Byline: NIGEL CALDER
OVER the past few weeks, we have endured not only an excess of rain but a chorus of greenhouse scientists, gloating environmentalists - and even Prince Charles - saying: 'We told you so!' The floods, we are assured, are all our own fault - the result of the huge amounts of carbon dioxide we put into the air by burning coal, oil and gas. And it will only get worse as the greenhouse effect takes a firmer grip and global warming speeds up.
Some scientists, however, have been more cautious. Even those whose computer models predict dire global warming know that one wet season doesn't prove a trend.
In reality, their research keeps giving wildly different answers and the scientists just pick and mix them in their reports to governments. Their vehemence, if not their science, has been wildly persuasive. They have managed to turn the warming of the 20th century into a scare story and a lucrative source of funds for some scientists and the environmental lobby.
But I think they are wrong.
Indeed, what we really face is the risk of global cooling, not warming.
Let's take a brief look at some highlights of our globe's climate history.
Back in 1703, on the evening of November 26, the writer Daniel Defoe thought that his children had broken his barometer because the mercury had sunk lower than ever before.
The fierce storm that hit southern England that night was probably the worst on record.
It occurred during the coldest phase of the past 1,000 years, in the depths of what became known as the Little Ice Age, when the Thames frequently froze at London Bridge.
Then, nearly 300 years later, in the much milder climate of 1987, hurricane-force winds again felled the trees of southern England.
So any linkage between extreme weather and climate change is plainly very loose.
In addition, the Little Ice Age reminds us that the climate went up and down like a yo-yo long before us humans began to use fossil fuels on a large scale.
Just after Defoe's great storm, and in the natural course of climate variability, came a bout of global warming bigger and faster than anything we are supposedly experiencing today.
The 1730s were nearly as hot as the 1990s. Since this warming occurred before the Industrial Revolution, you can be sure that it was nothing to do with manmade carbon dioxide.
This period ended abruptly in the severe winter of 1740, when the Little Ice Age reasserted itself and continued, with ups and downs, into the 19th century.
Indeed, 1816 is remembered as a year without a summer because a huge eruption of the Tambora volcano in the East Indies darkened the world's skies.
Chilly Later, Charles Dickens encouraged people to enjoy the rigorous winters of his time by popularising the white Christmas. There is also that well-known photograph of Victorians skating on the Thames at Henley in 1895.
In the 1920s and 1930s there was another spell of continuous warming. So those older people who remember glorious weather in their youth are not deceiving themselves.
But from the 1950s onwards the climate grew chilly once more. In Britain, the winter of 1962-63 was the worst since 1740. Snow covered huge areas from Boxing Day until early March and harbours froze.
It is amusing now to recall that in those days every windstorm, flood and drought was attributed to global cooling.
That cold period ended in the mid-1970s. The re-warming that followed was enough to encourage some scientists to revive a theory proposed by a Swedish chemist in the 1890s about manmade climate change due to carbon dioxide. …