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(This debate is closed and is a read-only archive)
The politics of climate research
[30-Jan-2002]
I have edited the journal Energy & Environment for many years, and published much 'sceptical' material on this subject. I have also done Economic and Social Research Council-funded research on the IPCC and energy policy.

I support Bjørn Lomborg fully, and would go further in his condemnation of the climate treaty as unnecessary, unfair and self-interested. I see the whole climate debate in this country as a disguise for other policy objectives, as a construct by which several groups, including natural science researchers and researchers on 'old' alternative energy technologies tried to obtain more secure public funding (and industries such as nuclear power tried to get new or more subsidies or regulations, creating new markets). Enron was among them, and more successful here in the UK than in the USA, in lobbying for natural gas and emission trading. And government is using the climate scare to raise revenue and force industry to invest.

The science is suspect as far as policy relevance is concerned: some paradigms are excluded by the models as unsuitable (eg, solar) and empirical validation is lacking; far too much complexity is parameterised; there are too many simplifications; and the emission scenarios used bias the results towards warming.

While several of the policies pushed by government and lobbies make sense by themselves, others will have to be paid for by the relatively poorer consumers and taxpayers. I am distressed by the widespread dishonesty here about revealing to the political community the scientific uncertainties involved in climate modelling and the degree to which policy is based on 'faith'.

The research councils where, to the best of my knowledge, many 'sceptics' remain, have accepted buzzwords uncritically and have not spoken the truth, as they should. Do not they not dare to speak up for fear of losing funding? Several of the experts are hardly experts - at least no more than I am - and they tend to be dependent on the climate threat for their careers or income, be these in research, green campaigning or consultancy.

Climate may well be changing, and humans may have something to do with it, but not necessarily and primarily via C02 emissions. The climate has always changed, and while predictability of its variability is to be sought for the sake of humanity, the degrees of intervention that would be allowed under the Kyoto Protocol should frighten every liberal and democrat. Indeed, the Kyoto Protocol is a recipe for intervention by the state (or the EU) in almost everything.

I reject the protocol, and would like to speak with optimism: mankind can and will adapt, and in the meantime should use cheap energy when and where it is available. We should help the present generations suffering from hunger and drought, and not use future threats to justify what amounts to investments in new, Northern, and hence expensive, technologies.

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, UK

Archived list of responses

Debate home
The head-to-head
Professor Bjørn Lomborg
Author of The Skeptical Environmentalist
Dr Mike Hulme
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia
Commissioned responses
John Gillott
Margaret Mogford
Philip Stott
Charles Secrett
Dr David Viner
Peter Sammonds
Reader responses
View the list of responses

Useful resources
Climate change: scientific certainties and uncertainties
NERC

Climate change 2001: the scientific basis
IPCC

UK government publications on climate change
Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions

Guide to the New Kyoto Rulebook
Lycos News


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