By Matthew Barrett
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On the 18th November, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, wrote a letter to Lord Lawson (pictured right) and Lord Turnbull – both associated with the Global Warming Policy Foundation (about which I wrote earlier this month) – to take issue with Lord Turnbull's paper "The Really Inconvenient Truth".
Lord Lawson and Lord Turnbull have today written a response to Mr Huhne, reproduced in full here:
"Dear Secretary of State
25 November 2011
We are pleased that you have decided that a public response to growing criticism of your climate policies is now required. We regret, however, that you do not address our main arguments and key concerns. Neither are we impressed by evidently ill-advised assertions.
For a start, you make the mistake of connecting the reality of 20th century global warming, which no one doubts, with the various causes for it. You claim that the evidence for man's influence is getting stronger every year, yet you fail to provide any empirical evidence for this statement.
In reality, over the past few years there has been a growing realisation among scientists that other influences (such as solar, stratospheric water vapour, oceanic cycles, to name but the most dominant) are likely to be more significant than previously thought. These factors have seriously impinged on estimates of the magnitude of mankind's influence.
Your faith in the conclusion of Australia's Garnaut Review – that there has been no change in the rate of global warming in recent years – is wholly at odds with the latest scientific work and even the Government's own Met Office: Most research papers published in the last 12 months confirm that there has been no warming trend in the last 10 years.
It is true that the fundamental greenhouse effect yields only a 1.2°C increase for a doubling of CO2 (so-called climate sensitivity) and that larger increases depend upon various feedback mechanisms. There is no convincing evidence, however, to support your assertion that the increase of the level of water vapour in the atmosphere (as a result of doubling of CO2) would (other things being equal) raise global average temperature by around 3°C.
In reality, the magnitude of water vapor feedbacks, positive as well as negative (such as increased cloud cover and precipitation) remains a poorly understood subject. Do you seriously belief that only 'one or two people' (sic) have published research that shows moderate rather than catastrophic warming in the next 100 years?
You do not seem to appreciate the incomplete state of scientific knowledge regarding these extremely complex feedbacks. In reality, most scientists will tell you that we do not know all of them; and that most of those we do know, we understand only rudimentary.
What is more, estimates for climate sensitivity in the peer reviewed literature have been going down. You and your advisers will no doubt take a look at the latest research findings on this very subject by Schmittner et al. published this week in the journal Science. This is yet another study that corroborates a low estimate of climate sensitivity and concludes that "these results imply a lower probability of imminent extreme climate change than previously thought."
Your faith in the integrity of the IPCC process is no less ill-advised. There have been three reports on the IPCC – by the InterAcademy Council in 2010; the recent book by Donna Laframboise; and the report by Professor Ross McKitrick published recently by the GWPF (a copy of which is attached). You and your advisers need to study all three as they all identify a common set shortcomings in the IPCC's scientific approach and its working methods.
The IPCC seeks to present itself as embodying the independent, impartial advice of the world's best scientists in the field. All three reports reveal serious flaws in this claim – its lack of transparency in how the so-called experts are chosen, its resistance to views challenging its orthodoxy, its lack of proper governance to deal with conflicts of interest, its excessive use of non-peer reviewed (grey literature), and its infiltration by activists from environmental pressure groups.
We are surprised that you have been so slow to recognise that the IPCC, which has influenced a great deal of UK policy, no longer carries the credibility necessary to persuade society of the massive changes it is advocating. It should be drastically reformed or wound up and replaced.
We note that you appear to be denying the charge on unilateralism in UK policy. This is curious as you and your predecessors were keen to boast that the Climate Change Act made Britain a world leader in decarbonisation. And you personally have been urging the EU to adopt even more ambitious targets, fortunately unsuccessfully.
Admittedly, you limit your claim that Britain has not adopted unilateral policies to "until 2020," but even this ceiling is at odds with the introduction of the carbon floor price which you wish to introduce in the next couple of years. This scheme most certainly is a unilateral folly which is already having a devastating effect on manufacturing and energy-intensive industries – which, of course, are also concerned about what is planned for after 2020.
In reality, the UK stands alone as the only country in the world to impose long-term legally binding CO2 emissions targets. No other country in the world is willing to inflict such unilateral burden on its business sector and economy.
Even within the EU Commission major concerns about its unilateral targets have begun to surface. The EU is now seriously considering to discontinue its unilateral decarbonisation in the absence of a global agreement.
Whether you like it or not, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has pledged that the government will no longer be bound by unilateral decarbonisation targets that cut CO2 emissions in Britain faster and deeper than other countries in Europe. We trust that his promise to abandon the path of green unilateralism will be followed, sooner rather than later, by a less extreme and more pragmatic policy.