Germany's Dr. Ernst Beck some time ago questioned the practice of using proxy data as measures of past CO2 levels. The favoured ice-core proxies have many known problems. He pointed out that chemists have been making direct measurements of ambient CO2 way back into the 19th century and asks why that data is not used. That the direct measurements show much higher levels in the past than the Warmists claim was of course the obvious reason why they have been ignored. The direct measurements show a very different picture from the smooth rise in CO2 levels that the Warmists present.
Warmists have however tried to answer Beck on scientific grounds by alleging that the huge body of past CO2 measurements that he collected had sources of inaccuracy in it too. Prof. Beck has now answered his critics by doing a validation study of the direct measurements. He shows that the direct measurements correspond well to the best modern data. Bottom line: Beck's measurents are the best evidence for past CO2 levels and they show that modern changes in such levels are similar to normal oscillations of the past.
The new paper was presented at a recent climate science conference and was awarded as the best paper presented there. That implies a publication in the International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management and a special book. Dr. Beck [email@example.com] was rather surprised to win and thinks that they may not have realized the full implications of his work. The paper is a huge and detailed one with many graphics so I have presented only the abstract and conclusions below. The full paper is however available here.
Accurate estimation of CO2 background level from near ground measurements at non-mixed environments
Authors: Dr. Francis Massen, Dipl. Biol. Ernst-Georg Beck
Atmospheric CO2 background levels are sampled and processed according to the standards of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Earth System Research Laboratory mostly at marine environments to minimize the local influence of vegetation, ground or anthropogenic sources. Continental measurements usually show large diurnal and seasonal variations, which makes it difficult to estimate well mixed CO2 levels
Historical CO2 measurements are usually derived from proxies, with ice cores being the favorite. Those done by chemical methods prior to 1960 are often rejected as being inadequate due too poor siting, timing or method. The CO2 versus wind speed plot represents a simple but valuable tool for validating modern and historic continental data. It is shown that either a visual or a mathematical fit can give data that are close to the regional CO2 background, even if the average local mixing ratio is much different......
It has been shown that the CO2 versus wind-speed plot can represent a valuable tool to estimate continental local background CO2 levels despite of distorted mixing ratios or local influences. Applying the procedure to recent well known data gives results that are relatively close to the yearly average of the observational data at Mauna Loa and suggest a maximum difference of about 10 ppm with the global CO2 background as given by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
A validation check has been made for 3 historical CO2 series. The overall impression is one of continental European historic regional CO2 background levels significantly higher than the commonly assumed global ice-core proxy levels.
The CO2 versus wind-speed plot seems to be a good first level validation tool for historical data. With the required caveats it could deliver a reasonable approximation of past regional and possibly past global CO2 background levels.
We're doomed without a green religion
A British judge has recently ruled that Greenie beliefs are a religion. The Leftist author below is trying to come to terms with that. He concludes that people must be forced to obey what Warmists want even if Warmism does have an odious religious side. He thinks, probably rightly, that the religious nature of Warmism is a part of what makes it popular and he is on the whole happy about that
The justification for burning heretics was perfectly simple: dissent threatened the survival of society. Nothing was worse than anarchy. This is a viewpoint most people in the West today find pretty much incomprehensible. It is a self-evident truth to them that morality must be a matter of individual choice. And if you believe that, the arguments around the Tim Nicholson case are very difficult to resolve. If there is a moral imperative to preserve the human race, or as much of it as possible, collective consequences must follow. It is not enough for us to do the right thing. Others must as well. If you don't believe that, then there is no point in agitating for success in Copenhagen.
But if collective consequences follow, others must be forced to do things against their will by our moral imperatives. This is exactly the quality that is supposed to be so very obnoxious about religion.
The idea that morality is and must be a matter of individual choice is taken as axiomatic in these debates. It is thought true in the sense that it is held to describe a fact about the world. Very often the same people who believe this will also believe, and maintain with equal vehemence in other contexts the belief that morals are merely opinions, or at least that there couldn't in the nature of things be moral facts: true or false statements about whether something or someone is good or bad.
This was neatly if not nicely expressed by one of the commenters on Tim Nicholson's article here, who said: "You may believe less flying and driving, and more wind farms, and so on to be moral imperatives. I don't. You are entitled to your beliefs, and should not be persecuted for them. But they are just beliefs. You want to argue the politics of how to respond to climate change: great. But you can stop wrapping your proposed solutions up in 'moral imperative' cotton wool."
