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The Failure Of Climate Alarmism And The Rise Of Climate McCarthyism

David Rose, Mail on Sunday

The architects of climate alarmism know they have failed. Maybe it’s because their argument is weak that they resort to climate McCarthyism


At the heart of the current, poisoned debate about global warming lies a paradox. Thanks to the ‘pause’, the unexpected plateau in world surface temperatures which has now lasted for 17 years, the science is less ‘settled’ than it has been for years.

Yet, despite this uncertainty, those who use it to justify a range of potentially ruinous energy policies have become ever more extreme in their pronouncements. Their latest campaign is an attempt to silence anyone who disagrees.

This reached a new and baleful milestone last week, with a report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee saying BBC editors must obtain special ‘clearance’ before interviewing climate ‘sceptics’. 

The committee’s chairman, Labour MP Andrew Miller, likened sceptics to the Monster Raving Loony Party, suggesting they should be allowed to express their views with similar frequency. High profile commentators, including the Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey, often describe climate change sceptics as ‘deniers’, on a par with those who reject evidence of the Holocaust.

One Sunday columnist recently insisted the parallel was exact, because the evidence of global warming is as strong as that  for Auschwitz.

Academics who deviate from the perceived ‘correct’ line risk vilification. The most recent example is Professor Richard Tol of Sussex University, who had the temerity to remove his name from a UN climate report because he said it was ‘alarmist’.

Another is Prof Roger Pielke Jnr of Colorado. His ‘crime’ is to have published evidence that, so far, hurricanes have not become more frequent, while financial losses from extreme weather have not increased as a result of climate change. His reward has been an organised campaign demanding he be sacked.

The Breakthrough Institute – an influential, and very green – US think tank has described those who try to close down debate in this way as ‘climate McCarthyites’, after the infamous 1950s Senator who sought to root out Communists from American public life. It is an increasingly apt analogy. Miller, Davey and their allies often cite a study showing that 97 per cent of academic papers dealing with climate say that human-induced  global warming is real.

But here is the thing: so do almost all of those attacked as ‘deniers’, including Lord Lawson, whose appearance on the Radio 4 Today show in February sparked the current furore over sceptics getting airtime.

Where they differ from the supposed mainstream is not over the existence of warming, but its speed, and how to deal with it. Then, so do many scientists. The ‘pause’ means that the climate computer models, on which most forecasts are based, say the world should already be rather warmer than it is: in one expert’s words, they are ‘running too hot’.

Why is this? Many scientists are engaged in honest attempts to answer this question. Some suggest that the ‘climate sensitivity’ – a measure of how much the world will warm in response to a given increase in carbon dioxide – may be significantly lower than was widely believed only a few years ago. Moreover, the response to rising CO2 adopted thus far palpably has not worked. The emissions cuts agreed by the EU and other countries at the 1997 Kyoto Treaty and imposed by our own Climate Change Act have made energy more expensive, and exported jobs and prosperity to countries such as China – which adds billions of watts of coal fired power to its grid each year. CO2 emissions have continued to rise.

The architects of such policies know they have failed, but they have no alternative except more of the same. Maybe it’s because their argument is weak that they resort to climate McCarthyism. The cost, apart from higher energy bills, is to democracy, and free speech.

Mail on Sunday, 6 April 2014