Monday, February 8, 2010

So, Climate Change....................?

According to the newspapers public belief in climate change has fallen, particularly since the recent e-mail "scandal" at the University of East Anglia, and aided, no doubt, by an incredibly cold winter. (N.B. weather is not climate.) The statistics vary slightly from month to month and no doubt by location, gender, political affiliation and socio-economic grouping. A BBC poll this month - presumably of Brits alone - found that 25% of the 1,000 people polled (only 1,000?) didn't believe in climate change at all, up 8% since November, and 1 in 3 felt the matter had been exaggerated. Only 26% felt that climate change was "established as largely man-made". The government's Chief Scientific Adviser for the Dept. of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, commented that the findings were "very disappointing".

Interestingly in the same article (The Guardian, Feb 8th) it is noted that most Conservative M.P.s are sceptical about their party's focus on climate change policy and are concerned about the economic consequences of a low-carbon policy. I had a strong sense of deja-vu as I read this: most of the Republican Party comments I have read and almost all on American Right-Wing blogs focus on the economic argument. The concern appears to be that in following low-carbon policies we shoot ourselves in the foot economically and allow our competitors to gain an advantage.

Now that is clearly a valid fear but two things strike me about it:
1) Wasn't Copenhagen at least partly about trying to get an international agreement on the implementation of low carbon policies, in which case the playingfield would, presumably, be much as it already is ie: with the First World advantaged to the Third World disadvantage.
2) Shouldn't the economic argument be a much lower priority than the scientific argument? I had this conversation with a friend recently and he said that it was a blinding flash of personal clarity which helped him to understand what is actually at the heart of much of the climate-change science scepticism: financial self-interest - not so much national self-interest as corporate and multinational self interest.

So where are we with the science then? The infamous "e-mailgate" hasn't thrown up any evidence that the science has been tampered with, although there is clear evidence that the UEA scientists were trying to frustrate freedom of information requests and attempting to keep some authors from having their work published in peer-review journals. I don't know to what extent either of these is a criminal offence or deserving of professional disciplinary action but I do know that the matter has been used to question the science, when actually the issues are quite separate. Banner headlines such as the Daily Telegraph's "Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'?" or CNN's "The Climatic Research Unit e-mails show that the science behind climate change has been pretty well debunked." have turned out to be initially rather premature and ultimately inaccurate. The damage, however has been done: the media influences public opinion.

Then we have the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their carelessness over their assertions about the rate of glacial melt. They got it wrong: they were wrong about the rate of melting but not about the fact that the glaciers are melting.

What does any of this teach us?

Well, I think it teaches us that scientists need to be more professional. I don't think that it teaches us that the accumulated data from all over the world of the last 200 years is flawed.

What was that quote about Nero and Rome? Now juxtapose it with the Biblical teaching on Stewardship and what have you got? An economic argument for questioning the science? I don't think so.

I'll leave the last word to Andymg2, commenting on a Guardian blogsite:
Britain's worst Prime Minister of all time is grandstanding again; and writing cheques with our tax pounds that he can't and won't be around to cash.

The great global warming swindle is already dying on its arse thanks to the UEA crooks getting their hands caught in the till.

There is going to be no deal because the sensible countrys US, Canada and Australia China know a scam when they see it. The EU doesnt count for shit in the real world.

The quality of the debate is breathtaking.