Tuesday, November 09, 2010

An Excellent Letter from Matt Ridley

My views on climate change have been changing significantly over the last few years, as I spend more time reading about the existing evidence and the quality of the science behind the more egregious claims. Matt Ridley publishes an excellent letter, explaining his current somewhat skeptical view, and I recommend it highly. One quick excerpt that shows how he is thinking today.
My last point is this. We always discuss climate change in isolation, as a unique issue. Yet we cannot ignore the history of past environmental alarms, which I catalogue in my book: on population, famine, pesticides and cancer, desertification, sperm counts, acid rain, GM crops, and many other issues, we have been promised catastrophe, often with the backing of peer-reviewed science, and repeatedly these hopes have been dashed. (You may need to remember to switch your sarcasm detector on when reading the last sentence.) My position is heavily influenced by having been science editor of The Economist during the acid rain scare and having been a full-scale alarmist at the time myself. In 1984 I wrote: `Forests are beginning to die at a catastrophic rate. One year ago, West Germany estimated that 8% of its trees were in trouble. Now 34% are...that forests are in trouble is now indisputable.’ Experts told me all Germany’s conifers would be gone by 1990 and the Federal Ministry of the Interior predicted all forests would be gone by 2002. I was wrong. German forest biomass increased during all these years. Of course, the boy who cries wolf may be right one day. But we are right to grow more sceptical when he keeps being wrong.
Now, if for the past 20 years we had been told that there is a probability of some change in the climate due to CO2, and a very small possibility that it is likely to lead to a drastic lurch, then I could join with you and the consensus. Instead of which I have been repeatedly told that trillions must be spent urgently because there are only a few months to save the world and it is the most urgent problem, more urgent than hunger, malaria and indoor air pollution, likely to lead to the collapse of the entire economy and moreover that the science is settled and to question it is to be equivalent to a criminal. So, apologies if I sound a little exercised on this, but as a huge champion of science I feel very, very let down by the science establishment, especially the laughably poor enquiries on the emails published this year. Ask yourself if these emails had been within a drug company about a drug trial, whether the establishment would have been so determined to excuse them.
A world ruled by buffoons like David Suzuki would indeed be a scary place.


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