Fraser Nelson

Rationalism enters the climate change debate

Rationalism enters the climate change debate
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I have been gripped by The Guardian’s climate change investigation and reporting these last few days. We do like to tease George Monbiot but he was one of the first to denounce spinning of the data and science by the University of East Anglia’s climate unit. It’s a mark of his professionalism and seriousness: global warming is a cause important to him, and he resents attempts to misrepresent things by his own side, or by his enemies. The Guardian seems to take the same view, and has sent David Leigh and others out on the investigation trail, and the final in the four-part series is printed today. It shows how the debate is changing – a topic brilliantly explored by Matt Ridley in his cover piece this week.


I am, personally, persuaded by the science of climate change: that the planet is steadily warming and that manmade activities are  - at least in part – to blame. What unnerves me is the fundamentalist approach in which the debate has developed: that you either agree with every measure advocated in the name of global warming, or that you are a denier. It is this hysteria, not the science of climate change, that is the primary enemy. The cod economics of the Stern Review is a prime example of the spin, in the name of climate science.


When The Spectator ran our climate change special, I identified four parts to the global warming ‘liturgy’ that everyone seems required to believe (and called a ‘denier’ if they are not). For example, Tory whips have silenced their MPs who do not believe the following: it really is an orthodoxy. The tenets of a civil religion.


1.    That the planet is warming

2.    That manmade activities are largely to blame

3.    That only radical decarbonisation can arrest this trend this

4.    That this is an urgent matter, and that we are approaching some point of no return.

Strikingly, The Guardian chooses four different certainties on today.


1.    CO2 levels are rising

2.    CO2 trap heat in the atmosphere

3.    The earth is warming.

4.    The warming is unusual, and not explained by natural cycles seen in the last few hundred years.

Now, I would agree with all four of these points. But is this a sign of the ‘liturgy’ being redefined? The fact that The Guardian is having a debate about this – rather than treating it as a gospel which should be bellowed from the pulpit – is significant. Finally, rationalism seems to be entering the climate change debate. And, who knows, maybe our MPs might be able to have a sane debate about it.


Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.