers reading his letter over the marmalade, for such a telling comment.

But any who then bothered to examine the list of those 526 MEPs who supported this absurd ban might have been surprised to see among them the name of Mr Ashworth.

More articles in UK News >


1. Posted by andrew on May 06, 2008 11:22 AM

Christopher! It doesn't matter at all whether the planet is currently warming or cooling, this is strongly influenced (as you rightly said) by ocean currents, etc. What matters is that if we go on pumping CO2 and other forms of pollution at the current rate, there will be a high likelihood of almost unimaginable catastrophes such as an anoxic condition arising in the oceans. Why promote web sites put up by extremists who lack serious scientific training and thus understanding of the range of problems involved? Most of the data they tout has been discredited. Why encourage collective suicide?

2. Posted by Andrew on May 06, 2008 11:22 AM

The website Cryosphere Today that you refer to shows a clear decline of sea ice. Look at
If you can't see the trend, please consult an ophthalmologist. The polar bears' problem is they can not reach the ice, not that they can not reach the shore. There's no food for them on the shore!

3. Posted by James on May 02, 2008 01:09 PM

The global temperature has not changed for the last ten years. Let me repeat that. The worlds temperature has remained stable and unchanged, (within its seasonal variations), for the last decade. When Nigel Lawson pointed this out in his recent book he was called MISCHIEVIOUS.
Not "wrong". not "misinformed", not "ignorant", but MISCHIEVIOUS, for goodness sake! Presumably so for letting the cat out of the bag and publishing facts that the IPCC and other nincompoops wish to keep from the public.

I also note that the phrase "global warming" has been replaced by "climate change" so that the con merchants can have something to hang on and remain in business should the climate tend towards cooling, (as some now believe that it might).

4. Posted by Mr. Hugh on February 04, 2008 07:06 PM

Yes, it's been a cold winter in Equatorial locales. (Such variation is predicted by climate change models if this non-scientist remembers correctly). But, for polar bears the issue is not winter ice cover, but that in the summer! Go to the U of Illinois site and compare the end of summer (September 1) '07 vs. '97. Last summer's ice coverage appears to be about 50% less than a decade ago. Summer is the season for polar bears to venture out on the pack ice where they hunt seals and whales at their victims' breathing holes. The fact that the bears are perched on a small berg close to shore should not relieve us with the knowledge that they can swim "safely" to land. On the contrary, open water so close to shore indicates these bears will go hungry during their species' critical summer hunting season!

5. Posted by Nick on February 04, 2008 05:50 PM

Why doesn't anyone ever talk about the sun? Surely the sun has something to do with it, doesn't it? The sun is what gives this planet enough warmth to support life in the first place. Why is it always ignored in the 'Global Warming' debate? The sun must be the most powerful factor influencing the climate that there is.

6. Posted by greg hofmann on February 04, 2008 01:36 AM

Global warming is a myth. The real problem is that we are mining oil at an unprecidented rate. Recent volcanic eruptions are a result of oil companies draining the lubricating oil out of the earth's axle. If we keep removing the oil, the earth's axle will sieze on its bearings and God help us then. Be warned!

7. Posted by Pete Best on February 03, 2008 02:06 PM

Ho ho ho - another lamentable attempt to disrail climate change from a jourmalist. It is well known that as the Arctic is dark for 6 months that winter ice will recover fully before the spring and the climate models only predict summer sea ice shrinking significantly. It will be many years before winter sea ice is affected in any way. Hilarious once more. Why do the DT keep on allowing this stuff to be printed. It just gives fuel to the brainless.

8. Posted by Cllr Chris Cooke on February 03, 2008 11:49 AM

Christopher Booker here again proves the words of David Bellamy - that Global Warming is "Poppycock". What may be happening is some changing climate patterns - naturakl and nothing man has done - or could do! - about it. But in total the quantity of heat around the earth is much as it was. But just for now I'm only wondering what money grabbing schemes the authorities will dream up when they realise "Global Warming" will no longer wash and instead worry people sick with fears of "a New Ice Age", like they tried in the 1970s.

9. Posted by Father Brian on February 03, 2008 10:39 AM

Like Rog at 9:14am, I'm a non-scientist but that leads me to the opposite conclusion on so-called global warming from his. Remember that "reputable, qualified scientists" gave us thalidomide.

10. Posted by Rog on February 03, 2008 09:14 AM

Mr Booker is a treasure when he exposes the various corrupt practices, inefficiencies, incompetencies and frauds of the EU. I think he's out of his depth on the global warming issue, however. Yes, there *are* anomalies and inaccuracies in the thousands of studies of global temperatures and climate change. It would be remarkable - and suspicious - if there were not. Science doesn't claim to be 100% right, just to have a certain degree of confidence in a particular field. And thousands of reputable, qualified scientists from many different disciplines have come to the same conclusion: that, to a pretty high level of probability, there *is* manmade global warming, and it will, unless checked, cause rather unpleasant changes to the planet's habitability. There are also some reputable scientists who disagree. As a non-scientist I am persuaded that the balance of evidence is that global warming *is* under way. Funnily enough though, I don't care that much. Why? Because the planet is bent on self destruction anyway: population has gone from around a billion in 1800 to 3 Bn in 1960 and about 6.5Bn now. Anyone who thinks that the earth can support an ever-increasing weight of humanity indefinitely is living in lala land. So go on: change your light bulbs, recycle the Sunday Telegraph, cycle to work and compost the cat - just keep on having three or four children each (like Tony Blair or Al gore) and watch the world go down the tubes regardless. Shame, really: it's quite a nice planet.............

11. Posted by J.P. Fallon on February 03, 2008 02:55 AM

Thanks, Chris, for debunking that now iconic photo of the two polar bears. Perhaps the Global Warming nimrods will finally wake up and realize they have been had. I doubt it though - our role models and liberal news media need something to chunter on about, so I expect the next thing will be a return to the last decade's end-of-the-world scenario of the planet diving into another ice age. Or perhaps a life-exterminating-event such as a rogue asteroid. As for the wind farm, maybe now we might stop blighting our few remaining beauty spots with ugly and dangerous 600-foot turbines and try to find a sensible solution to the looming world energy crisis.

12. Posted by Kari Pihlaviita on February 03, 2008 12:56 AM

In Finland, the warmest January in a record history just ended and the Last winter was the shortest (only 7 weeks). This is not propaganda, this is live from snowless Helsinki.