The impact of climate change has been vastly exaggerated

The impact of climate change has been vastly exaggerated

Ebell Op-Ed in The Guardian
November 01, 2005

George Monbiot's column criticising David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, also takes a swipe at me (The chief scientific adviser has become a government spin doctor, October 25). Contrary to what he says, though, I have never "viciously attacked" King - although I did shake his hand at a talk he gave in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Washington. In a radio interview in November 2004, I said that he is undoubtedly a good scien tist - he is a professor of chemistry at Cambridge, after all - but that he is not a climate scientist, and the advice on climate science he was giving the government was poor. <?xml:namespace prefix = u1 /><?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


For example, King has repeatedly raised the spectre of the Greenland ice cap melting. There are several holes in this scare story. Temperatures have been dropping in recent decades in most of Greenland. Even if the ice cap melts, it will not raise sea levels nearly as much as he seems to think. And most Arctic experts think that it will take a thousand years or more to happen.


I also criticised King for going beyond his role as a scientific adviser to make political judgments, specifically the claim that global warming is a more serious threat than terrorism. He is no more qualified to make such a judgment between incommensurables than any other citizen. I concluded that King, no matter how excellent a scientist, isn't performing well as a scientific adviser. Curiously, Monbiot makes almost exactly the same point in his column.


Further, I am not "sponsored" by ExxonMobil. While I am proud that that outstanding company does contribute money to the non-profit organisation for which I work, it is important to be clear that I in no way speak for or represent it.


Nor am I a "climate change denier", a term used to put people in the bin next to Holocaust deniers. As I have said in hundreds of interviews and talks, there is no doubt that the climate has always been changing and that human activities - especially burning vast quantities of coal, oil and natural gas - now play a significant role in causing current changes. Monbiot knows this because he has been on BBC radio and television with me and attended an Oxford Union debate at which I spoke.


Thinking, as I do, that the scientific evidence suggests that the rate of increase in the global mean temperature is modest and likely to remain so; that the potential adverse impacts of global warming have been vastly exaggerated; and that the policies proposed to deal with global warming - such as the Kyoto protocol - pose a much greater threat to human flourishing than does global warming; does not make me a "climate change denier". It does make me sceptical of leftist propagandists who seize on any alleged crisis to advocate more centralised government control over people's lives.