Indian scientist demolishes Archbishop Welby’s climate alarmism as ‘disastrous’ for India’s poor
A Bangalore-based climate scientist has challenged the Archbishop of Canterbury’s lecture on climate change at the United Theological College in Bangalore, calling Justin Welby’s trip to India a “climate crusade” that is “dangerous and perilous to the people of India.”
In an exclusive interview with Rebel Priest media, Vijay Jayaraj, who has worked for scientists publishing the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said that Archbishop Welby’s “climate alarmism” would have “disastrous consequences” for India’s poor.
Jayaraj, who worked on numerous international assignments, including the Climate Resilience plan for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), called Welby a “brand ambassador of the climate crisis movement,” observing that contrary’s to the archbishop’s claims, “India’s agricultural output is at an all-time record high.”
“There is no climate emergency,” the scientist, who has been at the helm of environmental projects in Portugal, Japan, Norwich, London and Mumbai, said in response to Welby’s climate apocalypticism.
“The only climate emergency that humans encountered in the past 2000 years was during the Little Ice Age in the 16th century that froze parts of northern hemisphere, including the Thames that is not far from archbishop’s office in London,” he noted.
Trained in Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia and a former research associate at the University of British Columbia, Jayaraj has been a consultant for environmental projects of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and projects of the Myanmar and Bhutan governments.
Archbishop Welby’s “climate justice” lecture on September 3 at India’s most leftwing seminary was slammed by Indian Christians who saw it as a cop out from the real issue of widespread persecution facing the Indian church under the current Hindu fundamentalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and corruption in the Church of South India.
Welby was also lambasted for promoting religious relativism and pluralism by engaging in inter-faith dialogue rather than preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He is currently Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
You can read his full interview with Rebel Priest media editor Jules Gomes below:
RP: Welby claims that climate change “disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable around the world?” Is he correct?
VJ: Archbishop Welby is assuming that climate change is already affecting the world and that the poorest are affected disproportionately higher. One can determine the extent of disproportionality only if we first establish that climate change is impacting the world adversely. But there is no evidence to suggest that climate change is already having an adverse impact on our world.
Current global average temperatures are not at dangerous levels. And there is no increase in extreme weather events by United Nation’s own admission. Every exaggerated claim about an impending climate doomsday is based out of the future projections from models and not on observed data in the climate system around us.
Let’s consider just one key metric: life expectancy. Life expectancy rates have gone up all over the world (from 52 in 1960 to around 72 in 2017). In India, life expectancy was merely 41 in 1960. But today it is at 68 (2017). India’s industrialisation and climate change in the past three decades has had zero negative impact on life expectancy. An Indian women’s probability of surviving to age 65 was just 57% in 1990, but grew to 75% in 2017.
Welby has called for a “climate emergency” because he believes “climate change is happening” and “is already having repercussions that seem almost biblical in scope.” Would you label this prophetic or alarmist?
VJ: Climate has always changed. There isn’t a scientist on the face of the earth who denies the change in climate. However, there is no climate emergency. The current changes in climate are not new and warming phases akin to today’s levels have been experienced by human civilisations earlier too.
In fact, the church itself experienced two warming phases similar to today’s, one during Jesus’ time (Roman Warm Period) and another during the Medieval period in the 10th century. These two warm periods had no large-scale negative repercussions.
If anything, they aided in the expansion of kingdoms in the northern hemisphere as the climatic system became ideal for agriculture and travel. It is for this reason, these two warm periods were known as “optimums” and not as a crisis.
The same is true today, our agricultural output is at an all-time high as plants grow quicker and better in warm climate, aided by the abundant CO2 in the atmosphere. As a result, we are able to feed a growing world and also live in a climate that is most optimum for human habitation.
The only climate emergency that humans ever encountered in the past 2000 years was during the Little Ice Age in the 16th century that froze parts of Northern Hemisphere, including the Thames that is not far from Archbishop’s office in London. I have elaborated on this in my op-ed in the Christian Post.
RP: Does Welby provide substantive evidence for climate change in his lecture?
VJ: I don’t think so. Welby is an archbishop and not a climate change scientist. I do believe he has a team of scientific advisors who advise him on climate change. But so far, his advisors have given insufficient reasons to believe that the global temperature levels have risen to dangerous levels.
