Editorial: The Climate Debate Needs More Than Alarmism
Instead of continued doom-mongering greater thought needs to be given to how mankind might adapt to the climatic realities.
For those who remain sceptical about the pace of global warming or its connection to human economic activity, this week’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will make sobering reading. The latest study contains some familiar predictions: temperatures will rise inexorably unless carbon emissions are reduced; droughts will affect parts of the world that are already ill-equipped to deal with the consequences; higher sea levels will swamp low-lying nations and displace millions of people.
Inevitably, this will trigger the usual controversy. Some will warn that, if anything, the report underestimates the dangers of imminent global apocalypse; others that the whole thing is a series of model-driven assumptions from an organisation whose credibility has been called into question on several occasions. Some of the IPCC’s claims have been shown to be exaggerated, including a forecast that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035. Moreover, global temperatures have failed to follow the upward path predicted. As a result, there is considerable reluctance around the world to make the fundamental adjustments that we are told are required to stop the most dire prophecies coming true.
We are assured that the latest IPCC study is the most comprehensive ever undertaken, and it is unequivocal in its findings: “Human interference with climate systems is occurring and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems,” the report states. But if the science appears unarguable, what to do about it remains a matter of fierce debate. Too many governments, especially in the rapidly developing economies of Asia, consider the short-term impact on economic growth to be too high a price to pay.
Decarbonisation by the UK, for instance, will contribute little to the overall reduction in CO2 levels, yet it could damage the economic recovery. America, by contrast – often portrayed as the bad boy in the climate change debate – has seen a fall in its emissions because of the shale revolution and the switch from coal to gas (though the freezing winter may have reversed this trend). Europe, which claims to be taking a lead in cutting carbon, continues to generate half of its electricity from fossil fuels.
Indeed, coal is the fastest-growing energy source in the world.