These are not the only confusions which the Nicholson case raises. Many people who are upset by the court's equating a scientific opinion with a religion belief suppose that science is true and rational, religion is false and irrational, and that this division of the world is itself factual and rational. If this is how the world appears to you, then there is no question that climate change is not a religion. That would mean that it wasn't really happening, and that we were free to ignore it. Both supporters and opponents of environmentalism can often agree both that it might be a religion and that would be a bad thing. This is why, in general, the people who maintain that environmentalism is like a religion are opposed to it; while those in favour deny it is anything like a religion. (A further complication is supplied by right-wing Christians like Daniel Johnson who maintain that religion is a good thing, but environmentalism is a false religion.)
But can this sharp distinction between truth and falsity, fact and value, actually describe the world? The unexamined assumption is that we can split the world into a sphere of facts and a sphere of opinions and that the facts will speak for themselves. And, as a matter of fact, that is false. I'm not caliming here that there are no facts, or that there are only opinions, or that science is only socially constructed. I just need to point out that fact and opinion are not two distinct substances.
Myles Allen wrote yesterday: "I don't ask anyone to believe in human influence on climate because I do, or because thousands of other scientists do. I ask them to look at the evidence." But while this is an admirable ideal, it is wholly impossible in practice. You cannot believe in science if you do not also believe in scientists. That is why the faking of results is such a terrible threat to the whole enterprise [And who are the ones doing the faking? Warmists like Briffa, Mann etc]. Nor is "evidence" a a simple thing visible to the naked eye. Without quite a specialised education, the nature and force of scientific evidence is quite literally invisible. Even when the evidence is overwhelming there will always be smart and otherwise well-educated people to ignore it if they have other more powerful reasons to do so. The instinct of most scientists is to suppose that this can be cured by teaching people science. But that's never going to work, however desirable it is for other reasons. Scientists want to be believed becasuse of the truth they are telling is so overwhelming as to make trust unnecessary, but in practice they will either be trusted or ignored.
There is a strand of atheism, or perhaps of anti-theism, which redefines "religion" to include all forms of collective faith, chiefly communism. Although this may have originated as a rhetorical move in order to deny that the communists who killed millions of Christians were actually atheists, it does express something deeper: a conviction that compulsion in the name of any belief is itself immoral. Now whether anyone actually truly and consistently believes this is another question. What matters in this context is that lots of people believe that they do believe it.
Climate change makes that position entirely incoherent. Because it is a global tragedy of the commons, individual action cannot be enough. I cannot ensure the survival of my grandchildren, nor even yours, without compelling you to behave in ways that science tells me are necessary. Not to act, not to coerce, itself becomes immoral.
There is a further twist to the argument. Compulsion will be needed but compulsion alone won't do it. People aren't made like that. They need to believe in what they are forced to do. They need idealism, and that will also mean its dark side: the pressure of conformism, the force of self-righteousness, huge moral weight attached to practically useless gestures like unplugging phone chargers. They need, in fact, something that does look a lot like religion. But we can't engineer it. It can only arise spontaneously. Should that happen, the denialists, who claim that it is all a religion, will for once be telling the truth, and when they do that, they'll have lost. I just hope it doesn't happen too late.
The Dawn of Weimar Britain
An apparently Left-leaning sociologist below is not so happy with Warmism as a religion. He sees it as potentially leading to Nazism
Last week a UK High Court gave the green light for a green activist to sue his employer, who had sacked him for refusing to do an errand because it conflicted with his green beliefs. For intellectual ballast, the judge quoted no less – or, should I say, no more? – than Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy, a work whose authoritativeness matches that of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Everything in the history of science discipline. But that’s not really my point….
My point is to draw attention to the five criteria that the judge offered to expand the definition of ‘religious discrimination’ that may be invoked by others in the future in similar cases:
• The belief must be genuinely held.
• It must be a belief and not an opinion or view based on the present state of information available.
• It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life.
• It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
• It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.
Humanism was given as an example meeting the criteria, while belief in a political party or the supreme nature of Jedi knights, from the Star Wars movies, were offered as ones that do not.
The general response to this ruling has been positive, with some lawyers seeing it as opening the door to the re-classification of stances like feminism, humanism and vegetarianism as protected religious beliefs. Even New Atheism might count!
