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Friday, April 08, 2005
New Scientist: Climate change: Menace or myth?
Climate change: Menace or myth?
12 February 2005
NewScientist.com news service
ON 16 FEBRUARY, the Kyoto protocol comes into force. Whether you see this as a triumph of international cooperation or a case of too little, too late, there is no doubt that it was only made possible by decades of dedicated work by climate scientists. Yet as these same researchers celebrate their most notable achievement, their work is being denigrated as never before.
The hostile criticism is coming from sceptics who question the reality of climate change. Critics have always been around, but in recent months their voices have become increasingly prominent and influential. One British newspaper called climate change a "global fraud" based on "left-wing, anti-American, anti-west ideology". A London-based think tank described the UK's chief scientific adviser, David King, as "an embarrassment" for believing that climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism. And the bestselling author Michael Crichton, in his much publicised new novel State of Fear, portrays global warming as an evil plot perpetrated by environmental extremists.
If the sceptics are to be believed, the evidence for global warming is full of holes and the field is riven with argument and uncertainty. The apparent scientific consensus over global warming only exists, they say, because it is enforced by a scientific establishment riding the gravy train, aided and abetted by governments keen to play the politics of fear. It's easy to dismiss such claims as politically motivated and with no basis in fact - especially as the majority of sceptics are economists, business people or politicians, not scientists (see "Meet the sceptics"). But there are nagging doubts. Could the sceptics be onto something? Are we, after all, being taken for a ride? ... (more)
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