I was wondering what others thought of Owen Paterson’s lecture to the GWPF. I read it and thought it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting (which shouldn’t really be interpreted as “good”). Some of what was said about energy was reasonable, although ignoring climate change when discussing shale gas is always a bit of a red flag. The Committee on Climate Change has, though, produced quite a strong response to Owen Paterson’s lecture.
He did, however, briefly mention his views on climate science
…let me say a few words about climate science….
I readily accept the main points of the greenhouse theory. Other things being equal, carbon dioxide emissions will produce some warming. The question always has been: how much? On that there is considerable uncertainty.
Okay, kind of alright and there is uncertainty, but this uncertainty really just means that there is a range of possible warming for each possible future emission pathway. We can use these ranges when considering the various policy options. It doesn’t mean “wait until we’re more certain”.
indeed the failure of the atmosphere to warm at all over the past 18 years – according to some sources.
This is interesting because it appears as if he’s trying to make this sound correct by adding “according to some sources”. The reality is that most of the sources indicate that we have warmed over the past 18 years. Cherry-picking a source that suggests otherwise is not particularly credible.
Many policymakers have still to catch up with the facts.
The stopping of the Gulf Stream, the worsening of hurricanes, the retreat of Antarctic sea ice, the increase of malaria, the claim by UNEP that we would see 50m climate refugees before now – these were all predictions that proved wrong.
Is this true? I’m not aware of these being credible predictions. This seems rather like a strawman argument.
For example the Aldabra Banded Snail which one of the Royal Society’s journals pronounced extinct in 2007 has recently reappeared, yet the editors are still refusing to retract the original paper.
Firstly, you don’t retract a paper simply because it’s wrong and, secondly, this paper has had far more attention in the last few months, now that some have noticed it is wrong, than it had had in the preceding 6 or 7 years. It’s much more a poster-child for those “skeptical” of mainstream climate science, than it ever was for those who are not.
I actually found his conclusions more interesting (annoying) than most of the rest of his lecture. He says
To summarise, we must challenge the current groupthink and be prepared to stand up to the bullies in the environmental movement and their subsidy-hungry allies.
Really? Bullies in the environmental movement? Also, we might disagree about whether or not there is groupthink and – if there is – who is suffering from it. This also just seems a bit whiny and pathetic for an ex-government minister. Also, people who tell you that you are wrong aren’t necessarily bullies. He goes on to say
Paradoxically, I am saying that we may achieve almost as much in the way of emissions reduction, perhaps even more if innovation goes well, using these four technologies or others, and do so much more cheaply, but only if we drop the 2050 target, which is currently being used to drive subsidies towards impractical and expensive technologies.
I always find this type of suggestion quite frustrating. It’s kind of saying that we can achieve what is wanted, but only if we do it the way he wants to do (he’s not alone in presenting this type of argument). Possibly, I guess, but if it’s possible to achieve the required emissions reductions, then why is there such disagreement? If it is possible to do so, why are we not simply working together to achieve these goals? Of course, some would argue that it’s only possible if we do it in a particular way, as every other way is simply too inefficient or will never work. If so, then this is fundamentally an ideological argument. The interesting thing, though, is that it does seem to be an acknowledgement that it is possible to achieve emission reductions without destroying the economy, so a step in the right direction – maybe?