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Sunday 13 December 2009

Cool heads better than hot air in Copenhagen

There's no point wrecking the global economy further until we know much more about climate change, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

WITH its thousands and thousands of delegates, officials, journalists and protesters, the hundreds and hundreds of planes (commercial and private), and the trains and cars and limos required to transport people, food, drink and equipment, the Copenhagen climate summit is on course to create more C02 than would a medium-sized African country. It looks set to deliver little other than pious rhetoric and ambiguous promises, and I'm glad, as I deplore bad decisions and ruinous expenditure based on dodgy science and scaremongering.

To those of you howling 'denier', may I point out that what I am is a sceptic. As I was a sceptic about papal infallibility, imminent epidemics of mad cow or flesh-eating diseases, avian flu and the millennium bug. Or boom and bust being a passe concept.

There are many like me. To the horror of most scientists, politicians, the educational establishment, the media, the liberal elite, green zealots and brainwashed children, a substantial chunk of the population of Ireland, the UK and the US have so far resisted being bullied into becoming blind adherents of this new religion.

Sceptics mostly believe in treating the planet decently, respecting nature, conserving

flora and fauna, keeping the population at sustainable levels and developing clean and cheap sources of energy, but we need convincing: a) that the planet is warming up dangerously; b) that if it is, that is mainly the fault of man; and, c) that even if man is guilty, that the currently fashionable ill-thought out and hysterically presented solutions will make matters better.

We accept that the climate may be changing, for the climate changes. Was there not a Medieval Warm Period when vineyards flourished in Britain and then a Little Ice Age which saw King George III's subjects skating on the Thames? Why become hysterical over an alarmist prediction that the sea-level around the low-lying Maldives might rise by 30cm, since that is where it was in the 19th century?

We know Seventies climatologists were obsessed with catastrophic global cooling, so we wonder why we're expected to believe them unquestioningly now, when dissenting scientists are silenced and denied research grants. Lord Lawson, a respected ex-Chancellor, had his measured and thoughtful An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming turned down by countless British publishers.

An excited article in the Irish Times by geographer and climate change expert John Sweeney explained recently that global warming "is not an article of faith, but a scientific fact". So how do you explain the absence of any warming whatsoever in this century, Professor Sweeney? And how do you explain away Climategate -- the recently leaked emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Change Unit -- which raised serious questions for some of the leading proponents of the theory of man-made global warming and gave rise to an investigation into the alleged manipulation of evidence, the suppression of inconvenient data and a conspiracy to deny a platform to critics?

Take the dishonest propaganda about polar bears. Al Gore broke hearts with the image of two facing imminent drowning as they clung to the remainder of an iceberg. In fact, they were playing on a patch of ice within easy reach of land. Dr Mitchell Taylor, one of the world's leading experts on polar bears, was banned from attending a meeting of the Polar Bear Specialist Group in Copenhagen, because he does not believe warming is man-made. If scientists are afraid of scrutiny, why should we trust them?

It isn't even clear if carbon emissions are good or bad for the planet. And it certainly isn't clear that we should be trying to eradicate the cheap carbon-based energy and condemn millions in poor countries to early deaths. We should be harnessing our ingenuity to find safe technological solutions to energy shortages, but instead, the political establishment has been faffing around with unreliable, expensive and heavily subsidised wind-power. As a result of dithering and ideology, the UK looks like running seriously short of energy within a decade. That'll be a catastrophe for Ireland.

We sceptics believe that with the science unproven and the world economy wrecked, our masters -- part-architects of our present problems -- should not commit themselves to expending unimaginable sums of money and destroying millions of jobs in pursuit of what may be a chimera.

I wonder if secretly many of them only pretend to be 100 per cent believers. Why else would they procrastinate when it comes to the crunch of binding legislation and divvying up the money for developing countries?

Lord Lawson, God bless him, has just founded an independent think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, to encourage open and reasoned debate. Now that's an idea we sceptics believe in. When we know what's happening to the climate, we can decide calmly how best to adapt to change. Just like our ancestors did.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards