|December 06, 2009|
The concerned citizen's guide to global warming
|Worried, but maybe just a little confused?
Never fear. David Randall cuts through the conflicting claims with
his concerned citizen's guide to global warming
of us are environment specialists, least of all me. I'm what most
of us probably are on the eve of Copenhagen: a concerned citizen
with only passing lay knowledge, who's getting more confused by the
After all, the past few weeks have brought the inevitable pre-climate-conference rash of reports, dismal forecasts and counter-claims from the warming sceptics, not to mention the leaking of worrying emails from this country's leading climate experts.
My position is probably that of many readers: the world has warmed considerably during the last century, and with a speed that suggests, at the very least, some non-naturally occurring factors at work. And, given the 10-fold rise in human population since the eve of industrialisation in 1750, plus our massive consumption of carbon-based fuels and materials and the expansion of livestock agriculture, it would be extraordinary if human activity had not played a role - probably a crucial one - in this warming. But while, for most of us, climate is a matter of science, there are those at either extreme who have fanaticised it to the point where evidence is irrelevant. Faith, and point-scoring, are all. (If you doubt that, look at any newspaper's message board on the subject.) There are hucksters who have given even parts of the recycling and carbon-reduction business a questionable name; and there's the trainee Jeremy Clarksons who take any cool summer and use it as ammunition for their saloon-bar scoffing. So, head down to dodge the crossfire of opposing polemicists, salesmen and mission-statement writers, I set out to discover what exactly we now know, and don't know, about global warming.