I should perhaps confess that I didn’t approach this book with complete disinterest; my mind is not a tabula rasa with regard to the issue of global w...moreI should perhaps confess that I didn’t approach this book with complete disinterest; my mind is not a tabula rasa with regard to the issue of global warming. I was inclined to view favourably a book that questioned the prevailing opinion on climate change. The idea that we can predict the climate 100 years hence with any degree of certainty has always seemed to me somewhat absurd, particularly when we struggle to forecast accurately the weather 2 days ahead. As well as reaffirming my own sceptical opinion, Lawson's clear and concise exposition of the sceptical view of global warming will hopefully give the theory’s more ardent proponents some pause for thought.
In calm, measured tones, Lawson makes his case: that the science is not certain, despite claims to the contrary by man-made global warming proselytisers; that the threat to human life is in any case exaggerated, even if the predictions of global warming prove to be accurate; that it is politically and economically unrealistic to take the severe measures advocated by many proponents of global warming theory; and that we would be better off trying to adapt (as humans always have done) to a changing climate rather than trying to radically alter our way of life.
Events have been kind to Lawson since this book was published in 2008: two very cold winters in Britain; the email 'Climategate' controversy; and the wild exaggeration about the rapidity with which the Himalayan glaciers might melt. All of these have served to undermine or cast doubt on (whether justified or not) the global warming agenda.
It is possible that we have already passed the peak of hysteria about global warming, at least in this country. Much of the concern expressed by people over the last few years has been shown to be quite shallow; the financial crisis has focused minds on problems of a more immediate nature.
I suspect also that the current very cold winter has (unreasonably, it should be said) dampened enthusiasm for global warming theory. We were told in Britain to expect mild, wet winters. In the last couple of years, Britain has instead suffered two of the most severe winters in a generation, with December 2010 the coldest since records began in 1910. Two successive cold winters in the UK don't disprove global warming, of course, but the explanation offered - that the current cold spell of weather might be caused by low solar activity - suggests that forces much larger than human agency affect the global climate. The explanation is also illustrative of how global warming theorists use weather events to fit their theory: anything which appears to corroborate the global warming hypothesis, such as a hot summer or a tropical storm, is presented as evidence for the theory. Weather that conflicts with the theory is attributed to some other cause.
Lawson might be wrong; the prevailing opinion might be right. Either way, this is an important contribution to the debate, and it deserves to be widely read. (less)