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16 April 2008


Michael Willoughby

Since I posted this I have realised the graph is not on the BBC story. I thought it was once but maybe I was wrong.
But it is here http://www.dailytech.com/Temperature+Monitors+Report+Widescale+Global+Cooling/article10866.htm

and (the admittedly right wing) Spectator's Melanie Phillips (whom I am sure has a nickname at Private Eye) has written a broader opinion piece on some of the issues I touched on in my post with some very interesting links,

Further to my post, talking to a friend who is most certainly on the ecoactivist side of things, we wondered together whether the idea of global warming was always misplaced when all scientists really want (ought) to say is: we are messing with a complex system and we don't know what's going to happen. But then would that have the same effect? Deforestation, energy inefficiency and fossil fuel reliance would continue unchecked until these caused serious, life changing problems.

Michael Willoughby

The famous graph - which I was certain was on the Beeb site but perhaps wasn't - is here


The rather unpalletable Melanie Phillips (she of the MMR scare) writes a column on the same subject.

As a left-leaning liberal humanist, it's very hard to report on this matter these days because I find most of the majority of climate sceptic's other views so hard to swallow. But if one of their key points is that a lot of climate scientists think a lot of different things, then, their links to various research (not all funded by Exxon Mobil) certainly proves it.

William Ray

I am sad to see this blog take the bait that climate change deniers lay.

The misuse of scientific data was pioneered by the tobacco industry in the last century. They discovered the principle that you did not have to prove scientific consensus to be incorrect. It was enough to use spurious data and research to create just enough of a hazy cloud of doubt in the public's mind to in turn generate political inaction on an issue. This worked for decades and lead to the deaths of countless numbers of people.

So it is with climate change today. The public get caught between the semantics of terms like 'global warming' and the complex array of information generated by climate and earth system scientists. It is often the case that the independent scientific minds find it hard to express themselves sometimes and find a consistent voice in the face of PR professionals.

The public then lose sight of the big picture which is that climate does vary year to year, but these short term trends are just a small part of bigger long term trends in climate warming and chaotic destabilisation due to massive increases in atmospheric CO2. This is sound science supported by thousands of papers interrogating all aspects of the theories put forward.

I work with some of the dedicated scientists involved in the research and it is their papers and views that form part of this consensus. I choose to believe them as a opposed to a rag tag bunch of fossil fuel industry lobbyists and nay sayers (some of whom may be scientists, but typically their research has little to do with the mechanics of the climate or the carbon cycle).

I hope you take time to reread the very conservative IPCC 4th assessment report. This is not based on one scientific paper or one short term set of data, but thousands of papers, hundreds of short and long term data sets and dozens of models.

Then maybe you will understand the real risks we are dealing with. Please get this blog back on track - writing about the way forward to solving the climate crisis we are in.


Thanks for your comment, William. If I pointed to the natural habits of climate change sceptics / deniers in my opening paragraph above, then surely smearing dissenting scientics / people / lobbyists as not being worthy of listening to or somehow automatically shut out of the debate is a characteristic of someone committed to fighting climate change.
As I said above, a lot of the people who bring dissent to my / our attention tend to be on the right-wing side of things and (personally) not very palletable to me. But there is absolutely no way I would post something that was purely opinion and didn't appear to have some hard science behind it. Above, I was reporting on a) changes made to a BBC story which as a journalist I found shocking (and not because I thought there was some kind of global conspiracy taking place at the hands of the green lobby, just because)I quoted a scientist / lobbyist talking on a public radio station in the US. I pointed readers to Melanie Phillips' column hoping they would click through to the things she highlighted, all of which were from climate scientists, and I pointed out that the fact that the world was colder this year than last year. Which it was. Now, if it will get warmer next year and the year after, then it will. But neither you nor I nor anyone knows this, but can only guess.
I was expressing my own uncertainty which I am sure does reflect that of at least some readers of this column. And uncertainty is my right as a curious person. Perhaps you think I am the thin end of the wedge. Perhaps I am.
But my hope was that readers would have time to look at some of this science, which appears real to me and, if they thought it was insignificant compared to the vast bulk of the IPCC review, then so be it. If they thought that some of the papers (the new data) were significant then they could alter their perceptions accordingly. It would be up to them to decide.
One thing I do find ironic in this whole thing is the complaint by Jo Abbess and by you is that: "it is often the case that the independent scientific minds find it hard to express themselves sometimes and find a consistent voice in the face of PR professionals," whereas it is in fact open-handed questioning on behalf of interested questioners like myself that is so frequently asked to "get back on track" and "stop taking the bait." On a bad day, I might even consider it a little threatening and insulting.

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