climate has always changed;
will go on changing;
and nothing that politicians can do will stop it."
Anthony Young (2008)
Updatesbelow and on
Of all environmental
questions, climatic change, usually referred to as 'global warming',
is the one most often on the lips of environmental lobbyists,
the media, politicians, and the general public.
of climatic change goes back further than most people realise.
It was studied by Gordon Manley, at Bedford College, London, back
in the 1950s, using early temperature records kept by vicars.
Then Hubert Lamb, originally a lone climatological voice at the
UK Meteorological Office, moved to the University of East Anglia
and founded the pioneering Climatic Research Unit.
have voiced caution about the more extreme claims by environmental
activists. Although not a climatic specialist let me, as a broad-based
environmental scientist, summarise my current views.
temperatures have risen by a small amount in recent years, beyond
what would be expected from random fluctuation. One cause of this
rise is most probably the emission of carbon dioxide and other
'greenhouse gases'. This may not be the only cause. It is unlikely
in the extreme that adherence to the Kyoto Protocol, or any other
measures, will have an appreciable effect on this. Politicians
delude themselves if they think they can control the climate.
is bound to have positive as well as negative effects for humanity.
Better crop growth in the cool temperate zones, and savings in
fuel costs on heating, are examples. The British public, out of
self-interest, welcomes it: we enjoy hot summers, and do not wish
to go back to the Dickensian winters of the nineteenth century,
when the Thames froze over.
we ignore calls to 'reduce carbon emissions'? No! What matters
is to reduce the consumption of increasingly scarce fossil fuels.
two consequences for realistic policy and action:
fuel consumption Yes, by all means: more economical cars,
house insulation, power generation by other than coal, oil and
gas. Use the 'carbon emissions' cry if this is what will lead
to action, but it is the saving of oil and other, ever more scarce,
non-renewable fuels that is the main reason.
to change We shall not stop climatic change. Money is much
better spent adapting to it. There are a multitude of ways, e.g.
food reserves and warning systems in semi-arid regions, improved
coastal flood defence works.
the major contribution to reducing emissions, fuel burning, not
to mention hunger, poverty, and all other environmental problems:
to check rates of population growth. For discussion of this, see
(February 2009) Compare the statement which opens this page with
the following: "The climate changes all the time, it always
has done and always will do, for reasons that may have little
or nothing to do with...man", taken from Nigel Lawson's book,
An Appeal to Reason: a cool look at global warming. Lawson
argues that political attempts to halt global warming by checking
carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere are highly unlikley
to be successful, and would harm the progress of developing countries.
Public investment is better spent on adapting to change, where
and when it happens.