Lords of Climate Change
I see in this piece by Alan Wood that the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs inquiry into “The Economics of Climate Change” (which strongly questioned the science of climate change) is still getting a run in denialist circles.
I haven’t bothered posting on this before, because the main outcome of the inquiry was the establishment of the Stern Review which issued its first discussion paper back in April, stating (from the Executive Summary)
Climate change is a serious and urgent issue… There is now an overwhelming body of scientific evidence that human activity is increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and causing warming.
There’s more like this, giving an excellent summary of the mainstream scientific position.
So the House of Lords exercise was something of an own goal for the denialists. But how did a supposedly serious inquiry come up with with such nonsense in the first place?
One possibility is a snow job, with the members of the committee (not scientists) being taken in by the superficially plausible claims of people like Ross McKitrick (I don’t imagine they bothered to check whether he was talking about degrees or radians). However, I think a setup is far more likely. Looking at the list of witnesses, it’s obvious that denialists and anti-Kyoto activists from all over the world rushed to appear before this rather obscure committee, while most serious scientists didn’t find out about it until after it had reported.
Then there’s the dubious logic of the report itself, where the Commitee, admitting it had no qualifications or remit to examine scientific issues, then split the difference between the thousands of scientists who’ve worked on global warming (but did not appear) and the handful of sceptics (nearly all of whom did). This kind of bogus neutrality managed to get past the members of the Committee, and the report was then trumpeted by denialists as a complete refutation of climate science.
Looking at the membership of the committee, the obvious candidate for a setup of this kind is Nigel Lawson, Thatcher’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 2004, he wrote to The Times with six other rightwing economists (most of them subsequently witnesses to the inquiry), attacking Kyoto. The arguments of the letter, including claims about “scientific uncertainties” were reproduced in the Lords report.
As a politician of longstanding, Lawson would be well aware of the adage “Never set up an inquiry unless you know what it’s going to find”. His only mistake was to succeed so well in getting the report he wanted that it necessitated a proper inquiry, the Stern Review, too well-run and well-publicised to be snowed by the denialists.