Cli­mate ques­tion­ing can­not go un­chal­lenged

The Church of England - - LETTERS -

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

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