I completely disagree with the ruling and the sentiment informing it. In fact, I published a letter in the Guardian the next day, which said: "Justice Burton’s ruling in favour of a green activist whose beliefs interfered with his job has the potential for becoming an epistemological nightmare. In particular, by raising what were previously treated as ‘political’ and ‘lifestyle’ choices to the status of ‘genuinely held beliefs’, the ruling effectively creates an incentive to be dogmatic in one’s opinions, simply in order to avoid forms of social intercourse that one finds disagreeable. After all, evidence of a changed mind is all that would be needed to lose one the protection afforded by the ruling."
A potential practical consequence of this ruling is complete social and political gridlock. It reminds me of Article 118 of the old Weimar Constitution, the first half of which reads as follows: "Every German is entitled, within the bounds set by general law, to express his opinion freely in word, writing, print, image or otherwise. No job contract may obstruct him in the exercise of this right; nobody may put him at a disadvantage if he makes use of this right."
What’s gone wrong here? Part of the answer lies in how ‘free individuals’ is conceptualised. The Weimar Constitution began with a majority principle based on the idea of a ‘German people’ whose common values uphold the constitution. One of those values, of course, is freedom of expression. But to enforce that freedom, the constitution then needs to allow for ‘minority rights’, whereby individuals with deeply held beliefs are allowed opt-out clauses from certain aspects of normal social life that inhibit their expression; otherwise, the majority principle would prove oppressive. Hans Kelsen, one of the great legal minds behind the Weimar Constitution, justifies all this (though without quite seeing its practical consequences) in On the Essence and Value of Democracy (1929).
In the Weimar period, ‘minority rights’ were normally understood in ethnic terms but of course this was also the time when feminism, vegetarianism, etc. start to be recognized as ‘identity politics’. In any case, the pernicious long-term consequence of this way of thinking about freedom of expression is that it encourages a hardening of one’s sense of identity in order to gain personal and political leverage. Of course, in the case of ethnic identity, such a move can be easily turned against oneself – as the Nazis showed all too well.
My own view is that liberal democratic societies should discourage the formation of strong identities – be they around blood or belief – otherwise they will end up undermining their own principles.
Non-believers fill the church of green gods
By Dominic Lawson, son of Nigel Lawson. Both are skeptical about Warmism
‘Al Gore, who art in thy fully offset private jet; Nobel-prized be thy name; thy carbon-free kingdom come; on planet Earth (otherwise known as Gaia) as it should be after Copenhagen; give us this day our daily meat-free diet; and forgive us our emissions, though we don’t forgive any other big fat Americans who emit against us; lead us not into exotic holiday flights; and deliver us from climate denial; for the science is settled. Amen.”
That lacks a certain resonance, I must admit; but now that a British judge has ruled that believers in man-made global warming catastrophe should be protected under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, we should try to come forward with some suitable prayers for this newly identified faith.
Mr Justice Burton, of the High Court, is the man behind the ruling. He found for a “sustainability officer” called Tim Nicholson, who claimed he had been made redundant by the property company Grainger because of his beliefs in imminent man-made climate catastrophe. To be precise, the judge did not say that Nicholson had actually been sacked for that reason; only that he had the right to sue for unfair dismissal under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations.
Why should Tim Nicholson (who looked sweet with his fold-up bicycle outside the High Court) have wanted to establish this as the reason for his dismissal? Possibly it was a desire to become an ecological hero; but I am equally inclined to see the hand of some very clever employment lawyers. In a “normal” redundancy, the departing employee is entitled only to a statutory minimum payoff together with anything already defined in his contract; but when a court finds that the employee has been sacked as a result of some form of discrimination, then there is no legal limit to the amount that can be claimed.
This is why there have been a number of multi-million-pound payouts for City women winning claims that they have been victims of sex discrimination at work. It may seem unlikely that Nicholson’s case, even if it ultimately succeeds at the forthcoming tribunal, will be followed by many others; but given the number of “sustainability officers” employed in the soon-to-be-cut-back public sector and the ingenious opportunism of employment lawyers, who knows?
The more perceptive environmental campaigners did not join in Nicholson’s rejoicing at his victory. They noted that in Burton’s judgment a belief qualified for protection only if it could be said to be “not an opinion or view based on the present state of information available”. In other words, said the judge, Nicholson’s views on man’s influence on climate — which had brought him into conflict with his chief executive over allegedly excessive air trips — went beyond evidence and were more a form of philosophy, or even faith.
Interestingly, Burton is the very same judge that two years ago found for a Kent school governor who brought a case against the government’s plans to supply every school with a DVD of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The judge agreed that the film was flawed. He decreed that it contained nine scientific errors and that the government should accompany any DVDs sent to schools with guidance pointing out, among other things, that polar bears are not drowning in the absence of sufficient quantities of ice. Put away those hankies, children: they’re going to be all right.
