This Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is set to publish the first instalment of its three-part, 2,000-page draught-excluder, the memorably titled Fifth Assessment. This, like its predecessor, which was published at the height of climate-change mania in 2007, will tell us ‘unequivocally’ that climate change is happening, that the situation is perilous, and that there is a sliding scale of bad scenarios awaiting us in the warmed-up future.
As such, the prophecies leaked from the draft version sound a comfortably familiar note of terror, like the ever-resurrected bad guy in a tired horror-movie franchise. We’ll be told that the glaciers are melting quicker than thought, that sea levels could rise by three feet and that temperatures could rise by up to 4.8 degrees Celsius this century. And, on the back of The Science, the old alarmist lags have once again been demanding that we do something. In the words of Lord Stern, author of the environmentally friendly The Stern Review in 2006, we need to decide what ‘kind of world we want to present to our children and grandchildren’. That is, one scorched by our present greed or saved by our cutting back.
That’s the point of the IPCC’s infrequent assessments. They constitute the Word of a very secular God, the expert, the scientist. They tell us what we ought to do. No questioning. No debate. And therefore, no politics.
But there’s one big fat sceptical fly stuck in the IPCC’s ointment. And that’s the small matter of a distinct absence of global warming over the past 15 years, despite the IPCC’s models insisting otherwise. In December 2012, for instance, the UK Met Office released a forecast, suggesting not only had global temperatures not risen for over a decade, but also that they were unlikely to rise significantly in the period up to 2017. Likewise, earlier this year, even someone as committed to climate-change alarmism as James Hansen, the recently retired head of NASA’s climate-change research arm, admitted that the ‘five-year-mean global temperature has been flat for the last decade’.
In the draft version of the report, the IPCC does acknowledge that the ‘the rate of warming over the past 15 years is smaller than the trend since 1951’. In fact, the IPCC now admits that the rate of warming between 1998 and 2012 was about half the average rate since 1951. And as it stands, no one is quite certain why this is, with everything from the oceans’ ability to absorb heat to the solar cycle being blamed.