by Ian Vallely
I believe that everyone is entitled to my opinion!
Time to change out of the emperor’s new clothes
If people want to believe something badly enough, they will only hear what they want to hear. This selective deafness is particularly pertinent to the current debate about global warming.
A last-ditch deal was struck at the recent climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, with a promise made by all 194 attending countries to make a new global agreement covering every nation to come into effect by 2020. UK climate change secretary Chris Huhne hailed the Durban deal as "a significant step forward". But is it?
History is an excellent teacher, so who better to turn to for a perceptive view of the climate change debate than a historian? Lisa Jardine, Centenary Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, says of the Durban deal: "The continued commitment of almost all the world’s nations surely points to the fact that the danger to our planet of high-level carbon emissions is a real one, on which there is widespread scientific and political agreement supported now by considerable bodies of evidence."
However, she adds, according to a growing band of climate change sceptics, this is a pernicious illusion: "The more determinedly the scientific community stands behind its global warming predictions, the more strongly the sceptics counter that there is no longer any ‘balance’ to the argument and that their supposedly equally convincing views are being silenced."
Ms Jardine calls upon the movers and shakers in the industry to abandon the practice of dogmatically repeating so-called "facts" because "graphs and pie charts have evidently failed to convince". She argues for a more discursive approach which focuses on observable change backed up by scientific evidence, in other words something approaching a conversation: "That is surely why David Attenborough's recent plea that we recognise that global warming really is happening, at the close of his series of natural history programmes on the Arctic and Antarctic [Frozen Planet], had such authority:..
"Attenborough's audience have accompanied him on a personal voyage of discovery on his most recent visits to the polar regions. They have witnessed with him the changing patterns of life there, and shared his reactions to dramatic change that has taken place during his lifetime. They may feel properly in a position to share his disturbing conclusions."