Cameron Rose: Climate change debate generates hot air

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Prepare for a tsunami. In fact, we are already experiencing the first effects of the approaching storm. This storm is one of words and pressure groups rather than wind or air pressure. It is not a real climate event – but it will be about climate. It will hit us full- force in December when the biggest conference France has ever seen takes place in Paris.

The mission is to save the world. The tsunami will be in our newspapers, on TV, online, in parliament and yes, even in the City Chambers as “the world” is called to repent from causing “dangerous” climate change by emitting CO2 from fossil fuels.

If you have missed the growing publicity focused on the Paris meeting in December (known as COP21), let me remind you of how the gentle breeze is already stirring up the leaves in Edinburgh. A recent sit-in in Chambers Street by a few students called for Edinburgh University to withdraw its investments from companies involved with fossil fuels.

Those students were backed by a massive campaign (including a few MSPs and the Guardian newspaper). The university, ever sensitive to a student campaign, (bad press could hit next year’s intake of foreign students), perhaps sensibly struck a compromise by maintaining its investments in fossil fuels but agreeing to divest from more risky investments in tar sands and coal.

And later this month Edinburgh City Council gets in on the act with its very own report on divesting from 
fossil fuels.

Then, a few days ago I attended a meeting at the Royal Society of Edinburgh which was a public climate change event. The RSE (though not all its members agree) is signed up to the “catastrophe is upon us” view. After listening carefully, I asked a question about why I should credit such an alarmist position when 1) many highly-qualified climate scientists disagree (I named some); 2) the Met Office has admitted there has been negligible warming this century – contrary to what we were told to expect; and 3) recent peer-reviewed papers suggest global temperature’s sensitivity to CO2 has been significantly overstated.

The response was interesting. A professor rose to say (apparently to me) that we shouldn’t be discussing “trivial quibbles about science”. There is nothing trivial about disagreements on which depend the spending of who-knows-how-many billions of pounds every year. And that is before whatever the Paris Summit wants us to spend – though real agreement is not the usual outcome of these annual carbon-emitting meetings.

The BBC joined in this week with a report on its science pages that a “new paper” casts doubt on the unpredicted pause in temperature. Initial indications suggest the paper may have little substance, but that doesn’t matter. The headline is out there and that is the modus operandi of pressure groups and propaganda.

Rather than a cool look at the science, the economic, the evidence, in fact, we will continue to be battered by what is little more than propaganda on the grounds that “saving the world” justifies one-sided presentations such as I attended at the RSE. I ask you, a science society in which people don’t want to debate the science! Stubbornly, the temperature remains way below where we were told it should be in 2015.

The motto of the Royal Society in London is Nullius in Verba which means “take no one’s word for it”.

Not mine, not one-sided scientists, not pressure groups. For now, just note that the key predictions of alarm have thus far failed to materialise. And many of those staking their jobs and our money on dire predictions for the end of the century won’t be here to see if they are right or wrong.

Cameron Rose is councillor for Southside/Newington Ward and leader of the Conservative Group on Edinburgh City Council