23 April 2020
When participants in a discussion resort to misleading statements, unsubstantiated “facts”, and derogatory descriptions of those who do not share their views, you can be sure that they have run out of ideas. The latest article on climate change by John Kane-Berman, who represents a lobby calling itself “the institute of race relations”, ticks all the boxes in this regard.
A point-by-point critique of the piece would very long indeed, but I would like to make a few comments.
Firstly, Mr Kane-Berman claims that the “crusade” against greenhouse gasses goes back to at least the founding of the IPCC in 1988. I am not sure what he means by the term crusade, but the science actually goes back to way before then. Although not the first scientist to investigate the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate, perhaps the best known early investigator was the Swedish scientist and Nobel Laureate Svante Arrhenius, who concluded in the late nineteenth century that human generation of carbon dioxide was enough to cause increase in atmospheric temperature. So the IPCC did not start the “crusade”.
Rather, the IPCC came into existence because of increasing concern that what we now call anthropogenic climate change was indeed happening, and needed to be investigated on a global basis. The United Nations has, from time to time, created specialist organizations to address specific matters of global concern. These organizations include such as the IMF, the World Bank, UNESCO, and, topically, the World Health Organization.
If Mr Kane-Berman is equally doubting about the work of all these other bodies as he is of the IPCC then one wonders what he does believe in. Otherwise he needs to explain why he accepts the work of some of these bodies, whilst deriding others.
Secondly, Mr Kane-Berman refers to “vastly more expensive “green” energy”. He is obviously reading different material from the stuff I see. A quick google search for “cost of green vs fossil fuel energy” tells a different story. Not only does the cost of energy from renewables now rival that from fossil fuels, but the trajectory of those costs indicates strongly that any long term energy strategy would have to be based largely on renewables. And that from an economic cost perspective, regardless of environmental considerations.
Third, Mr Kane-Berman states that the industrial revolution, which allowed the richer nations to gain great economic advantage over the poorer nations, was driven by the use of fossil fuels. This is undeniably true. But fossil fuels were not the only resource which enabled such advantage. At around the time when the industrial revolution was in full swing, slavery was a major economic driving force in the United States and elsewhere. Once again a quick google search will reveal much information on this.
See for example, the National Geographic article “How slavery Helped Build a World Economy”. Should we be encouraging emerging economies to embrace slavery because it has yielded economic advantage in the past? Of course not. But the example shows that policy decisions cannot just be based on perceived short term economic advantage. And anyway, the fact that the road we have been travelling has been paved with gold does not mean that we should continue to follow it if we can see that it is leading us over a cliff.
Just about every sentence of Mr Kane-Berman’s article could warrant comment. But I will conclude by briefly picking up on some statements in his final two paragraphs.
The people who contribute to the work of the IPCC are scientists. They are no more “warriors” than those who work at the IMF are money warriors or at the WHO are virus warriors. Using derogatory terms to describe one’s adversaries is a typical refuge of those who have run out of reasonable arguments.
That carbon dioxide has a material impact on temperatures is not a hypothesis. It is a scientifically long-established fact.
If there is indeed plenty of evidence that a warming world is preferable to a cooling one, and of the benefits that higher levels of carbon dioxide bestow upon the planet, then it would be a great public service if Mr Kane-Berman could devote an article to documenting it. I am surely not the only person who is unaware of such evidence. The fact of the matter is that we want neither a warming nor a cooling world. The scenario which is of greatest benefit is a stable environment, one which changes slowly enough for nature and humanity to adapt. This is not the path which we are currently following.
And finally, that we can successfully regulate the global climate is not a gamble. We have been regulating it unsuccessfully for more than a century. In doing so we have gathered enough knowledge to understand what we need to change in order to manage it successfully.
By Roger Mayes