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Michael Kelly: We Need An Independent Panel To Re-Assess Climate Science & Policy

Letter to the editor of The Times: Sir, When I hear the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser one week, and the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills ten days later, with several members of the House of Lords in the interim, all referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as being more certain than ever of mankind’s role in changing the climate, but none of them qualifying the statement by admitting that man is still a bit player compared with the Sun and with nature over the past 150 years, then there is need for a really independent assessment of the interface between science and policy in this most important and contentious subject (Global warming battle “has become a religion” Nov 6).

Who is to adjudicate though? I suggest a panel made up from the Royal Statistical Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. These people are numerate and scientific but outside the immediate science. If they can be persuaded that the evidence and likely impact of mankind is so strong that we must revolutionise society in short order, then we must.

In 1868 William Stanley Jevons FRS urged the UK to abandon the Industrial Revolution, as the then addiction to coal was such that when coal ran out (about now) the collapse of the UK would be too terrible to contemplate. With hindsight, Jevons was clearly wrong. Who is to say that the latter-day Jevonses will not be proved wrong? Let us please have the debate in some degree of historical context and before a properly sceptical audience.

Professor Michael J. Kelly, Prince Philip Professor of Technology, University of Cambridge