The failure of the Earth to warm since the start of the century has been a talking point for global warming sceptics for many years, but it is only in the past few months that the mainstream media have started to pay attention too. In recent weeks the Economist, Channel Four News, and even ultra-green writers like the Telegraph’s Geoffrey Lean have sat up and taken notice. And on top of the pause, a series of recent studies of how fast temperature will rise in response to carbon dioxide emissions has produced estimates that are decidedly un-scary.
Together with the plateau in global temperatures these estimates have a profound impact on energy policy: less warming means less damage and lower costs in the future, and of course it is much harder to justify spending to avoid a low cost than a large one. In particular, it is likely that wind farms, which may well fail a cost/benefit analysis on the old, higher estimates of global warming, will become absurdly expensive when those estimates are reduced.
The global warming movement is not going to take this lying down though and the kickback has already begun. In an opinion piece published at the website of ABC News in Australia, the famous climatologist Michael Mann and his sidekick Dana Nucitelli have written an extraordinary critique of the Economist’s article.
For example, they make the extraordinary accusation that the Economist’s position 'was primarily supported by a single as-yet unpublished article by a group in Norway.' Yet even a cursory glance at text they criticise (to which Mann and Nucitelli fail to link) would show that this was not true: immediately after discussing the Norwegian paper, the Economist says ‘its projections are not unique’, going on to list a series of other studies that reach the same conclusions. In fact, the Economist only touched on a few of the papers that are now suggesting that things are not as bad as we thought – a complete survey of the field would have taken more space than could be justified in a publication for lay readers.
Much of the rest of Mann and Nucitelli’s critique is taken up with discussion of a five-year old survey of research in this area, which would be fine if it didn’t predate all the new research on which the Economist is basing its conclusions.
There are overwhelming interests vested in maintaining the momentum of the global warming bandwagon and the fight to keep the flow of soft government money to environmentalists and scientists will therefore be fought tenaciously. Journalists who step out of line can expect the same treatment as that received by the Economist.
Andrew Montford is a prominent global warming sceptic and the author of The Hockey Stick Illusion, the story of Michael Mann’s notorious graph.