We must not let irresponsible deniers delay urgent action on climate change

The motivating factor for many climate sceptical bloggers and columnists is often an ideological dislike of government intervention - but the route to lower energy bills requires exactly that.

By Mike Childs, head of policy, research and science at Friends of the Earth

The response this week by the usual clique of sceptics and deniers to new research suggesting the short-term rate of global warming might be less than previously thought was as predictable as it was misleading.

Matt Ridley, one of the most vociferous, told Times readers (£) that there was a “strong possibility that climate change will be slow and harmless” and that there is “little doubt that the damage being done by climate change policies currently exceeds the damage being done by climate change, and will for several decades yet”.

But, Mr Ridley’s climate complacency is completely misguided.

Professor Miles Allen, one of the authors of the Nature Geoscience study, pointed out in the Guardian that although their estimate on the rate of warming was 30 per cent lower than average climate models used by the UN’s climate panel, “this is hardly a game changer: At face value our new findings mean that the changes we had previously expected between now and 2050 might take until 2065 to materialise instead”.

But then again, he said, they might not. “No one places their faith in any single climate model, and no one has done so for 20 years.”

We may not be certain of the speed, but we do know we’re on the fast track to easily exceed a two degree rise in temperatures above pre-industrial levels – and could even be on course to a catastrophic increase of four degrees.

As another of the authors, Piers Forster from Leeds University, said, the study “has an effect but not a massive effect on projections. We still need to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions very significantly to keep below two degrees”.

Our planet is currently around one degree warmer than pre-industrial levels and we are already witnessing the devastating impacts from more extreme weather.

Over recent years our television screens have beamed into our homes a steady flow of devastating floods, storms, droughts and landslides from across the planet. Furthermore, with the knock-on effect of rising food costs we’re all paying the price – especially the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

It isn’t the Matt Ridleys of this world who are suffering most from climate change. It’s the poorest in society, especially those from developing countries, who stand to lose most from reduced efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The rich and wealthy will be able to insulate themselves from the worst impacts over coming years. They can afford higher food prices and insure their properties and possessions.

Climate sceptics often like to appear as the champions of cash-strapped consumers against higher energy prices, but the reality is that households across the country are paying an increasingly high cost for our nation’s fossil fuel dependency. This week the government’s independent advisor, the Committee on Climate Change, reported that “investment in a portfolio of low-carbon technologies could save consumers £25-45 billion, rising to £100 billion with higher gas and carbon prices”.

The motivating factor for many climate sceptical bloggers and columnists is often an ideological dislike of government intervention – but the route to lower energy bills requires exactly that.

Affordable energy needs a massive ramping up of government-funded energy efficiency programmes. It needs government financial support to drive down costs of low carbon technologies. And it requires government action to curb the profits of the big six energy firms.

This month another study was published. It showed that 97 per cent of peer-reviewed scientific academic papers concurred that climate change was human-made.

We may not yet know exactly how sensitive the climate is to greenhouse gases but we cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence on the need for rapid government action to slash emissions.

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12 Responses to “We must not let irresponsible deniers delay urgent action on climate change”

  1. Cole

    And Matt Ridley is Owen Paterson’s brother in law. Scary.

  2. Ivan_Denisovich

    I have no strong opinions on climate change. I instinctively favour resource conservation and see value in some “green” projects but I have not studied the warming arguments. One thing I can say is that I have no confidence or trust in those who label their opponents deniers so articles like this make me to want to read what the skeptics have to say. No offense intended Mike but attempting to silence the opposition rather than address the arguments is in my view counterproductive.

  3. Conqueringlion

    The scariest thing is Myles Allen’s belief that somehow publishing this paper will placate the codswallop brigade.

  4. Cole

    It’s not question of belief, but of science. When the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community (around 97% of them) is that climate change is happening, there’s not a lot of room for debate, except amongst the swivel eyed folk.

