Climate questioning cannot go unchallenged
Sir, Readers can judge for themselves whether Peter Mullen’s description of global warming as ‘a swindle amounting to the most scandalous episode of lies and corruption in the history of science’ is ‘strongly sceptical’ as suggested by SP Jackson or ‘arrogantly and scornfully’ dismissive of climate change as suggested by the Rev Steve Paynter. But SP Jackson’s (letters, 27 March) questioning of the motives and integrity of climate scientists cannot go unchallenged.
He makes a sweeping claim that in their individual ambition they succumb to collective peer pressure to conform to some consensus. But surely thousands of climate scientists are not all motivated by self-promotion. Does he attribute such motives to scientists and Christians as eminent as Sir John Houghton?
Later in his letter he mentions some scientists sceptical of climate change. If these sceptics have good enough evidence and arguments surely they will win the day but the fact is that the evidence for climate change continues to grow stronger as successive Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports make clear.
Mr Jackson gives two examples of objections but neither of these stand up to scrutiny. Can he seriously think that media outlets giving wrong reports is evidence of anything except unreliable reporting? As regards the ‘hiatus’ in the rise of global temperatures in the last few years can he not see that what is important is the long term trend over the last hundred years rather than detailed explanations of short-term fluctuations and variations?
Mr Jackson is right to say that the degree of confidence in the data is crucial. The fact is that in recent years scientific confidence in the data has greatly increased. The increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not disputed. The latest IPCC report based on the published work of thousands of climate scientists states that global temperatures have increased by 0.85 degrees Celsius since 1880. It also states that there is 95 per cent confidence that at least half this increase is the result of human activity. As for popular explanations, the BBC4 programme Climate
change by numbers, broadcast on 2 March, is just one example of an explanation of why non-scientists can have confidence in these figures.
Meanwhile extreme events that are probably linked to climate change occur with increasing frequency. In recent weeks it has been reported that the extent of winter Arctic sea ice last winter was the least ever recorded. Cyclone Pam has devastated parts of Vanuatu. While humankind worldwide continues to burn fossil fuels and emit carbon dioxide at unprecedented rates the people of Vanuatu suffer today and our grandchildren bear the consequences tomorrow.
Far from dismissing the views of the Rev Steve Paynter, CEN readers need to take notice of those who like him have the scientific as well as the theological expertise to guide and inform our thinking on these important issues. Only then will we exercise responsible stewardship of our Godgiven creation.
Canon Dr Peter Capon, Manchester