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Newsletter, April 2011 (Issue 183)

Do you trust Science?


... but do you trust science?

While I thank Mr M L Chelk for his latest correspondence on "Climategate" in the January 2011 Newsletter, his argument remains predicated upon the prima facie headline-grabbing evidence associated with the leaked e-mails that were hacked from the UEA site, whereas no less than four inquiries have since examined all the evidence, have exonerated Prof J ones of any scientific wrongdoing, and have resulted in improvements at the UEA in complying with the Freedom of Information Act. The underlying climate science remains intact and undiminished, as does Prof Jones's reputation as a scientist. And if Prof J ones appears suspiciously confident of the content of his next contribution to the IPCC, he already has five years' more climate data following what was presented in the 2007 Assessment Review, and the alarming trends continue.

Incidentally, anyone who heeded the original analogy with my combination condensing boiler last April might now be feeling quite pleased to have had the warning and to have acted upon it, as thousands more were reported to have failed in the coldest UK December in over a century. Or did yours fail? If so, you might be kicking yourself. Whole populations of people both present and future might have been similarly pleased if only the world's governments had heeded the IPCC's warnings, and had cut greenhouse gas emissions in a timely and equitable manner, managing the risk of climate catastrophe rather than putting their lives in jeopardy. The prima facie cause of2010's extreme weather worldwide was La Nina, whose effects may well now subside until it next appears in a few years' time, but the rapid warming trend of recent decades continues unabated and promises much worse to follow. In spite of our cold winter in the UK, 2010 was the second warmest year on record globally, and this is entirely consistent with climate science.

Nullum in Verba: "Don't trust my word alone or anybody else's, trust the science." Hubristically we may value public opinion and our democratic rights, but Nature is oblivious and takes its inevitable course, and people around the world are already paying the price. But am I wasting my time in repeating this message? Four years ago, my first article for the Newsletter contained the following:

"Much about nature can be predicted, if it can be understood. That is what science, and hopefully those 'bloody scientists' at the IPCC, attempts to do. But following from this, how do we know anything? Who can understand the scientists? Can journalists? And are journalists to be believed? ... And would you trust them in preference to your own instincts?"

These are indeed difficult questions, and Mr Chelk has shown how the issues of what we know and whom we can trust have not diminished over those four years. Although the UK continues to press for tougher EU emissions limits, the prospect of effective international action has receded even further in 2010, and humanity perversely continues to fiddle while the planet smoulders. Big Government claimed that it could not act ahead of public opinion; the Big Society remains to be defined, let alone conjured into existence; Big Business continues to please itself; and individuals are left feeling disempowered.

Recently in The Observer newspaper, writer Margaret Atwood drew a compelling analogy with humanity's problems of exponential growth and depletion of resources, describing the multiplication of single-celled creatures in a tube containing a fixed amount of food. Each creature divides every minute, producing a doubling of the population until eventually the food runs out and they all die. She asks, "At what moment in time is the tube half-full?" Answer: "Only one minute before the food runs out; but they think, "We are fine. There's half a tube of food left." Whether we are concerned with scarcity of resources or the dangerous level of greenhouse gas emissions, we might have hoped that humanity would have been smarter than a tube of single-celled creatures.

Both Mr Chelk and I have had our say. Do other readers share my concerns, or am I wasting my time? Either way drop me a line or write to the Editor. My subsequent articles will reflect your replies.

MIKE BRAIN

    Front cover of issue 183 Cover, issue 183

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