A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Defining dangerous climates to a political agenda is indeed most dangerous.....

Alex Kirby provides us with a neat introduction to the forthcoming Exeter meeting on 'Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change' sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and announced last September by the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair: 'Scientists assess climate dangers' (BBC Online Science/Nature News, January 30):

"One of the most highly charged topics preoccupying the governments of the world is to be thrashed out at a UK conference starting on Tuesday.

But 'Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change', a three-day meeting at the Met Office in Exeter, is mainly about the science.

The participants, more than 200 in all, will try to agree how to define what is a danger level, and what it should be.

This, they hope, will lead to a better understanding of methods the world can employ to avoid catastrophic warming."

Hm! How on earth (or in atmosphere) can one define "what [a danger level] should [my italic] be?" This is not encouraging stuff. It is vital to remember three things about the so-called 'dangers' of climate change:

(a) 'Dangerous' for whom? And for where? Climate change is always advantageous for some economies and areas of the world, but not for others. So who chooses what is 'dangerous'?
(b) And what about 'cooling'? Will this be discussed? How 'dangerous' is 'cooling'? What about, say, minus 3 degrees Celsius then?
(c) Yet, most importantly, the idea that you can establish and maintain a given world climate by fiddling about at the margins with just one variable out of the millions that govern climate change is sheer folly. It is breath-taking in its hubris - stratospheric PC-ness gone utterly bonkers. Only a megalamaniac of a 'James-Bond-film-level' of madness could be convinced that one may fine tune the world's climates to precisely one's own ends. Gee! We live in a mad, mad world.

Luckily, there are good scientists at the Conference and I do hope that these can bring some sanity into the debate. It is also encouraging to hear Dr. Geoff Jenkins, the Secretary of the Steering Committee, commenting: "The more you understand..., the more you realise how much you don't understand. In some areas our ignorance is woeful."

Absolutely. Let's not try to reduce things to absurdity in order to please our political masters.

Philip, after coffee, off to broadcast.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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