It’s one of the properties of established religions that people profess to believe even when they don’t, really. That may seem hypocritical, but social pressure is a powerful force that can make even the most independent minds quail. Richard Dawkins is probably right, for example, when he says there are many Americans who are privately atheist but find it much easier to pretend to be Christians. A similar point was made to me by one of the only five Conservative MPs to vote against the Climate Change Bill. When I told him I was surprised so many Tories felt the carbon cutbacks required by the bill were achievable, he laughed. “None of them do, but they want to be seen to be virtuous.”
A year or so ago, a couple of ministers, Ed Balls and Shaun Woodward, were observed travelling in separate chauffeur-driven cars from the same Downing Street meeting to the same dinner party, 150 yards away. Their chauffeurs waited outside and then after dinner drove the two ministers, again separately, to the Commons, all of 300 yards further on. Because the dinner party was for Labour donors, the Tories insisted that it had been inappropriate to use official limousines — at least for the first 150 yards. The more interesting point was that if Balls and Woodward truly believed — as the government claims — that millions of children yet unborn will die of thirst if we do not immediately check our excessive and avoidable CO2 emissions, they surely would not have condemned another suppositious baby African or two to death by choosing not to walk a quarter of a mile down Whitehall. As so often, it is our actions that reveal our thinking, rather than our words.
This has been made clear by the run-up to next month’s Copenhagen summit, which was supposed to supply the successor treaty to the Kyoto protocol, according mandatory CO2 emissions targets to all the nations of the world. Kyoto had excluded developing countries, and the US refuses to sign any treaty (Barack Obama is little different from George W Bush in this respect) unless such vast nations as China and India come on board. Almost every country pays lip-service to the view that an agreement in Copenhagen is necessary to “save the planet”, but it is now clear that no treaty will be agreed next month.
An article in Prospect magazine by one who had been attending the interminable meetings leading up to the Copenhagen summit reveals how this process really functions — or, rather, doesn’t. It points out that there will be at least 20,000 delegates flying into Copenhagen, but even the intermediate meetings of the relevant UN committee attract up to 10,000 delegates, producing negotiations described by one attendee as “complete unreality ... delegates just talk past each other”.
Apparently the most intractable delegation — and bear in mind that a deal requires complete consensus, not a mere majority — is the Saudi team, which has been arguing that a swingeing cutback on fossil fuels is “economic discrimination” against oil-exporting nations. Yes, Saudi Arabia is already an arid desert nation, but it is rich enough to keep its people supplied with irrigation: this makes the unfashionable point that it is not climate change that condemns Africans to early death, but poverty. The poorer nations understand this only too well, which is why they see Copenhagen as being about the transfer of vast sums of money from north to south: how much we also cut back our emissions is of much less importance to them.
This is not what adherents of the “catastrophic global warming” faith — the sort of people identified by Mr Justice Burton — want to hear. They believe that the wretched of the world’s poorest nations will not be saved unless we construct vast wind farms across the British countryside and give up generating electricity from coal and gas. In fact, given our own very small share of global emissions, such a policy might lead to the poorest Britons dying of hypothermia, while being of no perceptible benefit to the life of a single future African or Bangladeshi.
I hope that this is not what will happen, either here or there. If it does, perhaps some future traveller to Britain, centuries from now, will examine the excavated remnants of those giant wind turbines and speculate that they were the temples of some primitive faith. He would not be entirely mistaken.
Political climate constipation
Most of those concerned with climate have had their eyes on Barcelona this week, where delegates from 192 countries plus hundreds of observers, campaigners, lobbyists - and journalists - convened for the final session of preparatory talks before the UN climate summit in Copenhagen.
Barcelona talks: As I've reported, there's been a deal of tension between rich and poor - with the developing world accusing the developed world of forgetting about its needs, as rich nations refuse to cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to stave off "dangerous" climate change (their view).
How much of the rancour turns out to be real and how much synthesized as a political bargaining tool we will find out in Copenhagen - although perhaps not until the last few days of that meeting.
What's certain is that unless the US comes forward with a pledge on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, there will be no deal of any kind, legally binding or politically binding (whatever those phrases may mean precisely).
If the US does produce a figure, it can realistically be in no other ballpark than a 17-20% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 - that's roughly what President Obama pledged before the election, and roughly what the Boxer-Kerry bill now going through the Senate would produce.
