I’m old enough to remember the tobacco industry campaigning that smoking does not cause cancer. And, sadly enough, they found plenty of scientists who would support that position.
Later a group of heavy industries disavowed any connection between air pollution and acid rain. Now we know that air pollution in the Midwest changed the chemistry of many pristine mountain lakes in the East, so that no fish could live in them.
Does the debate on global warming seem familar?
The great lie in the climate debate is that there is still a debate worth having. Opponents of change insist that the human factors in global warming are not proven and that we must wait until we have hard evidence before taking drastic action, which is as about as silly as saying there are two equally valid views on the issue of whether pedophilia damages children.
What is so destructive about this stance is that it claims equal weight and equal airtime. The ‘balance’ in newspaper reports, especially in the United States, is, in fact, a bias against the truth and weakens the case for immediate action against emissions of C02. And while we hum and haw, trying to persuade reluctant skeptics, the permafrost of the Arctic melts, sea levels inch up and the pH levels of oceans gradually drop because of the carbon that is absorbed from the atmosphere.
The following quote comes from an article in the Daily Telegraph editorial pages last month. It captures perfectly the knuckle-headed entrenchment of the last century: ‘Climate change is an important, perhaps vital, debate, but it remains just that. Warning of disaster has become a global industry, and the livelihoods of thousands of scientists depend on our being sufficiently spooked to keep funding their research. The worry is that many of these researchers have stopped being scientists and become campaigners instead.’
The author pretends to even-handedness, but his real message is that climate change is a scam to keep scientists in work. Yet it is not scientists who are distorting the evidence, but the US oil lobby and a co-operative White House. Last week, Philip Cooney, a White House staffer, was exposed by the New York Times for revising reports on global warming so that they cast doubt on the link between greenhouse gases and rising temperatures. Mr Cooney, who has no scientific training whatsoever, resigned and took a job with Exxon Mobil, which is, incidentally, the company that produces twice the CO<->2 emissions of Norway and is currently facing a consumer boycott in Europe.
Cooney no doubt contributed to the White House’s successful efforts to sandbag Tony Blair’s plan of action to tackle climate change at the G8 summit next month. You have to hand it to the Prime Minister that he accepts the advice of his scientific advisers and has done all he can in Britain’s presidency of the G8 to focus world leaders’ attention on the problem.