We could all use a little more balance in the climate debate
David Cameron stood up at PMQs yesterday and said: “I believe man-made climate change is one of the greatest threats this country and the world faces.” He said this because Ed Miliband asked him. Ed Miliband asked him because he is very keen to link the Somerset (et al) floods to climate change. While Minister for the Environment, Ed Miliband enthusiastically adopted the mantra of climate change. Ed Miliband didn’t look at the alternative (contrary) evidence, because like all politicians he is interested in the popular rather than the percipient.
Mr Miliband has also in the past talked in glowing terms about the work of Greenpeace. At one time I did some advertising work for Greenpeace. They didn’t pay the bill. It was a very big bill, and as a result of this quite a few people in the agency lost their jobs. When I asked Greenpeace why they weren’t paying up, they were quite brazen about telling me that they weren’t paying because they didn’t have to – because nobody in their right mind would sue Greenpeace. The MD then treated me to a diatribe about the evils of capitalism, and how one advertising agency in financial difficulties would be “a good start”. Half the crew, all the actors and David Bailey waived all fees to help Greenpeace make the commercial, which went on to win major creative awards. It was a classic case of the Far Left using bourgeois sympathisers as what Lenin called “useful idiots”.
27 years on, and one of the original founders of Greenpeace (great name to hide behind if you’re a Trot) Dr. Patrick Moore has been giving evidence to the US Senate. In the context of yesterday’s PMQs clash, and my own commercial experience, his comments make a strong case for the prescient against the populist:
“After 15 years in the top committee I had to leave as Greenpeace took a sharp turn to the political left, and began to adopt policies that I could not accept from my scientific perspective….
There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years. If there were such a proof it would be written down for all to see. No actual proof, as it is understood in science, exists. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
NASA scientist Roy Spencer agrees. It is now three years since his study of C02 gas escape rates (and the role of greenhouse gases in maintaining earth’s equilibrium) was published – and widely publicised – but today both he and Moore remain in the 8% camp on climate change. The vast majority of scientists and government leaders are with the 92%. Because that’s where the votes are, and that’s where the business opportunities are.
One of the key tenets of pro-warming theory is that it is man-made. I think that a trebling of the human population in the last 60 years has knocked some things out of balance, but CO2 isn’t one of them. I think some conservation issues (the water issue especially) are of vital importance. But the evidence of C02 as the main influence on what’s happening – if anything of great import is actually happening – is at best flaky…and at worst, blown apart. (This balanced view earned me the wiseassed epithet yesterday of having my head in the sand. Such is the playground level of debate about climate change).
However, believing that the changes are man made didn’t stop the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from using volcanoes yesterday to explain why none of what it predicts is happening. This latest spin too is based on dubious ‘norms’ of volcanic activity (by definition, there is no such thing) but it does demonstrate one absolutely vital point: any model is only as good as the variables fed into it, and the data assumptions that form part of the information set.
We are guilty, in our contemporary culture, of being in awe of that old MSM chestnut, “Computer models have consistently shown that”. Well, if the data input sucks then yes, they will all be consistently wrong. The warring sides in the futile mud-slinging context of pro and anti climate change camps would do well to build a model themselves some time. I used to assemble econometric models quite a lot. They all looked jolly convincing. I didn’t share the conviction: it takes just one interpretation to be wrong, and the entire construct collapses like a house made from barley rice.
I return (sigh, yawn) to my position on climate change: I don’t f**king know for sure. I don’t think anyone knows. People who know are just another religious sect: tell them there are only going to be 7 virgins in Heaven not 77, and your reward will be a fatwah.
I think we should be wary of our species effect on the planetary eco-system. In 1957, a Tory government passed the Clean Air Act. It reduced killer smogs to the footnotes in history books. The effect was immediate and startling: from Heaton Park bell-tower, you could suddenly see the Pennines. In the previous year, the indiscriminate introduction of myxomatosis by farmers almost wiped out the UK rabbit population.
Back then, we didn’t understand foodchain balance well enough: now we do. Do we understand the macro-progress of the Earth’s climate any better than we did in 1970 when Barbara Ward and René Dubois published the seminal work Only one Earth? I think we know more about it; and I think the more we learn, the more we realise how little we really know.
So yes, like one Slog threader yesterday, I’m all for erring on the side of caution: this is what sets me miles apart from frack-nutters like Dan Hannan and egomaniacs like James Delingpole. But Ed Miliband and the current British government are not erring on the side of caution: they are ignoring the naysayers.
As a result of their unscientific ignorance, we have an energy policy that is, as we say in England, all over the shop. Wind power will eventually become Miliband’s personal NHS: a sprawling monster of inefficiency that costs a fortune to maintain and can never wash its face. I’m happy for the NHS, as a public weal, not to wash its face: energy policy is a different matter.
Look closely at the level to which we have sunk: thanks to pathetic energy planning over fifty years (with the massive bonus of North Sea Gas to boot) we have a growing population alongside a power output doomed to at best level off, we have thousands of wind turbines producing expensive energy inefficiently, and we have an energy industry controlled by the French and being rebuilt by the Chinese. We are powerless to use clean coal, thorium, and a host of other developments making power both more productive and less pollutant: because we have lost control over our own national destiny.
Taking each of the outcomes in turn, the blame score would be Labour, Tory, Labour, Labour, Tory, Tory, and as for clean coal, the usual LABoraTORY.
And they call themselves professional politicians. Dear oh dear oh dear. Somewhere behind the closed doors of Greenpeace, people are laughing fit to wet their pants.
Yesterday at The Slog: Global economic warning more urgent and real than global warming