So what’s changed? Climate scientists told us the Arctic would be 'ice-free’ by now. The real global warming disaster: green taxes, a suicidal energy policy and wasting billions on useless windmills.
The news that hundreds of scientists and officials from all over the world are this weekend converging on Stockholm to discuss the next 2,000-page report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) again highlights what is the most terrifying political conundrum facing our country today. Emerging in instalments over the next seven months, this report will try to convince the world, without a shred of hard evidence, that the prospect of catastrophic man-made global warming is “extremely likely”.
The air is already thick with familiar claims and counterclaims, President Obama quotes yet another laughably silly paper trying to make out that “97 per cent of scientists” support the IPCC “consensus”. Sceptics point out yet again that the lack of global warming over the past 17 years makes a nonsense of all those computer-model projections on which the IPCC has been basing its case for 23 years. And we can only look on this endlessly sterile non-debate with a suffocating sense of déjà vu.
In essence, the argument has not moved on an iota since 2009, when I published what is still the fullest historical account of this greatest scare story the world has known, in a book called The Real Global Warming Disaster. Even then, it was abundantly clear that the IPCC’s computer-model projections were being disproved by what was actually happening to world temperatures. It was already clear that not one of those predictions being made by Al Gore and others in the days when the warming hysteria was at its height was coming true.
This very weekend of September 2013, we were being told back in 2007, would be the moment when the Arctic was “ice-free”. Yet this summer’s ice-melt has been the smallest in seven years, and the global extent of polar sea ice is currently equal to its average over the past 34 years. Tuvalu and the Maldives are not vanishing beneath the waves. Far from hurricanes and tornadoes becoming more frequent and intense, their incidence is lower than it has been for decades. The Himalayan glaciers are not on course to have melted by 2035, as the IPCC’s last report predicted in 2007. Nothing has changed except that the IPCC itself, as the main driver of the scare, has been more comprehensively discredited than ever as no more than a one-sided pressure group, essentially run by a clique of scientific activists committed to their belief that rising CO2 levels threaten the world with an overheating which is not taking place.
But if the scientific case for their belief has disintegrated, the problem this leaves us with is the reason why I subtitled that book four years ago: “Is the obsession with climate change turning out to be the most costly scientific blunder in history?” The political leaders of the Western world, from President Obama to our own in the EU, are still as firmly locked into the alarmist paradigm as ever, quite impervious to all the evidence. As the EU’s “climate commissioner”, Connie Hedegaard, recently put it: “Let’s say that scientists several decades from now said, 'We were wrong, it’s not about climate’, would it not in any case have been good to do many of the things you have to do to combat climate change?”
In other words, even if those scientists eventually have to admit that their scare was all nonsense, it is still right that we should pile up green taxes, make a suicidally mad shambles of our energy policy and continue to pour hundreds of billions of pounds and euros into subsidising useless windmills (while China and India continue to build hundreds of coal-fired power stations chucking out more CO2 than we can hope to save). This is the “real global-warming disaster” we are left with. And listening to the vacuous drivel still pouring out of the likes of President Obama and Connie Hedegaard, let alone our own “climate ministers” Ed Davey and Greg Barker, we realise that the lunatics are still firmly in charge of the asylum which the rest of us unfortunately have to live in. As I say, just how we are to escape from this madness back into the real world is as intractable a political puzzle as any that faces us.
Wake up guys – the EU doesn’t rule, OK?
Last week brought two more glaring examples of how at sea our media have become over the complexities of how we are now governed. Several newspapers, supported by Ukip, went to town over a story about how the wicked EU is trying to ban the use of Union flag logos on food products, which indicate to shoppers that they originate in Britain. True, it has long been a scandal that, under EU law, these labels can be meaningless, so that it is quite legal to stamp a Red Tractor logo with a Union flag on chickens imported from Thailand, as long as they are processed in the UK. But the press got this story upside down.
What the EU is in fact doing is the very reverse of what these stories claimed. It is now proposing to insist that “country of origin” labelling should mean exactly what it says. But the reason for this U-turn is not that Brussels has grown honest. It is doing this to bring it into line with “Country of Origin Labelling” (COOL) rules laid down, at a higher level than the EU, by the World Trade Organisation and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
There was similar excitement last week over a story headlined “EU’s latest bloomer”. This supposedly revealed that Brussels plans to make it illegal for garden centres to sell a swathe of popular plant varieties, such as Hidcote lavender and Nelly Moser clematis. But again, what this scare story missed was that Brussels is only amending its directives on plant varieties to bring the EU into line with rules agreed at a global level, by bodies such as the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
What almost everyone has been missing is the startling extent to which regulation of all kinds, covering anything from food labelling to vehicle manufacture, from banking and insurance to fisheries, now originates from a network of global governance, forcing the EU to frame its own rules accordingly, thus downgrading it to a mere regional branch office. In this sense, as our lawmaking is removed ever further from any kind of democratic control, leaving the EU would scarcely make any difference – except that at least Norway, as an independent country, is represented on these world bodies in its own right, whereas Britain is often represented only by negotiators speaking for the “common position” of the EU.
For a fuller analysis of this topic, with links to relevant legislation, see “Global governance: a COOL revolution” and “World government: the wrong sort of elephant” on my colleague Richard North’s EUReferendum blog.
A persistent claim made by believers in man-made global warming – they were at it again last week – is that no politician was more influential in launching the worldwide alarm over climate change than Margaret Thatcher. David Cameron, so the argument runs, is simply following in her footsteps by committing the Tory party to its present belief in the dangers of global warming, and thus showing himself in this respect, if few others, to be a loyal Thatcherite.
She found equally persuasive the views of a third prominent convert to the cause, Dr John Houghton, then head of the UK Met Office. She backed him in the setting up of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, and promised the Met Office lavish funding for its Hadley Centre, which she opened in 1990, as a world authority on "human-induced climate change".
Hadley then linked up with East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to become custodians of the most prestigious of the world's surface temperature records (alongside another compiled by Dr Hansen). This became the central nexus of influence driving a worldwide scare over global warming; and so it remains to this day – not least thanks to the key role of Houghton (now Sir John) in shaping the first three mammoth reports which established the IPCC's unequalled authority on the subject.
In bringing this about, Mrs Thatcher played an important part. It is not widely appreciated, however, that there was a dramatic twist to her story. In 2003, towards the end of her last book, Statecraft, in a passage headed "Hot Air and Global Warming", she issued what amounts to an almost complete recantation of her earlier views.