The Truth Behind Y2K, Comment of the month - January

Articles on conspiracy theories hit a rich vein of comments from some of our saner readers including a few old computer programmers drawing lessons from the Y2K computer glitch......or was it a huge global fraud?

This past week appears to have woken everyone from their holiday slumber with some rather vigorous commenting, thankfully largely from people who believe Global Warming isn’t some vast plot from the Rothschilds banking family to enrich themselves and impose world government (yes one commenter left this you-tube link outlining such a wonderfully amusing conspiracy theory).

Our articles on the rather bizarre prevalence of beliefs in conspiracies amongst those that think global warming is a hoax hit a very rich vein of amusing material and rebuttals of some of the rubbish from our trolls.

First off the rank was the ridiculous comment popular in the global warming denial cyberspace equating global warming with the Y2K computer glitch provided by Mike Wilkes,

It is certainly difficult to imagine a conspiracy of such "incredible scale and audacity" but then it was equally difficult to imagine such a conspiracy applied to the Y2K scare and yet, after an enormous amount of money had been wasted combating the issueno aeroplanes fell out of the sky, no power stations shut down, no traffic lights stopped working, nothing.

Former computer programmer Reg Howes then put him straight:

It continues to amaze me that people who have absolutely no knowledge of a topic are prepared to make authoritative statements on them.

I worked as a computer programmer/analyst in the past and at the time that Y2K was an issue ran a small network of about a dozen computers. The Y2K bug was indeed real and we spent much time ensuring that the software we used was appropriately modified. At the simplest level which you may be capable of understanding, much of the software written in the 20th century only used two digits for the year in the date field.  Thus any system that required data to be in the correct chronological order was destined to fail.  I wrote commercial programs in the 70s and 80s that were still being used in the year 2000 and was using numerous commercial programs that only used 2 digits for the year field. Some systems needed to check the currency of data or check elapsed times. All these could fall victim to the Y2K bug. These problems were not difficult to fix, but making sure that all the instances of the problem were found was a massive and essential exercise.

If remedial action had not been taken, systems using such programs would have failed. Real problem, no conspiracy.

But F Smith gets our award for Comment of the Month for January by drawing some broader lessons learnt from the whole Y2K episode:

Mike Wilkes is drawing the wrong conclusions from the Y2K example he uses.  For 3 years to 2000 my main task was upgrading PCs in my city that were connected to our global network, probably 50,000 computers.  We met our target and there was not a non compliant PC on our network when 2000 arrived, ….

Lesson - don't stick your head where the sun don't shine, get out and fix the problem. It can be done. The Y2K wasn't a problem because we fixed it.

We will never know if chaos would have occurred, but let's just say for a moment you are right, and there was no problem.  What was the result of our efforts if it didn't fix a problem that, you say, didn't exist?  Well, I know that about a third of my customers had PCs that were so out of date they were costing money and productivity.  Being forced to upgrade was the best thing that could have happened to them.  Just as moving to renewables will have long term benefits beyond fixing AGW.

You’re overlooking the efforts of thousands around the world who re-wrote code and swapped out hardware, is a real parallel of those who choose to ignore the thousands of scientists studying the cause and likely effects of climate change. 


Also this comment was worthy of special commendation in rebutting the ridiculous claim that the earth has been cooling since 1998: 

Enough of this tired line from people such as Geoff Brown:

"As the UK Met office points out and most rational scientists agree, the warming has stalled for 16 years."

This is a classic case of cherry-picking data - or the start and end points of a trend in this case - by a journalist, not a scientist. Here's the UK Met Office themselves labelling this claim as 'misleading':

And here's the UK Met Office's own website discussing the impacts of greenhouse gas emisisons on global climate:

To quote, "...future climate change depends on whether we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the rate we currently do, or whether we take effective steps to dramatically reduce our emissions.”


Also a thank-you is due to Paul Dowling who defended Climate Spectator from this comment from a global warming denier:

Goebbels Clone

 Tristan; Joseph Goebbels would be considered a rank amateur compared to your incessant propaganda.

Paul replied:

Barry, how can Tristan be a clone of Goebbels if Goebbels would be a 'rank amateur' compared to Tristan? If you're going to insult the man (instead of, you know, actually refuting his argument in an intelligent way) at least try to make sense


Lastly David Arthur provided an excellent succinct summary of global warming cause and effect scientific evidence to help some of our less well-read readers:

Observation 1. Sun irradiates earth with short-wave energy.

Observation 2. Earth re-radiates long-wave energy.

Observation 3. Greenhouse gases retard transmission of long-wave energy, not short-wave energy.

Observation 4. Satellite observations show decreasing emission to space of this long-wave energy, at EXACTLY THE SAME WAVELENGTHS as CO2 absorbs long-wave energy.

Observation 5. Arctic sea ice is melting, so that summertime sunlight is being absorped in exposed ocean rather than reflected off ice.

Observation 6. Greenland and Antarctic ice is melting, increasing the rate of sea level rise. The rate of ice melt is accelerating as atmospheric greenhouse gases increase.

Observation 7. In the Arctic, tipping points have been crossed. Permafrost is thawing, releasing stored methane and carbon dioxide, and warming Siberian continental shelf is causing release of methane from submarine methane clathrates.

Inference 1, drawn from observations 1, 2 and 3. Greenhouse gases thus regulate earth's temperature. Altering atmospheric greenhouse gas content therefore alters earth's temperature.

Inference 2, (drawn from inference 1 and observations 4, 5, 6 and 7). Ocean is thermally coupled with atmosphere, and transfers a lot of heat to both Arctic and Antarctic.

Root cause analysis 1. Historic fossil fuel use and cement production data (Oak Ridge National (US) Laboratory Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center) shows sufficient CO2 emission from 1800 to 2007 to raise atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppm to 430 ppm. Dissolution of CO2 in oceans has limited atmospheric CO2 to about 390 ppm, and decreased ocean pH.


Thanks again to our readers for providing your thoughts and insights and especially to our trolls who through their own words undermine the very credibility of those who would prefer to ignore the dangers from failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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