In a news conference here, US negotiator Jonathan Pershing reckoned this would put the US way ahead of the EU on ambition - the US would cut emissions faster that Europe over the next 11 years. The reason is that the EU has already cut emissions markedly between 1990 - the baseline that everyone else uses - and today. And against that baseline, the US pledge will only be about 4% - paltry beside the EU's 20-30% and Japan's 25%.
Mr Pershing may not want the administration to which he belongs to shoulder the burden of making cuts that the Bush government did not... but from the perspective of a developing country many miles away, the US is the US is the US, whoever is in charge at various times.
Is there a formula that everyone could live with? Will the EU consider 4% "comparable" to its own efforts? Would developing countries accept a US pledge as binding in the absence of Senate legislation - given that on the Kyoto Protocol, the US first signed, then declined to ratify, then withdrew?
Could money and technology bridge the gap? Is it, indeed, bridgeable?
Mr Pershing said it's not yet been decided whether the US will put forward a target in Copenhagen and one reason for the non-decision - if non-decision it is, rather than a decision that's been taken and is being kept under wraps - is presumably the sticky passage envisaged for the Boxer-Kerry bill.
Republican senators on the influential Environment and Public Works Committee decided to boycott discussions on the bill this week, saying that a full analysis of its financial costs and benefits was needed first. So committee chair - and bill sponsor - Barbara Boxer pushed it through the committee without debate - a procedure that's apparently rarely used. However, in a sign that not everything is going swimmingly well, senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham started working on a "parallel track" towards a bill that can get the 60 votes necessary to pass legislation in the full Senate. It's likely to include more support for nuclear power and perhaps for the oil and gas industry, while maintaining the cap-and-trade programme that is the current bill's centerpiece.
What this means for prospects of passing climate legislation isn't clear - perhaps not to anyone. But it doesn't exactly sound like a fast track - particularly as the further legislation evolves from the text that the House of Representatives passed in June, the harder it will be to reconcile the two.
Angela Merkel: A high-level European delegation was in Washington this week and although German Chancellor Angela Merkel's address to Congress asking for more action on climate change was received with applause on the Democrat side, there was reportedly silence on the other side of the house - another indication that not all US lawmakers are convinced that their president is on the right track on climate change.
Other potentially significant moves this week include the meeting of G20 finance ministers - a meeting expressly charged at the last G20 summit in Pittsburgh with putting a new offer of climate finance on the table. Campaigners are urging them to phase out fossil fuel subsidies as soon as possible. To do so was a pledge made by governments at the G20 summit - it's also an agreed aim under the UN climate convention, which dates all the way back to 1992.
At the time of writing, the finance ministers' meeting is under way but nothing has yet emerged - you can follow my colleague Andrew Walker's reports on the BBC News website and we'll look at it again next week.
A conference will open in the Maldives next week of countries considered especially vulnerable to climate change. Governments invited include Bangladesh, Costa Rica, and a number of Caribbean and Pacific island states. What they'll come up with is likely to include demands for reducing greenhouse gas emissions further and faster than is currently envisaged under the UN process.
The UN texts, the advice from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and some of the developed country targets are loosely aimed at keeping the rise in global average temperatures within 2C since pre-industrial times. The equations are inexact but that may roughly translate to keeping greenhouse gas concentrations below the equivalent of 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. For the small island developing states (SIDS), that's too much. They want a maximum of 350ppm adopted as the benchmark.
Although on the surface politicians - especially from Europe - are trimming expectations for Copenhagen, behind the scenes they are also encouraging campaigners to step up the pressure in the intervening weeks.
A BOOK REVIEW of two books: "An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming" by Nigel Lawson and "Blueprint for a Safer Planet: How to Manage Climate Change and Create a New Era of Progress and Prosperity" by Nicholas Stern.
Review by MYRON EBELL
Both these books look comprehensively at global warming and cover much the same ground in much the same order. There the similarities end. First published last year, Lord Lawson's Appeal is the best short book on the entire range of issues in the global warming debate that is available from a British publisher. This paperback edition with a substantial new afterword is therefore most welcome. Lawson is lucid, thoughtful and fair-minded. The book's highly useful footnotes and bibliography attest to Lawson's familiarity with the wide range of scholarship on the many scientific disciplines that contribute to understanding the climate and with the major economic analyses of the energy-rationing policies proposed to deal with warming.
