This is not the serious science of challenging, checking, and probing; this is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, public-seeking controversialism, or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.
UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey criticises the sections of society that continue to denounce anthropogenic climate change...
Ed Davey MP
The United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey MP has attacked ‘blinkered’ climate change sceptics. In a speech delivered during the launch of the Met Office’s Climate Service UK
, Davey criticised the ‘dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness’ of those who deny that humankind is responsible for the planet Earth’s changing climate.
Manmade climate change is a divisive topic within the public domain. However, it seems that the hypothesis is less contentious amongst members of the scientific community. A recent survey of more than 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers, conducted by Skeptical Science’s citizen science team, reveals that approximately 97 per cent of scientists subscribe to the notion of anthropogenic climate change. In turn, only three per cent question whether this is the case.
"Surveys like this, of course, are indicative rather than definitive," said Davey. "But when, as a policymaker, I am confronted with evidence supported by such an overwhelming scientific consensus, I am clear: I am with the 97 per cent. It frustrates me that there remains the need to confront those who would loudly deny the basic proposition, and seek to turn the public against the action required to meet the challenge."
So, why is there such a discrepancy between what the evidence demonstrates and what society believes? Why is the public still divided when it comes to humanity’s role in climate change? In Davey’s opinion, this form of ‘destructive’ scepticism stems from unscientific branches of the media.
"Some sections of the press are giving out uncritical campaigning platforms to individuals and lobby groups who reject outright the fact that climate change is the result of human activity," he argued. "[Some] even deny the reality of climate change itself. This is not the serious science of challenging, checking, and probing; this is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, public-seeking controversialism, or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness."
It is not a criticism to say that science is a game of uncertainty. Indeed, the fact that hypotheses can be replaced and refined is one of the field’s chief strengths. Climate science is no exception. When it comes to predicting future trends, climatologists are only able to give their best estimates. Unfortunately, this provides the opponents of anthropogenic climate change with an opportunity to attack.
"This tendency will seize upon the normal expression of scientific uncertainty and portray it as proof that all climate change policy is hopelessly misguided," said Davey. "By selectively misreading the evidence, they seek to suggest that climate change has stopped – so we can relax and burn all the dirty fuel we want, without a care."
Inaction is not an option, according to Davey. To do nothing would be to wager our planet’s future in the face of unthinkable odds.
'We cannot afford to relax'
"Unless we do something about [climate change], the world is going to continue to get warmer and warmer, and the consequences for future generations will be severe," the minister warned. "The science tells us we cannot afford to relax, let up, or wait for a miracle. Those who argue against all the actions that we are taking to reduce emissions without any serious or viable alternative, are asking us to take a massive gamble with the planet our children will inherit, in the face of all the evidence and against overwhelming odds. No government worth its salt would take that gamble, and no political party worth voting for would make that argument."
The minister’s words leave little room for confusion. He is displeased with the fact that this particular debate is still taking place. The anthropogenic nature of climate change, contends Davey, is a given. Rather than arguing over whether or not humans are responsible for our planet’s changing climate, we should concentrate on shifting the public conversation towards actions that must be taken in order to mitigate climate change.
"The deadline of 2015 for a global deal for binding emissions reductions is really make or break," he said. "Everything that we do between now and then has to be geared towards achieving success.
80 per cent reduction
"Here in Britain, building on the ground-breaking Climate Change Act of 2008 enacted under the previous government, we are now acting to meet the domestic emissions targets that we have set ourselves," continued Davey. "My Department’s Carbon Plan sets out how we can, and will, achieve an 80 per cent reduction by 2050; progressively decarbonising our energy sector, our transport sector, our whole economy."
Davey warned against the seductive notion of a silver bullet. As appealing as the prospect of effective carbon capture and storage (CCS) is, for example, it would be unwise to gamble on a single, fledgling technology. Developing a diverse portfolio of low-carbon technologies, argues the minister, is the only way that we can realistically tackle global warming.
The UK, of course, is in no position to address this problem unilaterally. However, by using Europe as a vehicle for collaboration, Davey argues that Britain can drive climate reform on the international stage.
A strong voice in Europe
"By being a strong voice for emissions reductions in Europe, the UK is shaping the global debate in the run up to 2015," he explained. "Under the UN Climate Negotiations Framework, the UK negotiates as part of the EU, providing us with greater credibility and weight when it comes to dealing with the super economies of China, India and the United States. Together, we represent 504 million people and 25 per cent of the world’s GDP, compared with only 63 million people and three per cent of the world’s GDP as the UK alone."
Throughout his impassioned speech, Davey called for action; action to silence ‘destructive’ scepticism and action to overcome the grand challenges posed by climate change. Essentially, the minister contends that there is no time left to procrastinate. ‘The 97 per cent’ must work together to tackle this problem head on.
"The next few years will be definitive in the fight against climate change," Davey concluded. "I am determined that together, we will grasp this opportunity; government, scientists, campaigners, businesses, journalists – the whole of society – the 97 per cent working together to meet our collective responsibility to pass on to future generations a planet that can sustain them."