Why Lord Lawson is wrong

A detailed rebuttal of the ridiculous Lord Lawson, a man competely wrong, wrong, wrong, just plain wrong on climate change.

The former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson – who has argued that “green is the new red” – writes today in The Times that the Copenhagen summit should fail.

He says:

“Mr Brown’s Copenhagen objective will, happily, not be achieved.”

His article is riddled with inaccuracies and falsehoods.

Here is our point-by-point rebuttal:

1) “The Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.”

Kyoto does not expire in 2012, we merely reach the end of the current so-called “commitment period”.

It is perfectly feasible that the parties signed up to Kyoto would agree to continue into another “commitment period” with fresh agreements – indeed, that is the position that more than one hundred developing countries including China aspire towards.

2) “There is a strong moral argument (to keep emitting) … for the developing world, the overriding priority has to be the fastest feasible rate of economic development, which means, inter alia, using the cheapest available form of energy: carbon-based energy.”

This is actually quite sick if you reflect upon what he’s saying for a minute.

• Kofi Annan’s Global Humanitarian Forum research shows 300,000 people die each year from climate impacts.

• The Pentagon warns of the risk of “endemic warfare”.

• The Lancet describes climate change as the “biggest health threat”.

• A study in Nature Journal suggests a million species face extinction from climate change.

But Lawson thinks there’s a “moral argument” to keep emitting. Make up your own mind.

3) “I have no idea whether the majority scientific view (and it is far from a consensus) is correct.”

Is it worth gracing this line with a rebuttal?

There are thousands of publically available peer-reviewed scientific papers reflecting there is a real consensus.

Indeed, this is the view of The Royal Society, the US Academy of Sciences, the IPCC, the Met Office, the Tyndall Centre and NASA.

In contrast, point us to a peer reviewed scientific paper that rejects the man-made CO2 link?

Indeed, what would constitute a consensus in Lord Lawson’s eyes?

4) “So far this century there has been no further warming at all.”

Here’s a good graph that shows a clear trend upwards over this century.

There’s more along these lines from NASA here.

These evidence available via these links shows this line from Lawson is straight out wrong:

The eight warmest years in the 150 global temperature record are, according to the Hadley Center, in order, 1998, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2007. It’s a fact that this is the hottest decade in recorded history.

All of this said, NASA’s Gavin Schmidt explains on this post:

“The first point to make (and indeed the first point we always make) is that the climate system has enormous amounts of variability on day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year and decade-to-decade periods. Much of this variability (once you account for the diurnal cycle and the seasons) is apparently chaotic and unrelated to any external factor – it is the weather.”

The climate scientists over at realclimate.org also explain here some of the misconceptions around recent trends in global temperatures.

5) “A warmer climate brings benefits as well as disadvantages. Even if there is a net disadvantage, which is uncertain, it is far less than the economic cost (let alone the human cost) of decarbonisation.”

Just this month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published findings arguing climate inaction will cost the world $500 billion a year.

Famously, the Stern Review found that the cost of stopping climate change, and of taking action earlier, would easily outweigh the cost of letting the crisis unfold.

There’s a good intro to climate economics here.

One US survey detailed here approached the 289 economists who had published climate-related studies in the top 25 economics journals in the past 15 years. About half, 144, responded, and 75 per cent agreed or strongly agreed on the “value” of greenhouse-gas controls.

In short, Lawson is alone with only Bjorn Lomborg in taking this sort of line. Lomborg’s argument gets taken on here.

6) “By adapting to any warming that may occur over the next century, we can pocket the benefits and greatly reduce the disadvantages, at a cost that is far less than the cost of global decarbonisation — even if that could be achieved.”

Tell that to Bangladesh and the Maldives.

Anyone else going to miss those one million species less than they’ll miss coal burning and 4x4s?

7) “The scientific basis for global warming projections is now under scrutiny as never before. The principal source of these projections is produced by a small group of scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), affiliated to the University of East Anglia.”

See this earlier post on Left Foot Forward.

Also, it is worth noting that it is completely misleading to say the CRU is the “principal source” of projections on climate science. There are equivalent climate research departments in Universities around the world, as well as in other institutions such as NASA. The CRU is merely one.

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