I have rarely witnessed such passion and venom as currently besets the ongoing debate on climate change. It seems as if everyone has a view. Surprisingly for me, a very large section of opinion makers are firmly on the No side of the argument. They believe global warming is bunk.
Sifting through the rhetoric, it seems that many commentators see climate change as the ultimate liberal conspiracy. According to this viewpoint, 1990 saw an end to Communism but instead of throwing away the placards, the socialists threw their lot in with the new cause célèbre: environmentalism. Twenty years on and our leaders are in Copenhagen, addled by decades of left wing fear-mongering. They will willingly throw away any chance of future prosperity on a mirage, a dream that will never happen. It’s an understandable argument, but it misses a key point. The protesters don’t matter. The politics doesn’t matter. All that matters in this debate is the science.
I’m not a huge fan of militant activism, because activists often jump to huge conclusions based on relatively few facts. Activists have got many things wrong in the past, which leads to the conclusion that just because you are passionate about something doesn’t make you right. The corollary is also true, however. Passion in itself doesn’t make you wrong either.
Another view is that Climate Change is just one big bandwagon, upon which many people, who don’t understand the science, have crept aboard. This is quite true, but for the same reasons as above it is also irrelevant to the debate. The fact that it is a bandwagon issue doesn’t make it implicitly untrue.
The only thing that matters in this debate is the quality of the science. Climate scientists from many different fields, using multiple lines of evidence, sophisticated measuring devices, supercomputers, myriads of data points and complex statistical models, have paintakingly arrived at a conclusion that the world is warming and that a significant part of that warming is man made. If you want to argue this, you need to argue the science. This is not at all easy, which is why so few people in this debate, on both sides of the argument, are qualified to talk about it at all. Right now, there is plenty of heat, but very little light.
So, unless I hear that there is a reasonable alternative theory that addresses the data and the multiple lines of evidence in a coherent way but yields a contrary outcome, I will stay with the consensus view. Ultimately, scientists are reasonable people. It’s not normally in their interest or their nature to reject the evidence in favour of political dogma. Talk of a conspiracy among scientists is unlikely in the extreme.