Climate Change Is Not Simply Due to Carbon Emissions, as These Centuries-Old Cycles Reveal; Climate Change Is "A Bigger Threat Than Terrorism" According to One Former Government Chief Scientist, and the Blame Is Being Placed Squarely on Fossil Fuels. Paddy Rooney, a Cambridge Science Graduate and Former Director of an Engineering Group Who Is Nowa Livestock Farmer near Llandovery, Begs to Differ

Article excerpt

Byline: Paddy Rooney

LAST year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) issued its fourth report in Valencia in Spain. The launch was attended by large numbers of scientists, politicians, officials, advisers, pressure group activists and media commentators.

In his opening address, the Secretary General issued a stark warning: "Greenhouse" gases (an inaccurate term, but one we are familiar with) emitted by profligate burning of fossil fuels were causing the environment to heat up, and the economic and social consequences for humanity were potentially disastrous.

Transport, aviation especially, was singled out by some as a major contributor to the problem. We would have to change our ways.

Soon afterwards an army of the same groups - 15,000-strong reportedly - jetted off to the resort island of Bali to discuss how to save the planet. The EU set in train an array of measures aimed at curtailing greenhouse gas emissions. The British Government had already commissioned a report from the one-time Treasury mandarin Sir Nicholas Stern; describing climate change as a market failure, he was in some ways more alarmist than the IPCC - the science was decided, there was consensus across the scientific community, it was time for action.

There were some questioning voices.

Developing countries, notably China and India, did not want their economic progress interrupted. Some commentators wondered whether the EU and British Governments' enthusiasm was inspired by the licence provided (by Stern especially) for more regulation and tax-raising. A House of Lords committee, having taken advice from heavyweight scientists on both sides of the argument, concluded that the greenhouse gas case was still unproven.

Then in March 2008, an international meeting of prestigious climatologists - scientists, economists and policymakers, several hundred strong - was held in New York. Other interests were invited, including Al Gore (who refused to attend). Their report was scathing: the UN's prescriptions would result in grave economic and social damage without having any significant impact on climate at all. So much for the scientific consensus.

In such a polarised environment, what is the ordinary individual to believe?

Science undergraduates in my day were taught that science is a matter of theory being confirmed by evidence, not of "consensus".

So a sensible starting point would be to consider the evidence.

Atmospheric gases, including the greenhouse gases, affect the character and intensity of radiate on to and from the earth.

Some, like water vapour, also affect convection. Since the early 1800s, roughly at the start of industrialisation, temperatures have increased steadily.

So too have greenhouse gas levels.

There is therefore a prima-facie case for believing that temperature increases and greenhouse gas emissions are linked. Computer models commissioned by the IPCC were used to predict the implications of further increases in gas levels.

The IPCC has, however, identified some 11 factors which could influence climate, including atmospheric gases, and acknowledges that the processes and the interactions between them are not all fully understood. …