EU Referendum

Climate change: the politics continue


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In the scare dynamic, the one thing you are not allowed to do – according to the rules of the game – is talk down the consequences of whatever it is has been selected as the crise du jour.

We saw this with the salmonella scare of 1988-9. Even to suggest that this type of food poisoning was relatively minor, and that there were far more pressing concerns on which to expend billions and cover acres of newsprint, was to invoke howls of outrage, and accusations that we were in favour of killing grannies and babies – these being the groups most at risk.

So it is exactly with Owen Paterson, who, speaking on Sunday, on the fringe of the Conservative Party conference, repeated the heinous crime. Already picked up by the loss-making Guardian, he is now pilloried by the Independent for suggesting that  the threat of global warming had been overstated.

Even worse, this man has indicated his confidence that humans would be able to adapt to its consequences. "People get very emotional about this subject and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries", he said.

So aggravated is the low-circulation Independent that it has splashed some of the offending words on its front page, a foil against which "Britain's leading climate scientists" can expend their wrath, condemning the Secretary of State for the Environment for being "irresponsible and immoral".

Mr Paterson is also accused of being "incorrect and misleading", something which does not seem to apply to the Independent, which insists that "a major UN report into climate change" was published on Friday, when all we actually saw was a summary of part one of three of the report.

Even now, the first part of the report, not published until yesterday, is a provisional draft. Crucially, we are told that is has to be read "in conjunction with the document entitled Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC 5th Assessment Report - Changes to the Underlying Scientific/Technical Assessment". This, we are instructed, is "to ensure consistency with the approved Summary for Policymakers (IPCC-XXVI/Doc.4) and presented to the Panel at its Thirty-Sixth Session".

"This document", we are further advised, "lists the changes necessary to ensure consistency between the full Report and the Summary for Policymakers, which was approved line-by-line by Working Group I and accepted by the Panel at the above-mentioned Sessions".

In other words, the summary, claimed to be based on the report, is published first, and then the report (or the first part of it) is published after the weekend, amended to match the summary which is supposedly based on it. With this legerdemain, one could be excused for dissolving into paroxysms of mirth. These people cannot possibly be taken seriously.

On fact, it is no laughing matter. Ross McKitrick was in 2012 a reviewer for the First and Second Order Drafts of the report. The expert review process is now closed, he notes, even though the report is still undergoing several rewrites.

None of the changes introduced at this point will be seen by expert reviewers. Government reviewers will have access to the text at one point, but very few of them bother to submit comments, and the IPCC rules permit Lead Authors to ignore them anyway. In past assessments this post-review rewrite has been the point at which some of the worst mischief has been done to the text.

The revered "science", has now been abandoned - with any pretence of "peer review" long gone. Yet, here we have IPCC supporters huffing and puffing about remarks made by Mr Paterson, which were probably the more factual of the set of statements which have been made over the last few days.

Leading the charge is professor Myles Allen of Oxford University, one of the lead authors of AR5, who finds it very worrying that Mr Paterson is charged with adapting [Britain] to climate change. "I think it is a good idea for whoever is planning for adaptation to have a realistic understanding of what the science is saying".

So far, though, we haven't had any "science". We have had a political statements by an intergovernmental body, followed by a report on which the statements are purportedly based, but which turns out to be otherwise. This comedic situation is the antithesis of science. Paterson has been very generous in according it any status at all.

One can nevertheless enjoy the exudations of professor Kevin Anderson, of Manchester University and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. This is a professional warmist speaking, and he complains about Paterson observing that the IPCC is presenting a really quite modest increase in temperatures.

"It's a deliberately partial reading of the report. Either that or he has not read the report properly or does not understand the significance of the emissions scenarios. These tell us that business as usual will give us a 50:50 chance of a 4ºC temperature rise".

At the time of his utterance however, there had been no report. Mr Paterson could not have read it, partially or otherwise, because it had not been published. What we see, therefore, is game playing. Time and again we're going to have to say this. This is not science – it is politics. Mr Paterson is a "wild card" who is not playing by the rules. He must be stomped on quickly, before the contagion spreads, and people stop being afraid.

The greatest sin of all, though, is Paterson saying of climate change that, "This is an area of science which like any other should be approached rationally and with an open mind". That would never do. You can quite see why the warmists think this man is dangerous. He must be stopped.