Instead, they have harped on the universal truth of climate change, which everyone already knows. Climate has always changed and it has displayed differential change in different centuries. The reasons for the past and present changes have also been diverse.
The Archbishop (and his advisors) do not explain this matter in detail, as his speech is crafted to be an impetus to popularise the climate crisis and not designed to be an objective assessment of the changes in global climate.
RP: Welby says that India has “seen the effect of climate change first hand.” He offers illustrations of rising temperatures followed by droughts, followed by floods. How do you respond as a scientist living this as a daily reality in India?
VJ: I wonder how the archbishop can talk about drought and floods without addressing its impact on agriculture or the life expectancy rates in the country. If there were widespread droughts and floods, it would first affect the agriculture.
But India’s agricultural output is at an all-time record high and the last 10 years has seen consistent growth in production and consumption. When a nation can top its previous year’s food crop production levels, then there is no crisis with regard to the water availability for the survival of 1.3 billion people.
Yes, there are drought sensitive areas, but the occurrence or existence of these drought sensitive areas has nothing to do with the climate change of the past seven decades.
As far as temperatures are concerned, there has been a sharp increase in urban temperatures due to the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. But the rural areas adjoining the cities are found to have lower temperatures than the cities, thus proving that UHI is the reason behind warming and not global level changes in climate.
Also, most of the temperatures used for measurement are situated in these cities or in locations that have UHI effect, thus injecting artificial warming into the overall temperature index. Moreover, there has been no linear warming. The historic highs in many cities have occurred during different years and some in the previous decade, suggesting that the temperatures are not becoming progressively warmer as suggested by Welby and other proponents of climate crisis.
With regard to the rainfall pattern, historic data shows no specific trend for the Indian summer monsoon, the season that gives the country most of its water. There have been only epochs or decadal patterns and no linear increase or decrease in rainfall. The past 40 years have been no different and the monsoon remains as unpredictable as ever.
If the world really warms more in the coming decades, the Government of India suggests that monsoon rainfall “could” improve owing to the conducive land-ocean temperature gradient. The archbishop is also clever enough to not mention cyclones, because he (his advisory team) knows that cyclone frequency in India has decreased since the 1980s.
RP: Welby offers what seems like a scientific basis for the climate crisis in India. He says: “Data modelling predicts that continued rising temperatures will increase the frequency of flash flooding. The number of days where there is rainfall is decreasing whilst intense rainfall events of 10-15 centimetre per day are increasing.” Is this settled science?
VJ: From June through September, monsoon rains give India 75 percent of its yearly rainfall. More than 70 percent of India’s population depend on this. As explained earlier, the Indian Monsoon Rainfall has shown no specific trend or pattern for the overall rainfall data measurement period 1871-2017.
The data I refer to is the All-India area-weighted mean summer monsoon rainfall, based on a homogeneous rainfall data set of 306 rain-gauges in India, developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and is widely considered as a reliable index of summer monsoon activity over the Indian region.
The monsoon has shown only decadal patterns which are not permanent and change from time to time. For example, the 44-year period 1921-64 witnessed just three drought years, while the 22-year period 1965-87 had as many as 10 drought years. There were only five drought years during the recent 30-year period 1987-2017.
In essence, any senior unbiased climatologist in India would tell you that the monsoon is unpredictable and based on the epochal trends in the previous 145-year rainfall record, it is impossible to do model predictions for future rainfall levels. If you want to diagnose India’s rainfall situation based on evidence, then there is no rainfall crisis and there is no way to forecast future rainfall pattern.
RP: Welby gives a number of Indian instances of the alleged devastation caused by climate change. “Research from the University of California, Berkeley has linked climate change to the suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers and farm workers,” he states. He attributes the recent flooding in Kerala and Karnataka to climate change. How would you respond?
VJ: As explained in the previous sections, agricultural output is at an all time high. The Indian government has set a food grain production target of (all-time record) 291.1 MT (million tonnes) for 2019-20. In 2018-19, the production was 281.37 MT and in 2017-18 it was 274.55 MT, a linear growth and record production every year!
