Monday, December 07, 2009

Copenhagen

For the next two weeks, most countries of the world will have representatives at the Copenhagen climate summit. Its a very important conference, even if its likely to be dominated in the UK media by the Pre Budget Report - for the next few days at least. Its difficult to be certain what the aim of the Conference is, but I think it's to establish a 'pathway' to an international binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions by some agreed amount by an agreed future date. I know it sounds a bit woolly. But as a principle, I support this aim, though I recognise that many others do not. We are told that the majority of scientists in the field believe that huge reductions are crucial to prevent an environmental catastrophe for planet Earth. I suspect that most British people support decisive action to reduce emissions, and quickly - but that they do not accept the scale of policy change being demanded by some. That's about where I place myself.

But this post is about the disastrous way the supporters of most radical change are presenting their arguments. Even the generally impressive Ed Miliband, the UK Government's leading spokesman has now resorted to calling those who disagree with him 'flat earthers', and dismissing their opinions as 'irresponsibility'. This approach generates hostility, both towards himself, and the argument he's trying to make. His rudeness towards Lord Lawson on the BBC last night was arrogant and patronising, and did nothing but damage to his cause. No-one likes being called a flat earther.

I hope there is real progress at Copenhagen. Not some huge photo-op where they're all trying to cosy up to Obama, and trumpeting some media soundbite that's already been prepared. We need a commitment to real actions that will make a difference, both at the state level and internationally. The sort of thing I mean at the international level, is a compensatory package which will persuade Brazil to end deforestation, thus 'Saving the Amazon'. This can be justified from a 'biodiversity' standpoint as well. And at the national level, something like scrapping the excise licence, switching the tax to fuel consumption - or a Council Tax system tied to carbon emission levels. Not sure these ideas are workable, but its the sort of scale of change needed if any difference is going to be made.

But back to the blustering refusal to consider different opinions. The 'leaked emails from the UEA have had a defining impact. The evidence suggests that some of the most influential scientists in the world, responsible for the data on which so many other scientists have based their opinion may have been manipulating, or suppressing the figures. Suddenly, the supposed scientific consensus looks anything but. Total transparency, and willingness to engage with what are rather offensively referred to as 'deniers' will be essential to restore faith in the data. Debating with Lord Lawson, and explaining why he is wrong is better than insisting he has no right to speak. Depending on blind assertion will not persuade anyone, and no amount of bullying and denigration by Ed Miliband will make the slightest difference.

14 comments:

alanindyfed said...

These people who use derisive expressions such as "flat-earthers" (and we know who they are) are themselves flat-headed individuals displaying a neantherdal mentality. They are still in our midst it would seem and the sooner they are extinct the better for society. ;-)

Anonymous said...

It's truly pathetic - the global warming alarmists are taking on the mantel of religion, the religion of global warming, they believe they can turn the tide back. I am very surprised that a section of the population can be so easily taken in. And so taken in they act like rabid believers pouring scorn on those that don't share their faith, their religion. They are blind to reason, but think the non-believers are blind to reason, are 'flat earthers' {sic}.

Anonymous said...

Anon, It's not blind reason though. This is all based on scientific fact. You ask the majority of scientists and they will tell you that cliamte change is indeed happening.

Glyn, I don't understand why you and your readers and so blahsay about the whole issues.

Email gate was a definate mistake but surely you can't use this as an argument against climate change?

I persoanlly dont feel any hostility towards Ed Miliband the time has come to do something about this, frankly we can't afford to let the minority of people getting in the way of fixing this problem

Matt said...

Try this Glyn: http://swifthack.com/

To show why these emails change absolutely nothing. The facts remain the facts.

Amanwy said...

So you support 'decisive action', but only on a small scale?

Glyn Davies said...

Alan and anon 1 - While the attitude and language of what anon calls 'global warming alarmists' is confrontational and self defeating, there does seem agreemant that we are going through a period of global warming, though it seems not since 1998. I accept this and believe the right response is to take whatever reasonable steps we can to mitigate. Even if the warming is not man-made, the potential dislocation demands the same policy response.

Matt and anon - I do not think the leaked emails have changed the science. But they have changed the public attitude to the science. Governments cannot take effective action unless their populations suppoprt them. Which is why thee needs to be rigorous investigation of what has been happening at UEA.

Amamwy - You have a unique way of reading. My preference is for effective policy changes, which are needed at the 'national' level, rather than grandiose 'internatinal' statements of intent that create headlines and deliver little. Effective is not a synonym for 'small'.

Matt said...

Glyn, we've only been experiencing a cooling trend since '98 if you take 98 as the start year, however, even since 1998, if the observed period is longer (taking 1798 as a start point for example), the overall trend has been upward.

1998 just happened to be an outlier (even in 'warming terms') due to El Nino.

Unfortunately, the science now shows we're at a point where we will have to do something, regardless of public opinion, and ill-informed debate, especially of the type that emerged in the wake of climategate, does not help.

colis said...

