Margaret Wente: The Climate’s Big PR Problem
There has been discord at the IPCC about how (or whether) to explain the awkward hiatus in temperature increase
A funny thing happened since that blockbuster UN report in 2007 called for urgent action on global warming. The world stopped warming up.
This fact is a monumental PR headache for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is set to issue the first part of its next report on Friday. It’s hard to call for urgent action when nothing much is happening.
Behind the scenes, there has been a fair amount of discord at the IPCC about how (or whether) to explain the awkward hiatus in temperature increase, which has now lasted 15 years. According to a leaked draft, the report will explain that such a lull is normal. It will argue that the long-term trend remains unchanged, and that global warming will soon return with a vengeance.
So, if carbon dioxide is still building up in the atmosphere, where did all the extra heat go? [...]
When it comes to the intricacies of climate change, the science is notoriously unsettled. The only consensus that exists is the well-established fact that human activity is contributing to global warming. Beyond that, it’s all hypothesis and speculation. Climate change is for real – but its magnitude and impacts are riddled with uncertainty. There is no consensus on how much and how fast the Earth will warm up, or what will happen to sea levels, storms, polar ice and all the rest, or what the overall impact will be on the planet. And when it comes to what all this may mean for your grandchildren, the certainty goes down to zero.
Global warming’s credibility problem is not the deniers’ and the skeptics’ fault. It’s the fault of activist scientists, Al Gore, and the IPCC. They’ve cried wolf too much. They’ve vastly overstated what the science “says,” and treated anybody who is the least bit doubtful as the enemy.
It’s not helpful that so many of the policy solutions devised by politicians and technocrats have been ruinous. Carbon trading schemes in Europe, vast solar subsidies in Spain, costly green energy investments in Ontario – all have crashed and burned. Now the backlash has begun. The new government of Australia, once known as a green leader, has killed the carbon tax and abolished the climate change commission.