Raising false alarms

An appeal to reason: A Cool look at global Warming Nigel Lawson Harper Litmus 2011, pp 166,  299

If you are caught in a maze of information on climate change and its implications, and are trying to make sense from the tangled bits, An Appeal to Reason by British politician and journalist Nigel Lawson might just be the right read for you.

Lawson, father of celebrity cook Nigella Lawson, dishes up some interesting fare on climate change. At a time when it is easy to play to the gallery on the issue and create alarmist notions about global warming, Lawson coolly and calmly puts across his rather non-conservative views on the issue.

His foreword makes it clear to us how difficult it was for him to get a publisher to actually accept the manuscript simply because, as one of them put it, “it flies so much in the face of the prevailing orthodoxy.” Also, Lawson clarifies at the very beginning that he is not catering to any commercial interest, the ‘big oil’ or ‘coal-mining’ interests.

When it comes to the perceived big climate change phenomena, he warns against cherry-picking. “There are parts of the world where glaciers are retreating, and others where they are not — and indeed, somewhere, they may even be advancing. Curiously enough, there are places where sea levels are perceptibly rising, and others where they are static, or even falling... This diversity makes it all too easy for the likes of Al Gore, as in his tendentious film, An Inconvenient Truth, to cherry-pick local phenomena which best illustrate their predetermined alarmist global narrative,” he points out. 

Lawson is particularly hard-hitting when it comes to The Stern Review, placing it “at the extreme end of the alarmist camp.” Then Lawson goes on to analyse the three most dramatic so-called climate change events in the last few years: hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans in 2005, the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice-sheets leading to massive sea-level rise and millions of deaths from coastal flooding and inundation; and a shut-down, or even reversal, of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, commonly (if incorrectly, adds Lawson) known as the Gulf Stream.

The author then demolishes alarmist notions over each of these events. He goes on to explain that even on the most pessimistic assumptions, and on the basis of the majority view of the science of global warming, “a 100 years from now, the people of the developing world may not be 9.5 times as well off as they are today, but only 8.5 times as well off.”

He then goes on to examine if, therefore, it is justified to expect a huge sacrifice on the part of the present generation. Intuitively, he explains, the answer is clear: not a lot. Also, talking about global agreements on the issue, he targets the Kyoto Protocol. He explains why a Kyoto-style global agreement is a ‘fool’s errand’. There is an impossibility, he explains, on the issue of sharing burdens between major nations. Also, there is the question of non-uniform risk aversion. So, how does one group of countries decide the degree of risk-aversion of other countries and cultures?

Reaching a conclusion, Lawson explains that global warming is not, at the present time, happening. The “new religion of global warming,” he says, contains “a grain of truth” and a mountain of nonsense. It is this nonsense, the British conservative explains, that we need to be careful about.

An interesting book, if not for anything else, but its contrarian views on a subject that is much debated about.

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