Sunday, October 23, 2016

Climate Change - Following the evidence.

Two weeks ago, I attended the 2016 GWPF (Global Warming Policy Forum) lecture at The Royal Society by Matt Ridley. My attendance, in itself was enough to draw down upon my head bucketfuls of contemptuous ire. The problem is that both the GWPF and Matt Ridley are open minded about the scale of dangerous global warming, and the appropriate public policy response to it. To many of those involved in what I will refer to to as the 'green' lobby, (and this is not meant to be disparaging) no right thinking person should even listen to any view other than that the world is facing catastrophe unless we make massive cuts to carbon emissions. We are simply told that the science is settled. There must be no further debate. My attending the Ridley lecture was akin to attending a meeting of devil worshippers intent on sacrificing virgins. Well, I think it's wise to listen to 'alternative' thinkers. Turned out it was a very good lecture. And thought provoking.

Matt Ridley began his lecture by telling us he agreed that we are experiencing a degree of global warming, and that he accepts the scientific consensus - which is that global warming is real, but not necessarily dangerous. There are several scenarios, ranging from harmless to catastrophic, according to the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), with the extreme predictions of dangerous climate change being very unlikely. That's not too far from what I think. But being instinctively a cautious man, I tend to lean towards the opinion that we should decarbonise as quickly as we reasonably can.

First part of the lecture was about the extent of 'global greening' - the degree to which vegetation covers the face of the earth. I've not considered this as I should have done. We all know that more carbon dioxide makes plants grow more quickly. Indeed I'm told some glasshouse growers maintain high CO2 environments to encourage growth. Matt Ridley claims there has been a huge growth in global greening over recent decades, which he further claims is the result of higher levels of CO2. This seems highly credible to me. There was a whole lot more as well.

I'm not a scientist, and have no wish to enter into any sort of debate about the science. Neither do I feel competent to judge most of the speech, though I did find it informed and interesting. What I do find really interesting, and the inspiration for this post is that I do not think Government policy should be based on a partial view of science. I like to make judgements based on evidence. So often, I hear the greatest advocates of action to limit climate change as dismissive of any questioning. It's a mistake. In the end, governments the world over will be guided by evidence - or science delivered as evidence. I think Matt Ridley deserves to be listened to. At least his speech to the GWPF deserves to be read.

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