Anon (10:14:00 AM)

"It's not blind reason though. This is all based on scientific fact."

Actually no it isn't - the raw data that East Anglia used is not available to scrutiny - there remain active elements at East Anglia university that are keeping the raw data secret and not available to the wider scientific community.

It's very important that scientists can see the raw data sets that East Anglia University has based its models on.

It's a fact that we are currently in a cooling trend and it is a fact that East Anglia University has no explanation for this cooling trend over the past decade.

So it’s obvious that their raw data is missing data - Lord Kelvin made a similar mistake when he calculated the age of the earth but based his calculations on an incomplete data set. His calculation was theoretically correct; correct to the extent of the data set he used, but his data set was missing crucial data, was incomplete and he came up with the age of the Earth that was inaccurate.

East Anglia University must release the raw data that they have based their models on and we need to know why their models failed to predict the cooling tend over the past decade - clearly there is something wrong with their models, and they have admitted they don't know why their models failed to predict the current cooling trend.

micul said...

Matt> I don't disagree that the weather is changing - it always is. Back in the 70s scientists claimed that pollution would block out the sun's rays and cause a man induced ice-age. Now scientists say pollution from man is causing global warming and we are supposed to believe them when they actively suppress scientists that don't agree with them. With chilling of the debate, and hiding the raw data on which the modeling is based, it is impossible for the wider scientific community to even judge how accurate or inaccurate the models are since the wider scientific community is denied access to the raw data based on "confidentiality agreements". "Please".

unhans said...

Matt> then why did the models at East Anglia University failed to predict the cooling trend of the past decade? As you say, it’s due to El Nino - which begs the question did the East Anglia research group fail to include the El Nino phenomenon in their models? We don't know, because they will not release the raw data on which their models and predictions from those models are based. Failure to predict the cooling trend and the possible failure to include past El Nino data in their modeling begs the question, 'what else did they leave out of their modeling?" Was there some massaging of the raw data prior to uploading the data into their model? We don't know, because East Anglia University will not release the raw data.

coorspe said...

Slight change of subject, but your thoughts on this great decision Glyn:

PLAID Cymru AM Mohammad Asghar "in the morning", Conservative 'in the afternoon'.

Maybe it was "yesterday" and Conservative "today" ... not sure, but you get my drift I'm sure.

Helen said...

Glyn did you know that Lembit Opik and Mick Bates have organised a public meeting in Machynlleth alongside Oxfam Cymru and CAT to discuss climate change, with Centre of Alternative Technology providing a live link-up to CAT reps at the Copenhagen Conference. I don't think for one minute that global warming is man made, but even if it was, covering the beautiful mountain tops of Wales with useless wind turbines (which Mick Bates is hell bent on doing) isn't the answer.
I hope that as President of CPRW you will put this to them?!
The meeting is this Friday 11th Dec at the Mary Cornelia suite at The Plas at 7.30p.m

Anonymous said...

Colis, East Anglia University is not the only body that has done research on this.

Manipulating data is clearly wrong however,even if you were to exclude every line of evidence that could possibly be disputed the computer models, the complex science of clouds and ocean currents – the evidence for climate change is still undisputable. You can see it in the measured temperature record. Fortunatley this data is avaliable to everyone.

colis said...

Colis, East Anglia University is not the only body that has done research on this.

Manipulating data is clearly wrong however,even if you were to exclude every line of evidence that could possibly be disputed the computer models, the complex science of clouds and ocean currents – the evidence for climate change is still undisputable. You can see it in the measured temperature record. Fortunatley this data is avaliable to everyone.


Anon (Wed Dec 09, 12:04:00 PM) > that we are in an overall warming up period is not the real issue. The issue is what is man’s contribution to the warm up? The Earth’s surface is always either warming up or cooling down or in-between a warm-up or cooling-down period. It is unquestionable that the Earth’s surface temperature has been a lot warmer than it is right now well before mankind built a single factory. In the 1970s scientists warned the world that the Earth was facing a new ice-age because of man’s pollution. Now the scientists claim the opposite. In fact pollution might be slowing the warm up – particulate matter at high altitude could impact on the amount of sun’s rays penetrating into the atmosphere so we could be forestalling a dramatic warm-up. I am against pollution and especially unnecessary pollution as delivered, for example, by the super-large container ships delivering goods to the UK for Christmas – the engines in those ships burn dirty fuels (high sulphur/sulfur content). Yet Brits buy those goods or those container ships would not carry those goods to the UK.

A warm-up period will mean bigger food harvests and fewer old age pensioners dying in Britain’s winters. But right now, many scientists say we are in a cooling trend, but the UN says we are not, that we are still in a warm up trend. Yet right now America is dealing with a huge snow storm and will experience bitter cold this winter, the UK’s last winter was a cold one, so I wonder about the UN’s latest blustering.

An ice-age would be far worse than a warm-up period, far far worse for mankind – we would have disaster harvests and there would be mass starvation.