That should not be surprising. Lawson was an active participant in the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs, which took expert testimony from a wide range of scientists and economists. In 2005, the committee produced the best official report on global warming that has so far been done. Although leading peers from all three major parties were involved and agreed unanimously, their report has been ignored by all three major parties. Its conclusions, you see, were "sceptical".
Lawson's book is for the most part sceptical as well. And appropriately so: a healthy scepticism is a most reasonable attitude to take towards claims of intellectual and political authority. He argues that the rate of warming has been modest, the predictions from computer models of much faster rates in the future are not credible, and the possible adverse impacts are wildly exaggerated. Turning to policy, he argues that adapting to changing climate is much more sensible than trying to reduce drastically greenhouse gas emissions, which would be colossally expensive even if it were possible. Lawson observes that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the European Union's efforts to reduce emissions are not working and that a new international agreement to follow Kyoto that would include the US, China and India is almost certain to fail as well.
More speculatively, Lawson finds the attraction of pursuing energy-rationing policies that would cause much more harm than the potential global warming they are meant to prevent to be based on a quasi-religious enthusiasm. He shrewdly observes that this recent quasi-religious commitment to saving the planet from a harmless trace gas necessary for life, which is popular among the secularised chattering class, is encouraged by political leaders and government officials because it serves their interests by providing a new rationale for exercising their authority and expanding government control over people's lives.
Providing a rationale for more government is exactly what Lord Stern has done, first with the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change, released in 2006, and now with his Blueprint for a Safer Planet. The then-Chancellor Gordon Brown commissioned the Review to provide support for government climate policy. It was researched by a large team of government economists led by Stern, a senior UK and international bureaucrat and, most conveniently, Labour Party loyalist. Stern, then plain Sir Nicholas, gave Brown and Prime Minister Blair exactly what they wanted and in so doing became a policy wonk celebrity. He was given a life peerage for his efforts.
Although the mammoth Review appears to be a most professional piece of work and contains an impressive economic apparatus, its methodology and analysis have been rubbished by leading resource economists. The include William Nordhaus of Yale, Richard Tol with multiple academic appointments, Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge, and a team headed by David Henderson, former chief economist at the OECD (to whom Lawson dedicates his book).
I expect many more people will buy Stern's new book than Lawson's, but I doubt that many will read much of it. It is dreary, tedious and full of humbug, but since it appears to confirm the conventional wisdom, buyers can feel reassured by having it on their shelves. The irony is that Lawson's understanding, if not his conclusions, is closer to the mainstream than Stern's. Although acclaimed as a pillar of the establishment view that global warming is a looming catastrophe that requires drastic and immediate action, he is in fact on the extreme fringe on both the science and the economics.
On the science, Stern claims that the case for alarm is indisputable. In fact, however, he does not base his case on scientific facts and observations but rather on the alarming predictions of computer models. As Lawson points out, this is a public relations con by the alarmist industry. The computer models have no forecasting ability, nor do United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists claim that they do, however much they give that impression.
On the economics, in a section titled "Why some economists got it so badly wrong", he dismisses in two pages the economists, more distinguished and expert in the field than he is, who criticised his Review. Rather than explaining why this consensus is wrong, Stern mounts his high horse and claims that the economists who disagree with him do so because they are morally obtuse. This is comical. Lawson aptly compares him to Dickens's immortal creation, Mrs Jellyby in Bleak House.
Stern speaks the language of international do-goodism as only a lifelong practitioner can. We must offer the world's poorest people a low-carbon path out of poverty. Development and saving the planet are not conflicting goals — they can only be accomplished simultaneously. All that is needed is a grand "global deal". This global deal merely requires international collaboration on an unprecedented scale, well-designed policies that are implemented with great care immediately and pursued with unwavering commitment for 40 years, and a vast redistribution of wealth from rich to poor countries. In short, international central planning run by people bearing a remarkable resemblance to Lord Stern.
Stern's global deal looks to me like a series of Heath Robinson contraptions that must be made to run in perfect harmony. I'm not surprised that the Labour government finds it an alluring prospect, but I am disturbed that the intellectual adolescents now leading the Conservative Party have found an agreeable guru in Stern as well.
The Tories would in my view do much better if they listened to the sage advice of one of their soundest leaders of the past half century — the former Energy Secretary and Chancellor, Nigel Lawson.
But that may soon happen. Since the Tory leaders base their leadership on what the polls and focus groups tell them to do, even they will eventually recognise that the fad has peaked. Although global warning alarmism is still an article of faith for the chattering class, the general public have never been sold on it and are now becoming painfully aware of the staggering costs to them of reducing emissions.
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