Pushing the bandwagon

Global temperatures have not increased in the last decade. But it takes more than that to stop the global warming bandwagon, which will probably keep on rolling until it hits a glacier somewhere in Kent.

The Prince of Wales is anxious that we should combat climate change before it’s too late. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says climate change kills 300,000 people a year, and it’s time to stop polluting.

Why should we not believe them? They are distinguished people. The problem is that their expertise is in other areas. I don’t really blame them: they are surrounded by insistent and loud advisers – the sort of people who tell MPs what they can claim on expenses.

The count of 300,000 victims of climate change has all the hallmarks of a figure plucked out of the air. If by some fluke it is roughly true (how on earth would you find out?), it has probably always been true. Climate change does affect people, and the climate always changes: as Heinrich Heine might have said, c’est son metier.

If we can do something practical to alleviate the negative effects of climate change, then we should. But to think we can stop it happening is a delusion, and a very expensive one.

Incidentally, you can be fairly sure that anyone who describes carbon dioxide as pollution cannot be relied upon. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas vital to our survival. What could be described as pollution is soot, and a recent study has shown that soot could be responsible for 18% of global warming when it actually occurs. Until now this had been overlooked. I wonder what else has been overlooked.

Still the bandwagon rolls on, and last week’s elections saw many candidates flaunting their green credentials, little realising (until they got the results, perhaps) how many people they put off voting for them. Our local Green Party candidate attacked UKIP for having MPs who were climate sceptics (whatever that means), only to find that they had polled many more votes than he had.

So there is hope. Sadly the churches have been told they should “push the climate change agenda” as one of the top moral issues of the day, showing how comprehensively they have lost touch with their own heritage, theology, people in general and Jesus in particular.

But scientists of various persuasions and specialties are not all pushovers. At a recent gathering in Cambridge, David Henderson – a former Treasury official, professor of economics and critic of the Stern Report – issued a strong warning about the way the global warming bandwagon is powered.

“I have come to believe that the widespread trust in the IPCC is unwarranted,” he said, listing a number of criticisms about the IPCC’s handling of data and evidence – and alleging that those who managed the IPCC process had a “pre-commitment to the urgency of the climate issue” that prevented them from assessing objectively. His impressive criticisms of the process, and other comments, are available here.

Today’s received opinion on climate change is not well founded, he says, highlighting three characteristics of it: overstatement, overconfidence and the blind acceptance of a flawed advisory process.

UK Government departments and funded institutions working on climate change are, he says, almost entirely staffed by what might be termed “believers”. No surprise there. “I doubt whether among them there is even a handful of professional staff members who could be identified as even mild dissenters.”

He added that the IPCC was “neither objective nor authoritative”, and an alternative framework was needed – “less presumptive, more inclusive, more professionally watertight and more attuned to the huge uncertainties that remain”.

The huge uncertainties that remain don’t seem to worry global warming enthusiasts too much. A paper contributed to the journal Climatic Change says that such uncertainties – that is, the possibility that predictions are quite wrong – should not prevent governments from acting. It concludes that “if robust strategies are in place, minor inaccuracies in climate change modelling and predictions will be of little concern”.

In other words, the facts don’t matter. Well, unfortunately, that’s exactly what we thought.