They’re getting warmer . . . how the penny dropped for politicians
Never mind their differing approaches, the great thing is the acceptance by politicians of the need for action. Our correspondent analyses the arguments
The argument is no longer about the rationale for cutting greenhouse gas output, but about how this should be achieved. It is now recognised that the details are where votes are to be won.
In this, politics has caught up with science, albeit a decade or so late. For notwithstanding the enduring objections of a small band of scientific sceptics, such as those who contributed to the Channel 4 programme The Great Global Warming Swindle, the evidence that the world is getting hotter and that humans are responsible has become overwhelming.
As in politics, there is still room for debate over the intricacies of what is happening and what should be done about it, but the wider issue is largely settled.
The consensus that human-induced global warming is more than a hypothesis is built chiefly on the work of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. Its most recent report, published last month, included contributions from more than 2,500 scientists, and concluded with 90 per cent certainty that human activities are responsible for rising world temperatures. A further increase of between 1.1C and 6.4C (11.5F) is predicted for the end of the century.
As the critics say, the sheer number of eminent scientists who have signed up to such a view does not automatically make it right. It is possible, if improbable, that so many clever men and women could be wrong.
What this ignores, however, is the greatest strength of the panels’ report: its multidiscipli-nary approach. The most compelling reason for believing global warming to be a genuine problem is that the theory is consistent with evidence emerging from a multitude of different fields. Everyone knows about the atmospheric temperatures, but that is only one part of a much bigger story.
Ice cores from Antarctica show that temperatures have fluctuated with carbon dioxide levels for 750,000 years. Ocean temperatures show warming signatures that are inexplicable without anthropogenic greenhouse forcing. Animal distribution and behaviour is changing in line with the theory. The same signals can be seen in atmospheric physics, botany, meteorology, geography, ecology and many other scientific disciplines. Thousands of scientists may be mistaken — but across so many diverse fields?
How many mistakes and failures of logic can one expert make in one report? He fails to spot that the "signals" of warming say nothing about the cause, any theory that predicts warming will be "proven" by the same signals, whether it is CO2, Sun spots or Elephant Farts. The IPCC, whose latest report wasn't a report but a policy summary, still fails to provide the simple linkage between Anthropogenic CO2 and the warming record. Their historic figures are questioned; the effect of increasing CO2 in spectrum absorption, a simple enough scientific enquiry is absent as are other "hard" scientific proofs ; the modelling is bizarre and the forecasts are so flimsy any results can be claimed as proving them. The links are leaps of faith, not science.
But leave that all to one side, the political actions being demanded are votive offerings rather logical responses. The conclusion from Stern and the IPCC is that we should go for growth so we can afford adaption rather than unilaterally retreat to the stone age. Any chance any politician can get a grip?