Copenhagen climate summit: Blindfolds are hiding the crucial issues at Copenhagen
It is now obvious that the science behind rising CO2 levels is far from settled, writes Christopher Booker.
As we are engulfed from all sides by suffocatingly one-sided coverage of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, three hugely important issues have been largely stuffed away from sight.
The first of these is the matter of cost: the scarcely believable bill our politicians wish to land us with as the price of their proposals to meet the supposed threat of global warming. Few people have even begun to take on board the astronomic scale of the sums involved – the International Energy Agency talks blithely of $45 trillion - because on this politicians and media have in recent days remained more than ever silent.
Already under last year’s Climate Change Act - on the Government’s own figures – we in Britain alone are committed to shell out £18 billion every year from now until 2050. That is £725 for every household in the land, which we will all have to pay in rocketing energy bills and regulatory costs, crippling ‘green’ taxes on everything from cars to airline tickets, subsidies to windfarms and heaven knows what else.
But even this may look like a gross underestimate when we realise that it is now the law of the land that, over the same 40 years, Britain must cut its emissions of carbon dioxide by a staggering 80 percent or more. Not a single one of the 463 MPs who nodded through the Climate Change Act, with only three voting against, could have begun to explain in practical terms how this target could be met.
Short of an as-yet undreamed of technological revolution, this could not possibly be achieved without closing down not just most of our transport system and electricity supplies but virtually all of our current economic activity.
What is being proposed at Copenhagen is that not dissimilar measures should be imposed on every country in the developed world, threatening to transform our existing way of life out of all recognition.
The second very important question which has received nothing like enough attention over what is happening in Copenhagen is how the politicians can hope to get round the yawning gap between the richer nations of the West and those developing nations led by China, India, Brazil and South Africa, with some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
It is this seemingly unbridgeable gulf, at the heart of the international debate since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which has led even the organisers of the conference publicly to voice doubts that they will get the universally binding treaty they are after.
The Western nations want everyone to sign up to crippling targets for reducing their CO2 emissions (China having already overtaken the US as the world’s biggest emitter). But the developing countries argue that, since the ‘CO2 problem’ is historically all our fault, as the countries which led the way to industrialisation, there is no way they can agree to any binding targets until they have been allowed to catch up economically with the West.
The best they can offer is that, in order to bribe them to make at least token gestures towards curbing their own carbon emissions, we in the developed countries should pay them hundreds of billions of dollars a year - at the very moment when we ourselves are accepting targets designed to make our own economies progressively very much less productive.
In other words, as we are faced with yet another colossal bill, their own economies will continue to forge ahead, pouring out so much CO2 that the global level will almost certainly continue to rise, All of which leads round to the third hugely important issue which those organising the Copenhagen conference are only too anxious to brush aside – the inescapable fact that the science on which all this frenzy of activity is based has recently begun to look considerably shakier than it did only a few years ago.
The first thing any of us in the West need to be sure of, as we face by far the largest bill in the history of the world, is that the science being used to justify this is 100 percent reliable.
Ultimately the whole case for a Copenhagen treaty rests on the projections of the computer models relied on by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC). These show that, as CO2 levels continue to rise, so temperatures must follow, leading inexorably to catastrophe - unless mankind takes the most drastic action to cut down on its emissions of CO2.
But as more and more eminent scientists have recently been pointing out, the only reason why the computer models predict that rising CO2 must cause temperatures to rise is that this is what they were programmed to show.
What world-ranking physicists such as Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT and Professor Will Happer of Princeton have been arguing is that the models are fatally flawed because they do not take proper account of all sorts of other factors which play a key part in shaping the world’s climate - such as shifts in ocean currents, the effects of magnetic activity on the sun and the ‘feedback’ from clouds and water vapour, far and away the most important greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, which counteracts any impact from the rise in CO2.
The greatest ally this growing army of ‘sceptical’ scientists can point to is what has actually been happening to the climate in recent years. No one can predict with certainty where temperatures will be in 100 years time, But the one thing that is indisputable is that, as CO2 levels continue to rise, the trend in global temperatures has not recently been rising as the computer models predicted, but has been flattening out and even dropping.
In other words, it becomes increasingly clear that the models were wrong - because their programming was biased according to a theory which now looks ever more questionable. Yet it is on their projections that the world is now faced with by far the most expensive set of measures ever proposed by politicians in history.
For months in the run-up to Copenhagen we have been subjected to an unremitting bombardment of scare stories: how the ice caps and glaciers are melting much faster than predicted, how sea levels will rise much higher than anyone imagined, how we face ever more hurricanes, droughts, floods and heatwaves.
Yet every time one of these scares is subjected to proper objective scientific examination it can be found either that these disasters are not happening as claimed or that they have been exaggerated far in advance of anything the evidence can justify.
The importance of Copenhagen is that we are at last arriving at the moment of truth. On one hand we are waking up to the scarcely imaginable cost of what our politicians are proposing, just when on the other the reliability of the evidence on which all this is based is being called into question more than ever before.
Despite our having for years been assured by politicians from Al Gore to President Obama that ‘the science is settled’, it is now obvious that it is nothing of the kind. Not least has this been confirmed by ‘Climategate’ and the leak of that ‘dodgy dossier’ from the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, for years at the centre of driving the scare over global warming as the most influential source of temperature data in the world. Far from Copenhagen being the end of the debate, the real debate is only just beginning.