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Blinded with science


FEW MPs have a science background, which is why the government needs scientific advice. Sage, for instance: the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies provide scientific and technical advice to support government decision-makers during emergencies. Since early last year we have had a great deal of advice from them and there have been (and still are) times when they are clearly running the country.

How do these 87 scientists from different fields agree about how to deal with Covid-19? Another group, HART: the Health Advisory and Recovery Team, point out that ‘A lot of what people have come to regard as clear scientific consensus over the last year is nothing of the sort. The voices of scientists with different views have simply not been heard.’

A similar thought must have occurred to Sir David King, scientific adviser to the Government 2000-2007. Last year he formed Independent Sage, which their website says is ‘a group of scientists who are working together to provide independent scientific advice to the UK government and public on how to minimise deaths and support Britain’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.’ 

Sir David is the expert responsible for advising the UK government to encourage the sale of diesel cars, and who said in 2004 that ice in Antarctica was only 40 per cent as thick as it used to be, even though there was no evidence then (or now) to support such a wild statement. 

Why are so many scientists working for us? We now have proper-Sage, still busily advising/instructing the government. Then we have pseudo-Sage, busily telling us what we should really be doing. Curious.

But there’s more, even more curious.

Global warming scientific advice comes from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), whose purpose is ‘to advise the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets and to report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change’.

It is chaired by Lord Deben, otherwise John Selwyn Gummer (who read history at Cambridge), and has about a dozen members. In May 2019 they said the UK must aim to reach net zero by 2050. Again there seems to be no disagreement between members about either the reasonableness of this target if Asian countries continue to build coal-fired power stations, or the possible enormous cost to householders of their recommendations.

How were these people chosen? How can they be so dogmatic about such an uncertain topic? How can they possibly recommend such extreme actions? Our climate changes can be interpreted in many different ways. Why is there no input from, for instance, the Global Warming Policy Foundation? 

Sir David King, ever critical of government committees, thought that the CCC were not capable of interpreting the climate situation and giving suitable advice. He has recently formed the Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG), with 14 experts from ten nations, which ‘aims to have more of an international reach and provide the global public with regular analysis about efforts to tackle the global heating and biodiversity crises’.

Notice that ‘Crisis’ in the title. Their June 2021 report sets out to justify that loaded word, line after line, paragraph by paragraph. The impression is that unless we do something today, or at the latest tomorrow, we are doomed.

The real crisis is in what they are recommending. ‘Targeted repair is needed,’ the report states, ‘for those parts of the climate system that have gone beyond their tipping points.’ It quotes three examples: refreezing the Arctic, ‘marine cloud brightening’ (a technique that aims to create whiter clouds in order to reflect more sunlight back to space) and solar radiation management ‘through the engineered installation of compounds into the stratosphere’. 

Here we have an additional committee, unofficial, saying we should conduct experiments on the Arctic, in our atmosphere, and on the oceans. These projects (called geo-engineering) have been much discussed for years, but many scientists have expressed grave concerns about conducting potentially uncontrollable experiments on our planet.

The media are doing their best to make us believe that we need to be rescued by science. Every outbreak of unusual weather is now apparently caused by global warming. Temperatures, rainfall, forest fires, tornadoes, flooding, droughts, every new record is seen as indisputable evidence. This line of reasoning is nowhere more evident than in the CCAG report quoted above.

England has the longest temperature record in the world: 362 years from 1659. Nowhere else has measurements of temperature, rainfall or anything else for even half that. The last ice age ended 12,000 years ago. We therefore only have data (though only for England and only for temperature) for 3 per cent of that time. If 97 per cent of world weather data is unknown, records will be broken for hundreds of years to come.

MPs without a scientific background are reluctant to challenge or question the advice given by their committees. But we cannot let these mysteriously selected and unbelievably single-minded bodies tell us what we must do. Covid-19 and our climate are both very complex subjects. There are many different, strongly held and soundly-based opinions about how to deal with both. We need to hear them all.

In the Covid-19 nightmare we have had only one group of scientists telling us what to do, when to do it, and how. In the growing hysteria about the global warming ‘crisis’ it seems as if we will again have only one source of advice.

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Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams is a freelance writer and has been a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society since 1984.

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