Science never delivers absolute truth

SIR, - Dr Prater writes (January 5) that while we may need to debate the extent that climate change is man-made and what we should do about it, he challenges my claim that we need even-handedness in professional reporting.

Few would dispute that the climate is changing now, just as it has done before and will probably do in the future. It appears that, to Dr Prater, climate change is synonymous with global warming, which, he says, is indisputable: but the world can cool just as it can warm. It is entirely possible that we are in for a very cold spell despite the increasing concentration of CO2 and other ‘greenhouse gases’ in the atmosphere.

The IPCC (The International Panel on Climate Change) has pointed out that there are many other powerful drivers of climate change than human activity, the significance of which may have been greatly exaggerated. The effects of particulates, aerosols and gasses from volcanoes, the oscillations of the currents and temperature changes in the depths of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, changes in the Earth’s movement, magnetic and gravitational anomalies, variations in solar output, sunspots and the interaction between solar activity and the cosmic energy reaching the earth, and other variables are still imperfectly understood. Not only may these account for the slowing of the rate of increase in global warming over the last decade, they could signal the approach of another Little Ice Age. The last Little Ice Age lasted about 300 years from 1600 to 1900, with three intensely cold periods roughly in each mid-century.

Indeed, the global temperature increase in the 20th century may be simply the recovery from the last cold period and more to do with immense natural forces than with our activities. We do have a natural propensity to put ourselves at the centre of the Universe and to greatly exaggerate our significance in the order of things.

The global climate is a very complex system. Not only do the many variables combine and interact in unpredictable ways, state changes and so-called ‘tipping points’ that induce volatile behaviour punctuate their variations. Many of the data available are acknowledged to be unreliable. Climatology, the modelling of the world’s climate on giant computers, is in its infancy; indeed so much so that it may be more of a game than a science in the accepted sense of that term. Sadly, its reputation has been besmirched already by accusations of infantile cheating.

Despite all this, many vested interests have seized on the idea that carbon emissions from human activity are the real drivers of climate change and that, because of the ‘greenhouse effect’, are causing such a rise in global temperatures as to threaten future generations.

Fear is a wonderfully powerful political weapon. Fear inspires irrational collective actions that flourish for a time then fade into obscurity. Fear inspired by the global warming story, far from saving future generations, is undermining the whole economy of our country, crippling industry and wasting scarce resources. Fear of global warming will ensure that our heritage will be a hungry, destitute, ignorant and ill-cared-for population trying to scrape a living in a country covered in windmills but stripped of all sources of reasonably priced energy. It is not global warming we should fear, but the fear of global warming. That is why we should not silence dissenting voices and why even-handedness is essential if we are not to become the victims of thoughtless superstition. I am sure Dr Prater would agree that Science never delivers absolute truth and that she can progress only through debate and the testing of current beliefs however apparently well founded.


North Street,