April 2007. Since its release in February, the IPCC’s AR4 (Working Group I) Summary for Policymakers has been uncritically reported in the mainstream media, and its findings often exaggerated. Because of a perception that the public mood demands action to mitigate climate change, the UK government has used the IPCC findings to justify committing the country to a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Like much environmental policy, this has gone largely unchallenged by opposition parties.
We believe that an unfounded sense of crisis – and therefore urgency – dominates public discussion of environmental issues. Thus, demands for urgent action to mitigate climate change thrive at the expense of genuine, illuminating, nuanced debate.
Neither the science nor the politics of climate change should be exempt from scrutiny. Our intention is to provide some decent commentary on how science, politics and the media handle environmental matters, for anyone interested in challenging this dangerous new orthodoxy. And for anyone just interested.
Where we’re starting from…
- There is good scientific evidence that human activities are influencing the climate.
- The evidence for anthropogenic climate change is neither as strong nor as demanding of action as is widely claimed.
- Our ability to mitigate, let alone reverse any such change through reductions in CO2 emissions is even less certain.
- The scientific consensus on climate change as widely reported inaccurately reflects the true scientific consensus.
- There is no scientific consensus on how society should proceed in the face of a changing climate.
- How society should proceed in the face of a changing climate is the business of politics.
- Science does not and should not proceed by consensus.
- Political arguments about climate change are routinely mistaken for scientific ones.
- The IPCC is principally a political organisation.
- Environmentalism is principally a political phenomenon.
- And yet climate change policies go unchallenged by opposition parties.
- The goals/aspirations/values of society are/should be matters of politics, not science.
- The current emphasis on mitigation strategies is impeding society’s ability to adapt to a changing climate, whatever its cause.
- The public remain unconvinced that mitigation is in their best interests.
- Widespread disengagement from politics means that politicians pander only to the loudest, shrillest voices.
- Science is increasingly expected to provide moral certainty in morally uncertain times.
- Environmental concerns are serving to provide direction for directionless politics.