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An Appeal to Reason

Tuesday, 24th April 2008

A Cool Look at Global Warming

Nigel (Lord) Lawson, a former very distinguished Chancellor of the Exchequer (and also former MP for my own constituency of Blaby/South Leics), has written a splendid new book on climate. He held a launch and book-signing event in Leicester in April. He is also, by the way, a top-class economist.

The book is engagingly -- compellingly -- readable, whilst remaining reassuringly rigorous. A short book that you can read in an afternoon, its footnotes and references will be an invaluable resource for everyone involved in the debate.

In his first chapter he forensically dissects the science. The patterns of warming, both spatially and over time, wholly fail to match the computer models on which the alarmist hypothesis is based. Sea levels are rising no faster than they have for millennia. Global ice mass is more or less constant. Far from facing extinction, polar bears are doing rather well. Current average temperatures are well within the historical range of variation. The infamous "hockey-stick curve", once at the heart of the IPCC/alarmist case, has been comprehensively debunked.

But in the rest of the book, he says (in effect): OK, even if you accept the alarmist scenario, what is the best thing to do about it? He concludes that current efforts at mitigation (that is, at reducing carbon emissions in order to prevent further warming) are doomed to failure, and will be cripplingly expensive. And in any case, even if you take the very worst IPCC/Stern projections, the estimated costs of doing nothing would mean that our descendants in 100 years would be "only" 2.6 times as well off as we are today, rather than 2.7 times (if we could stop the projected warming). He rightly questions whether it is worth vast expenditure on an uncertain and hypothetical project to make so small a difference.
He effectively dismantles the case for the emissions trading schemes beloved by politicians, the "cap'n'trade" approach, which is not a genuine market, and, like carbon off-setting, is wide open to scams and abuse.

He argues that humans can adapt to many different climates, and that if temperatures do rise, we would do better to respond by practical efforts to adapt to change, rather than by doomed and hubristic attempts to change the weather.

This is a must-read book.

ISBN 978-0-7156-3786-9. Duckworth Overlook. 9.99.