TCS Daily


Camelot's Congenial Climate

By Duane D. Freese - November 29, 2004 12:00 AM

"It's true, it's true,
The crown has made it clear
The climate must be perfect all the year."

So sings the character King Arthur in the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical Camelot. It's a mythic tale, of course, but apparently the current British royal family and its prime minister, Tony Blair, take it as a statement of reality.

Recently, Queen Elizabeth II -- whose namesake Elizabeth I put witches to death for allegedly changing climate -- pushed Blair prior to his visit with President Bush after the election to roast the president over climate change. According to The Observer in London, the Queen had become alarmed by changing weather affecting her estates at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, and Sandringham House, Norfolk). We don't know if she told Blair "July and August cannot be too hot" and worrying about summer lingering past September (that being the period when the Queen goes to Balmoral to vacation. But obviously she wants the United States to enact the Kyoto protocol with its requirements for developed nations to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases below 1990s levels.

Blair didn't make it a big point on the visit. Perhaps, Yasser Arafat's death and a possibility of resuscitating the Middle East Peace process took precedent. But that in itself is a bit of a surprise considering that David King, the world's leading global warming alarmist, is Blair's chief advisor on the issue. King, a chemist, has claimed: "In my view climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today -- more serious even than the threat of terrorism."

Blair obviously shares that alarm, as he made clear in a speech Sept. 14. In it, he said that "average global temperatures have risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius" over the last century, and that the northern hemisphere had experienced "the most drastic temperature rise for over 1,000 years." This warming, he intimated, was causing "extreme (weather) events ... becoming more frequent," such as "glaciers ... melting" and "sea ice and snow cover ... declining" and "sea levels ... rising."

He then summarized the science, which was "most certainly correct," as saying that unabated global warming would result in "catastrophic consequences." For example, winter might be forbidden well after December and cease departing on March 22nd on the dot, and summer might linger well past September in the land that once was home to Camelot.

Thus, in the next year, Blair promised to use his term as head of the Group of Eight industrial nations as a " a great opportunity to push this debate to a new and better level that, after the discord over Kyoto, offers the prospect of agreement and action."

Blair reiterated in an interview with the BBC that "we do want agreement that this is a serious issue and that we need to make progress on it. And so my ambition for the G-8 next year is that we get into a proper dialogue. ... In other words, to get a basic agreement of what the science tells us, and secondly then to start a process which will allow us to identify the means of combating it."

Agreement of the sort Blair has in mind might be difficult to come by. Just last month, for example, the underpinnings for Blair's claim that the temperature rise in the northern hemisphere in the last century was the most rapid in the last thousand years have been pretty much undermined -- in a study by a believer in anthropogenic warming.

As Andrew Revkin reported in The New York Times Oct. 5: "A new analysis has challenged the accuracy of a climate timeline showing that recent global warming is unmatched for a thousand years. That timeline, generated by stitching together hints of past temperatures embedded in tree rings, corals, ice layers and other sources, is one strut supporting the widely accepted view that the current warm spell is being caused mainly by accumulating heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe emissions."

The study by Hans von Storch demonstrated that the famous "hockey stick study" showing stable average global temperatures over the last millennia until a steep rise in the last century was flawed, and that the climate varied a lot more than the hockey stick allowed.

This comports with actual history, and with some common sense.

Consider what the climate was likely like in the fabled time of King Arthur and the Round Table. The myth is believed to have its origins in the lives of a King Arthur in the 5th and 6th Centuries A.D. This Arthur lived in a time when there were vineyards in Britain. Indeed, one reason that Caesar went to Britain in the 1st Century B.C. was to take advantage of its far more equable climate compared with Gaul.

But then things turned bad. It wasn't just the death of the good king in the battle of Camlann (crooked river) around 537 A.D. that caused Britain to enter a dark age. It was, quite literally, that things went dark for a couple years after the massive eruption of Krakatau around 535 A.D. It led to catastrophic global cooling, with two years of unceasing winter that in turn led to starvation and pestilence, and possibly the war in which the real Arthur was killed and out of which the mythological one was born. At any rate, that's something to ponder.

A few hundred years later, though, around 800 A.D., the climate warmed appreciably in what became known as the Medieval Warm Period. It was during this time that the Vikings raided Britain and set up colonies in Greenland and, possibly, as far west as Nova Scotia or Virginia, if you believe stories of lost tribes.

But climate just never stays the same. And beginning in the 13th Century, a Little Ice Age led to the Vikings' withdrawal from their far-flung settlements. The cold period featured terrible flooding from snow melts. It lasted until about the time Prince Albert first took Queen Victoria to Balmoral in 1852. With such a cold beginning, perhaps that's why Queen Elizabeth thinks things have gotten too hot for her estates.

Or, maybe, Brits just prefer things to be cold. After all, it was in periods of warmth that England was raided by Anglo-Saxons and Vikings and Normans, 1066 and all that. Meanwhile, it was during cold times England became an international seafaring power, with colonies stretching around the globe.

In any event, if the current British leaders think they can with a wave of a law produce stable, congenial temperatures, they might reconsider. Merlin's not around to enforce their decrees. And if he were, he'd probably enforce the old one during which there was little more warmth than the Brits got so used to from 1300 to the 1850s. After all, as the song says:

"What's more there's simply not,
A more congenial spot,
For happy everaftering,
Than here in Camelot."

And who, without electricity and modern heating, would ever find cold weather congenial?


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