Farmer suicides are due to multiple reasons (including poor buying rates, localised droughts, economic slowdown) but not due to the inability to produce food crops. Drought occurrence and the regional flooding should not be confused with overall climate pattern of the country.
Climate change has had no significant impact on monsoon’s behaviour. Flooding in Kerala and Karnataka is due to a combination of excessive rainfall, poor urban planning, carelessness by managements on dam water-level regulation, and a poor assessment of flood sensitive areas. Excessive rainfall events have always occurred in India and is not new.
During the period 1871-2015, there were 19 major flood years (excess of one standard deviation above the mean): 11 flood years between 1871 and 1950 (1874, 1878, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1910, 1916, 1917, 1933, 1942, 1947) and only 8 since 1950s (1956, 1959, 1961, 1970, 1975, 1983, 1988, 1994).
RP: Welby says that India is paying for the excesses of other countries. He notes that 200million Indians live on less than $1 a day. What would happen to the poor if India implemented the climate change directives proposed by the West?
VJ: The archbishop must understand that India has made zero commitments to reduce the use of fossil fuels. India’s commitment to the Paris agreement merely agrees to install renewable energy sources. The country has no plans to reduce emissions.
Both India and China have strongly stated that they won’t be allowing the West to interfere in the expansion of their respective domestic sectors, including energy sector which accounts for a large proportion of CO2 emissions.
The archbishop is however correct on the metrics, nearly 300 million Indians live in poverty, the highest number for any country in the world and 500 million still struggle to secure stable energy source.
RP: “India still relies heavily on coal for electricity,” says Welby. Should India stop using coal like Britain and many Western nations did and start using solar power as Welby suggests?
VJ: India’s coal reliance is a well-recognised fact. 73 percent of all electricity in India is generated from coal. India has no plans to reduce its production and consumption of fossil fuels, including coal. Coal India Limited’s production target for the next year (2019-2020) is set at 660 MT (million tonnes) and the target for 2024-25 is set at 940 MT. There are also plans to increase the total production target to 1 billion tonnes by the year 2022-23.
Long-term projections are no different. Its 2047 forecasts, prepared by special task force Niti Ayog, has predicted an increase and expansion of coal production, use, import (high quality coking coal), and export. There are proposals to open new mega-coal mines, new coal plants, and import clean coal technology. These are India’s official policy directives that are already being implemented and attested in parliament.
RP: What do you think about the archbishop’s canonisation of Greta Thunberg as a saint Indian youth should be emulating?
VJ: As popular as she might be, Greta Thunberg is not a scientist or an expert on climate change. Especially when it comes to the issue of model forecasts, even scientists are finding their way to sort out the models which have been behaving wildly with their forecasts. For Greta to claim that the world is ending is purely fictitious and motivated by popular news than actual science.
On the other hand, Greta has been a bad example, a life which students should not emulate. She first went on school strike and now she has quit school, all in the name of climate fight, when the climate around the world is doing just fine. Today, the kids in the city of Bangalore are engaged in school strike inspired by Greta, but none of those kids understand the intricate details of paleoclimatology, ecological relationship to climate, the models used by scientists and the forecasts that have been faulty all along.
On a positive note, I am thankful that the archbishop did not go to the extent of comparing Greta to Jesus Christ, a blasphemous act which others like the Archbishop of Berlin have made.
RP: Would you call Welby’s climate change alarmism ‘nonsense on stilts’?
VJ: Archbishop Welby should be a beacon of light and a representative of Christ. Instead, his trip to India has become a climate crusade. He appears more of a representative of the UN's IPCC and a brand ambassador of Climate crisis movement.
I wouldn’t call his alarmism as nonsense, because he does make sense. But a false sense, one that is dangerous and perilous to the people of India whose future depends on a fast-economic growth propelled by the strong fossil fuel sector. Dismissing his climate alarmism as ‘nonsense’ would allow him to go unchallenged.
Rather, those of us in the global church should try to reach out to the archbishop (and his team) about the disastrous consequences climate alarmism will bring to India’s poor. I have hope that the archbishop will listen to voices that vouch for actual empirical data and not imaginary forecast and popular opinions.