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What should we tell the children?

Over the weekend, I saw a video of children in tears. They had been told – whether by teachers, parents or environmental activists is not made clear – that the world was going to come to an end if we didn’t do something about climate change.

OK, so there are some pretty sick people around, people who will happily lie to kids if they think it will garner them a good photo opportunity, but what is being done about correcting the false messaging?

So I tweeted a link to Richard Betts, the head of climate impacts at the Met Office to see what he thought. The Met Office are never backwards in coming forwards if sceptics say something they disagree with, so it was going to be interesting to see how he reacted.

The answer was “With another question“.

What do *you* think the correct message is, Andrew?
1. AGW is not real
2. AGW is real but not a problem we need to do anything to address
3. AGW brings major risks but we can reduce them by emitting less GHGs & adapting to the changes that are now unavoidable
4. We’re doomed.

This seemed a bit unfair, so I pressed him for a response, to which I got this.

I think children are getting a confusing mixture of the 4 messages I listed above. Evidence-based one is no 3: anthropogenic climate change is real, risky but the worst can still be avoided. This is the main message coming through, but some folk push ignorance at the extremes.

I am much amused that the idea that children are getting a message of “AGW is not real”. From whom is this idea coming, I wonder? It’s certainly not to be found in schoolbooks or the mainstream media. Nor in the publications of the GWPF.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to set out for Richard my thoughts on the message children should get. (For the avoidance of doubt, the GWPF does not have a corporate view on global warming or climate policy. These are therefore my personal views).

This is what I tell my own children.

  1. The greenhouse effect is real and anthropogenic CO2 emissions are having a warming effect on global temperatures.
  2. The world seems to have warmed rather slowly over the last 50-70 years. So far, the overall warming effects seem to be mostly benign, or at least immaterial compared to the rapidly improving state of mankind.
  3. We have no way to tell how much of this warming is natural and how much anthropogenic, and nor can we tell how much warming to expect in the future. This is because we are unable to effectively model key parts of the climate system.
  4. There are few meaningful steps the UK can take to reduce, never mind stop global CO2 emissions. Developing nations, whose populations die prematurely due to lack of access to energy, will continue to expand their use of fossil fuels. Attempts to prevent them doing so are inhuman. Any changes we make in the UK will not discernably affect global emissions or temperatures. The harm caused by most of the measures proposed far outweigh even the predicted harms of global warming, and are thus just preposterously expensive gestures.
  5. The most effective step we could take would be to develop a source of carbon-free energy that was cheaper than existing energy sources. The most promising such source is nuclear energy which is opposed by almost all green NGOs and climate activists.