Magazine article The Spectator

A Climate Glasnost

Magazine article The Spectator

A Climate Glasnost

Article excerpt

Next week, those who made dire predictions of ruinous climate change face their own inconvenient truth.

The summary of the fifth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be published, showing that global temperatures are refusing to follow the path which was predicted for them by almost all climatic models. Since its first report in 1990, the IPCC has been predicting that global temperatures would be rising at an average of 0.2degrees Celsius per decade. Now, the IPCC acknowledges that there has been no statistically significant rise at all over the past 16 years.

It is difficult to over-emphasise the significance of this report. The IPCC is not simply a research body making reports and declarations which are merely absorbed into political debate. Its word has been taken as gospel, and its research has been used to justify all manner of schemes to make carbon-based energy more expensive while subsidising renewable energy.

The failure of its predictions undermines the certainties which have been placed upon the science of climate change. Previous IPCC reports - and much of the debate over how to react to them - have appeared to treat the Earth's climate as if it were a domestic central heating system, with carbon emissions analogous to the dial on the thermostat: a small tweak here will result in a temperature rise of precisely 0.2degreesC and so on. What is clear from the new IPCC report is that the science is not nearly advanced enough to make useful predictions on the future rise of global temperatures. Perhaps it never will be.

Some climate scientists themselves, to give them credit, have admitted as much. Their papers now incorporate a degree of caution, as you would expect from genuine scientists.

The problems arise when the non-scientists leap upon the climate change bandwagon and assume that anything marked 'science' must be the final word. As the chemist and novelist C.P. Snow once warned in his lecture about the 'two cultures', you end up in a situation where non-scientists use halfunderstood reports to silence debate - not realising that proper science welcomes refutation and is wary of the notion of absolute truths.

And while we are constantly reminded that 'most scientists are agreed on climate change', it is remarkable how many of the most prominent figures warning of climatic Armageddon are not themselves scientists.

The chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, is a railway engineer. Al Gore, who shared a Nobel prize with the IPCC for his film of climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, is a failed US presidential candidate. …

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