  5. Ivan_Denisovich

    I have worked in science for decades. 97% consensus is unusual under any circumstances and is a bit suspicious when we are talking about “soft science” (humanities) with strong economic and political pressures in play. People who understand science rarely claim that any theory is absolutely proven and never use phrases such as “the debate is over”. People who make such claims are more likely to be political activists who wish to silence even the slightest dissent. Such people also seem to have a problem talking about opponents without resorting to insults.

  6. mememine

    Did Bush condemn my kids to the greenhouse gas ovens of an exaggerated crisis? Climate change was OUR Iraq War without a real enemy and history will call our 28 years of needless CO2 panic a total war crime.

    If it were a real crisis the scientists would have said it was as real as they like to say comet hits are; “inevitable”. They only agreed climate change was “real and is happening” and have never agreed climate change was going to be a real “crisis”, only could be as not one scientist has ever said a CO2 climate crisis was eventual or even just “WILL” happen. Some crisis eh?

  7. mememine

    If you want us all to work together then drop the CO2 death threats we needlessly condemn our own children with. Who is the neocon again here? We need to stop loving the planet with neocon like fear mongering.

  8. mememine

    They have never agreed it was certain only could be a crisis but they agree climate change is “real and is happening” and only “could” cause a crisis. Deny that. Prove me wrong! You don’t have to believe in this misery for my kids.

  9. Leslie Graham

    The word denier dates from the 15th century and simply means ‘one who denies’.
    The best dictionary definition I’ve come across is this one.

    “…Denialism is the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. These false arguments are used when one has few or no facts to support one’s viewpoint against a scientific consensus or against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They are effective in distracting from actual useful debate using emotionally appealing, but ultimately empty and illogical assertions….”

    That definition fits climate change deniers to an absolute ‘T’.
    There is simply no other word in the English language that is more apt.

    The attempt by deniers to falsely equate the term with the Neo-nazi holocaust deniers is disgusting. It is as cowardly as it is disingenuous.

    That the deniers have such an inflated sense of self worth as to call themselves ‘sceptics’ is absolutely laughable and an insult to genuine sceptics everywhere. The sceptics society themselves issued a public statement saying so.
    A denier is just about as far from being a sceptic as it is possible to get given their naive and gullible acceptance of any and every piece of psuedoscientific gibberish and lies that they believe fits their selfish personal and political agendas.

  10. Leslie Graham

    ‘mememine’ is a volunteer shill.
    He spams the same off topic gish gallops of the most absurd nonsense to any and every publication and blog that includes the word “climate” in the header.

    He posts to about 40 threads under around 5 or 6 different screen-names and his total number of spam posts under the sceen-name above is nearly 10,000.
    His real name is Paul Merrifield and he is a loser from Niagra Falls.

    It has been explained to him a hundred times that the scientific method deals in the balance of probabilities and not absolutes. If it did then it wouldn’t be science.

    He usualy just does a ‘drive-by’ posting and doesn’t even attempt to refute the proof that he is posting BS.

    I always report him as spam whenever possible.

    He often changes his name but he is instantly recognisable from the same old posts week in week out.

    Just shows what intelligent people are up against when there exist repulsive individuals who are prepared to threaten ours and our childrens future for his ideological beliefs..

  11. Cole

    Well, there are two surveys, one from 2004, another from this week saying just about the same thing. Are these rubbish? There is clearly a very very strong consensus in the scientific community on this.

    Of course there are people who want to endlessly debate the Issue, and others who have an ideological or financial interest in being a denier. The phrase ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ comes to mind.


    This is the irresponsible denial.

    There is no scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

    We are exiting an ice-age, we are not warming the planet.

    Climate change is driven by plankton blooms, which are driven by volcanic and meteorological cues.

    The real issue is air and water pollution, combined with habitat loss.

    It is not our energy consumption that is the problem, but the use of plastics (especially in packaging) and the continued ‘development’ of major habitats like our rainforests and polar regions.

    They are disturbing ice-flows by drilling for oil, whilst telling you that it is your fault for using electricity, which is ridiculous because we can make infinite free and clean energy, without the use of fossil-fuels.
    Do not believe the corporate lies, they will cause more damage to the environment, and by the time the public wake-up to the truth, it will be too late to address the real issues.

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