Benny Peiser responds below. He doesn't take issue with Andrew Montford's précis but the key question remains how is that statement "that the public have made their minds up " supported? First thoughts: It strikes me as odd that for a man arguing that public concern is waning only offers a copy of his script to an enquiry from a member of the public asking to see support for the claim "that the public have made their minds up. " If it's a fait accompli how was it accomplished ?
Dear Mr McStone
Thank you for your query. I have attached below my short contribution at the recent Spectator debate.
With best regards
The Global Warming Concern Is Over. Time for a Return to Sanity
The hype and obsession with global warming is well and truly over. How do we know? Because all the relevant indicators – polls, news coverage, government u-turns and a manifest lack of interest among policy makers – show a steep decline in public concern about climate change.
Public opinion is the crucial factor that determines whether policy makers advance or abandon contentious policies.
Surveys in the United Kingdom and other European nations reveal that the levels of concern about global warming have been falling steadily in recent years. Media coverage of climate change has dropped sharply. And, as I will show, some of the world's leading science institutions have begun to tone down the rhetoric and alarm about climate change.
The public's concern about global warming as a pressing problem is in marked decline not least because of the growing realisation that governments and the international community are ignoring the advice of climate campaigners.
Instead, most policy makers around the world refuse to accept any decisions that are likely to harm national interests and economic competitiveness.
They are assisted in this policy of benign neglect by a public that has largely become habituated to false alarms and is happy to ignore other claims of environmental catastrophe that are today widely disregarded or seen as scare tactics.
Part of the reason for the evident waning of public concern can be attributed to the issue-attention cycle, a concept developed by Anthony Downs in 1972.
According to the by now well established attention-cycle, certain environmental events can trigger public interest and concern. After a while, though, and even if the supposed problem remains unresolved, other issues replace the original concern because the huge costs to 'solve' the problem become apparent while boredom and fatigue set in.
That future impacts of global warming have been exaggerated by some climate scientists is now widely accepted. Even the government's chief scientific advisor, Professor Beddington, has criticised the failure to disclosure the manifest uncertainties in climate predictions about the rate and extent of climate change.
Let me quote Professor Beddington: "I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed."
I fully agree with Beddington. I also agree with Prof Beddington that uncertainty about aspects of climate science should not be used as an excuse for inaction.
However, what kind of political and economic action is most appropriate and most cost-effective cannot be decided on a whim of some scientists but only after careful economic, social and political considerations.
The Royal Society too has revised and toned down its position on climate change. Its new climate guide is certainly an improvement on their more alarmist 2007 pamphlet which caused an internal rebellion by more than 40 fellows of the Society and triggered a review and subsequent revisions.
The former publication gave the misleading impression that the 'science is settled' - the new guide accepts that important questions remain open and uncertainties unresolved. The Royal Society now also agrees with the GWPF that the warming trend of the 1980s and 90s has come to a halt in the last 10 years.
In their old guide, the Royal Society demanded that governments should take "urgent steps" to cut CO2 emissions "as much and as fast as possible." This political activism has now been replaced by a more sober assessment of the scientific evidence and ongoing climate debates.
Last, but not least, the InterAcademy Council, an umbrella organisation of national science academies, was forced to review the IPCC after a number of scientific scandal had hit the UN-led climate body. The review revealed serious flaws and distortions in the IPCC's reports, its structure and its management.
Harold Shapiro, the IAC chairman, said the IPCC's review on the likely impacts of climate change “contains many statements that were assigned high confidence but for which there is little evidence.”
The Council also criticised the IPCC for over-emphasising the negative impacts of climate change, many of which were “not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or not expressed clearly.” The InterAcademy Council (IAC) has called for fundamental reforms of the IPCC. It recommends that, I quote, "review editors should ensure that genuine controversies are reflected in the report and be satisfied that due consideration was given to properly documented alternative views.”
It also recommends that, quote, "lead authors should explicitly document that a range of scientific viewpoints has been considered, and Coordinating Lead Authors and Review Editors should satisfy themselves that due consideration was given to properly documented alternative views.”
From these and other recommendations is it clear that the IPCC and many of its lead authors have been narrow-minded and have not take into account any other views than the 'mainstream' and that lead authors ignored views that did not tally with their own.
Let me conclude:
The scale and long-term effects of climate change will remain uncertain for decades to come.
Moreover, climate change will be generally gradual. This gradualism means that most people have become used to living with moderate warming, not least because the warming trend of the 1980s and 90s has come to a halt during the last decade.
In all likelihood, we will not know for the next 20 or 30 years who is right or wrong on the scale and impact of global warming. The stalemate in international climate negotiations is likely to become cemented for years to come.
As long as global temperatures remain more or less stable, as long as climate policies and green taxes are a growing political liability and as long as the deadlock between the West and the rest of the world lingers, we should not expect much progress in the heated climate debates.
Unless a significant warming trend re-emerges in the next 10 years, it will be near impossible to revive climate change as a major public concern. I believe we should use this time to restore reason and sanity to a debate that has become far too emotional and doom-laden and all too often depressingly intolerant.