If it hadn’t been Christopher Booker writing it, I could scarcely have believed that it was true. Yet here it is, in black and white (and indeed in colour).
A conclave of senior judges has proposed, apparently in all seriousness, that a top-level “Finding of Fact” should establish once and for all the truth of anthropogenic global warming, and thereafter it would become illegal for governments or institutions (and presumably individuals as well) to challenge the consensus.
This is so wrong on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start. First of all, the idea that science can be decided in the courts is simply preposterous. Science works by challenging hypotheses. If we use some administrative or judicial measure to make any hypothesis unchallengeable, we stop science dead in its tracks.
And let’s not quibble about when a hypothesis becomes a theory, or when a theory becomes a fact. Sometimes theories are so well established that they can (in practical terms) be treated as facts – until new evidence comes along. The classic example I like to quote is that of Newton’s Laws of Motion, which in Victorian times were beyond question, and remained so until Einstein came along with his General Theory of Relativity.
The history of science is the story of paradigms, and especially of new paradigms replacing old. The old paradigm is the conventional wisdom, the ‘fact’ of its time until someone comes along to challenge it. Any attempt to block debate or new evidence (or new interpretations of existing evidence) is folly, and is doomed to fail.
It is by no means clear that the current slow rise in atmospheric CO2 is primarily driven by human activity (since natural cyclical warming must be causing CO2 out-gassing from the oceans). It is not clear that atmospheric CO2 is the sole, or primary, driver of temperature (since we had cycles of warmer and cooler periods long before mankind produced significant amounts of CO2). It is by no means clear that the actions we are taking as mitigation will have any significant impact either on CO2 levels or on the trajectory of global temperatures.
The one thing which is perfectly clear is that the action we are taking is hugely destructive of European competitiveness. It could even be increasing global CO2 emissions, by driving energy-intensive businesses to foreign jurisdictions with lower environmental standards, where comparable levels of production will produce higher emissions.
There have previously been hysterical calls from demented alarmists for what they call ‘climate deniers’ to be subjected to ‘Nuremberg-style trials’, but these could be dismissed as lunatic-fringe, coming from people like James Hansen.
But the conclave reported by Booker seems to involve otherwise sane people. How long before ‘climate deniers’ are burned at the stake in the Market Square, alongside various witches and assorted heretics? After all, it happened to Giordano Bruno. He was burned at the stake in Rome on February 17th 1600, for asserting that the earth was round.
My good friend Peter Gill has written a series of (fairly) short and digestible press articles on the vexed issue of climate change. If you had a feeling that the climate hype is a bit overblown – this will tell you why. Reading them is strongly recommended.
Late News: The head of the Court wrote to the Telegraph saying that the meeting had been merely intended to discuss the implications of climate issues, not to introduce draconian limits on free speech. But then he would say that, wouldn’t he?