The most brilliant propaganda technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success. - Adolf Hitler
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it - Mark Twain
The publication of the Stern Report on the likely consequences of Global Warming, and the ensuing Hot Air Manifesto from David Millibum, have caused predictable controversy.
The Greenier-than-Thou Brigade now have an official podium from which to launch their assault on our way of life, our pockets and our freedom of choice. They now feel themselves in a stronger position than ever to tell us what to do and what to think, and thereby make themselves even more important. Many of them will no doubt use it as a lever with which to carve out nice little careers for themselves as professional campaigners, professional experts and professional busybodies, mostly at our expense as they will be employed in their hundreds by the government, by local authorities and by universities.
Luckily there are still a few people big enough and brave enough to put their heads above the parapet. Former Chancellor and Secretary of State for Energy Nigel Lawson gave a major speech to the Centre for Policy Studies the other night, in which he had the temerity to point out …
The Meteorological Office say that "although there is considerable year-to-year variability in annual-mean global temperature, an upward trend can be clearly seen; firstly over the period from about 1920-1940, with little change or a small cooling from 1940-1975, followed by a sustained rise over the last three decades since then." Fair enough. The weather's changed. We all know that.
the sustained rise took place entirely during the last quarter of the last century. Moreover there has so far been no further global warming since 1998.
From 1920 to 1940 the increase was 0.4 degrees centigrade. From 1940 to 1975 there was a cooling of about 0.2 degrees. This didn't stop Professor James Lovelock and a number of other scientists warning of the onset of a new ice age. Since 1975 there has been a further warming of about 0.5 degrees, making a total increase of some 0.7 degrees over the 20th century as a whole. From 1900 to 1920 there was no change.
The two most important agents in global warming are water vapour and carbon dioxide. Neither is a form of pollution. It is the published view of the Met Office that is it likely that more than half the warming of recent decades (say 0.3 degrees centigrade out of the overall 0.5 degrees increase between 1975 and 2000) is attributable to man-made sources of greenhouse gases. But this is highly uncertain, and reputable climate scientists differ sharply over the subject. It is simply not true to say that the science is settled.
In 2003 it was reported - though not widely - that the rate at which ozone is being destroyed in the upper stratosphere was slowing, and the levels of ozone-destroying chlorine in that layer of the atmosphere had peaked and were going down. The hole in the ozone layer was smaller.
While the growth in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere continued relentlessly during the 20th century, the global mean surface temperature increased in fits and starts, for which there is no adequate explanation.
It is well established from historical accounts that a thousand years ago, well before the onset of industrialisation, there was - at least in Europe - what has become known as the mediaeval warm period, when temperatures were probably at least as high as, if not higher than, they are today. Going back even further, during the Roman empire, it may have been even warmer. There is archaeological evidence that in Roman Britain, vineyards existed on a commercial scale at least as far north as Northamptonshire. More recently, during the 17th and early 18th centuries, there was what has become known as the little ice age, when the Thames was regularly frozen over in winter, and substantial ice fairs held on the frozen river became a popular attraction.
The so-called "hockey-stick" chart of global temperatures over the past millennium, which purported to show that the earth's temperature was constant until the industrialisation of the 20th century, was reproduced in its 2001 Report by the supposedly authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and featured prominently in the present Government's 2003 energy white paper. It has now been comprehensively discredited.
There are parts of the world where glaciers are retreating, and others where glaciers are advancing. The fringes of the Greenland ice shelf appear to be melting, while at the centre of the shelf the ice is thickening. There are places where sea levels are perceptibly rising, while elsewhere they are static or even falling.
Hurricane Katrina is regularly trotted out as a consequence of man-made climate change, yet the region's worst recorded hurricane was that which devastated Galveston in 1900.
Though sea levels have been rising very gradually throughout the past hundred years, even the last IPCC Report found little sign of any acceleration.
Sir Nicholas Stern wrote that "The net effect of these changes is a release of 20 billion tonnes of water to the oceans each year, contributing around 0.05 millimetres a year to sea-level rise." This would imply an additional sea-level rise of less than a quarter of an inch per century. I think we can cope with that …
The Royal Society recently tried to prevent the funding of climate scientists who do not share its alarmist view of global warming. Clearly it is important to them that we should all be made to feel that (a) global catastrophe is just around the corner, (b) it's all our fault, and (c) we should all happily take to the motorways on our bicycles. Not that it would be entirely a bad thing - at least it would go some way towards breaking the stranglehold of the Middle Eastern states who have most of the oil, rendering superfluous any future military adventures like Iraq.
What makes The GOS really mad about David Millipedes' hot air proposals is the assumption that because the alleged global warming is ALL OUR FAULT, we should all have to pay the price. Welsh hill-farmers must pay more for their 4x4s (the GOS just spent a few days in Wales, and boy do they need those 4x4s! Or should that be "boyo, do they need …."?). Mrs.GOS must give up the cheap off-peak holidays she thought she felt entitled to after a lifetime's hard graft. We must stop leaping into the car every time we need something from the shops, and wait a week-and-a-half in the freezing rain for a bus which will set us down two and a half miles from where we need to go. The verges will be littered with dead and dying pensioners who couldn't make it.
But what of successive governments? Who was it that took away the most environmentally-friendly transport network this country ever had? I refer to the railways, of course. It was the government.
And who is it that refuses to properly fund the few railway lines we have left? Yes, that's right, the government.
And who is it that is seriously considering allowing juggernauts onto our roads that will be fully twice as long as those we have now, and will be so big they can't enter ordinary roads at all, but will have to use enormous depots and marshalling-yards - just like the railways used to have? Answers on a post-card, please …
So how come it's us, and not the government, that have to carry the can for the alleged global warming?
Writing in the Daily Telegraph the other day, Matthew D'Ancona said "For decades, it has been orthodox to speak of green policy in terms of necessary sacrifice, subordinating economic growth and personal comfort to the survival of the species.
"This, it must be said, made a great many people irritated. They suspected they were being subjected to a sneaky new Puritanism based on dubious science, by authoritarians who had lost the economic battle and were now looking for fresh ways of telling people what to do.
"Stern, however, turns the argument on its head. If we want to stay rich, he says, we must be green. He sets the price of the measures needed to curb global warming at 1 per cent of GDP, and the cost of ignoring the science at 10 per cent (at least).
"If his economic model is correct, this is what we political analysts call a no-brainer. Pay the parking premium for your 4x4. Turn the television stand-by off at night. Put that green box out with the papers and the bottles on a Tuesday. Because, pesky as all this may be, it is a good deal less pesky than the alternative. Do you fancy paying the Tidal Wave Tax?
"The politics of Stern will be hugely entertaining, as well as important. All sides will speak loftily of the need for cross-party consensus, and then savage their opponents for undermining it. It will be a terrific punch-up …"
If you'd like to read the whole text (well, most of it, anyway) of Nigel Lawson's speech, click here.
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