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We keep hearing that there is a consensus about climate change, but it includes a wide range of possibilities

Simon Singh and James Delingpole, both of whom I know, like and respect as fine writers, have been disagreeing about climate change.

Beneath Simon’s latest blog on the subject there is a debate in which several very sensible and non-inflammatory things are said by Bishop Hill and Paul Dennis. Do read it.

An especially good comment came from Climate Resistance, who spoke for me and I suspect many others when he asked:

I want to know what it means to ‘reject manmade climate change’.

If I say that the consequences of climate change have been exaggerated, do I ‘reject manmade climate change’?

If I say that climate change is the issue on which an authoritarian, illiberal and regressive form of politics is being established, do I ‘reject manmade climate change’?

If I say that ‘science’ is being used to provide moral and political authority to otherwise hollow agendas, do I ‘reject manmade climate change’?

It seems to me that ‘accepting climate change’ has much less to do with science that it has to do with accepting a moral and political argument. After all, nobody is making films about ‘trust’ in science being ‘attacked’ because large numbers of the public don’t have a sufficient grasp of some obscure branch of physics or other. Nobody is tweeting about dishonourable/unintelligent ‘numpties’ who don’t understand quantum mechanics.

Furthermore, it seems obvious to me that there are positions between ‘accepting manmande climate change’ and ‘rejecting manmade climate change’. But Simon only seems to allow us to disagree or agree. Is this reduction of a complex debate into simple, true/false, science vs numpty categories really science?

The IPCC `consensus’, remember, is that

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

And that the temperature will rise by 1.1C-6.4C by the end of the century.

Since these two statements include distinctly undangerous possibilities, there is absolutely no consensus that climate change will definitely be dangerous. Lukewarmers like me have become convinced that the lower end of `most’ and the lower end of the temperature range are more likely, and furthermore that drastic action to curb carbon emissions soon would `very likely’ do more harm than good to both the economy and the environment. That opinion is not what people such as Simon Singh think of when they mean the consensus, but it is well within the consensus.



By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  general