EU Temporary Committee on Climate Change hears expert witnesses (one exception)

October 9, 2007 at 3:22 pm | Posted in Climate change, Committees, Communication, European Parliament | Leave a comment

A “serious and imminent” threat: MEPs and experts debate global warming
Expert witnesses gave a range of assessments of the potential climate impact of different levels of global warming at the Temporary Committee on Climate Change on Monday (10 September 2007), which held the first of six meetings on different themes. There were warnings of catastrophic consequences of inaction – but a researcher from the US gave a different view.

“Global warming exists”, said theme leader Vittorio Prodi (ALDE, IT). “The situation is both serious and imminent”: we had to be ready to study it and to process the available technical data on climate change, he argued. “When we produce a final document,” he added, referring to the role of the Temporary Committee, “we should be able to propose a number of measures that will guide the work on climate change across all EP committees.” We need to get people motivated, said committee rapporteur Karl Heinz Florenz (EPP-ED, DE), to get the “research and development revolution” necessary to address climate change.

2003 heat wave a “normal summer” in future?

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chief climate change adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, urged members …

You can read the rest of this brief article on the European Parliament website. It is the final paragraph that took me by surprise. Look:

Criticism of and support for the IPCC projections

Richard Lindzen, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had a notably different view of things. “Never has an area of physical science been subjected to such a volume of illogic”, he began, “as has climate science in connection with global warming.” Criticising the methodology behind some of the research on climate change, including that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he argued that “only about 30% of the surface warming since 1979 can be attributed to global warming of any sort.” He concluded: “The long chains of inference involved in projecting catastrophic consequences are […] grossly unlikely”

Brian Hoskins, of the University of Reading, expressed confidence in the “repeatedly tested” IPCC models. Though he acknowledged that “they certainly are not perfect”, he said: “If the models are wrong, they are wrong on the conservative side”. Highly confident that “greenhouse gases […] are perturbing the Earth’s climate system in a significant manner”, he noted that “we may not know the details of what we’re doing but we are doing something that we need to be aware of.” The “grand challenge of science”, therefore, is to give policymakers “well-founded projections for regional climate change in the next few decades” – this, to enable proper adaptation.

This was the first of six thematic sessions. The next, on the “Post-2012 International Climate Change Framework”, is scheduled for 4 October.

Temporary Committee on Climate Change
In the chair : Guido Sacconi (PES, IT)

That part of a brief summary bothers me, for several reasons.

First, an alien just landed from another planet would read the subheading:

‘Criticism of and support for the IPCC projections’

and could easily infer that ‘criticism’ carries more weight because it is mentioned first. For a better representation of reality, this subheading needed to be titled along these lines:

‘Overwhelming support for the IPCC projections’

with the single critic given a dismissive minor mention in the text that followed.

Second, I am quite disappointed that at this late stage in the proceedings, air time is given to those whose opinions do not contribute in a positive way to action being taken to combat climate change.

Third, I am surprised that views couched in the definite language of sales and marketing (as opposed to the more cautious use of language by scientists and engineers) are taken seriously by politicians. Skilled politicians are meant to know something about how to sell an idea to the public, and should be able to assess the sales techniques of others who present to them … don’t you think?

(Witness the clever use of language by the researcher from the United States, as well as his choice of polarising words: ‘never‘, ‘such a volume‘, ‘only … of any sort‘, ‘catastrophic consequences‘, ‘grossly unlikely‘).

Fourth, I studied a quack doctor selling his wares in London earlier this year, and was amazed by the way certain politicians, economists, businessmen, journalists and geologists swallowed his tall tales whole. What astonished me was they didn’t even chew them over. They just accepted the doubts he cast their way—because uncertainty suited their needs for procrastination, business-as-usual, inaction, debate or ignorance—and that was that!


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