Politics v. Science

OK.  Here comes a big dose of self-justification.
 
I recently published on Conservative Home an article on climate change, and why I disagree with the alarmist position.  It attracted a huge response, much of it positive, but of course there were a good few posts from alarmists, who disagreed.  Two themes emerged from their comments.  First of all, they were very inclined to go straight for personal abuse.  Play the man, not the ball.  This contrasted with the comments of sceptics, which were largely moderate and reasoned.
 
Secondly, they consistently challenged my right to take a position on the issue.  Who is this guy?  Is he a scientist?  What does he know about it?  Why does he think he’s right when every scientist in the world disagrees with him?  I would like every one of those who took this line to write to Al Gore demanding to know what right he has to talk about climate change.  Al Gore went to Harvard University, where he started out studying English, but switched to political science and government.  By contrast I went to Cambridge and took a degree in mathematics.  Neither of these subjects is the same as atmospheric physics or climatology, but I suggest that a maths degree gives one a better basis for understanding a scientific debate than a degree in government.
 
In fact it is the job of politicians to form judgements in areas where they are not technically qualified.  So they try to understand the issues, they listen to both sides of the debate, they consult with colleagues, and they take a view and vote accordingly.  (Of course sometimes it’s less trouble simply to follow the Party Whip).  I have voted on the EU’s chemicals directive “REACH”.  But I am not a chemist.  I will shortly vote on the Pesticides Directive, but I am not an agronomist or a biologist.  We will soon be voting on complex issues to do with the internet, and the debate between proprietary and open-source software.  I am not an IT expert, but I have to take a view.
 
Ed Miliband has just announced a draconian emissions target for 2050 (though I don’t know who goes to jail in 2050 when we miss the target).  He read PPE at Corpus Christi, Oxford, and economics at LSE — not a basis for a technical understanding of climate issues, but he makes decisions on our behalf nonetheless.
 
So if Ed Miliband and Al Gore can take a view on the issue, I make no apology for doing the same, especially as current EU policies on climate change will do huge damage to my constituents.
 
Why do I disagree with all the world’s scientists?  But of course I don’t.  Despite the spluttering of the alarmists, a significant minority of scientists and working climatologists — and indeed of the IPCC’s famous panel of 2,500 scientists — profoundly disagree with the alarmist hypothesis.
 
I have been debating these issues on the parliament e-mail system in Brussels with Chris Davies, the Lib-Dem MEP from the North West.  He is responsible for the plans to apply draconian EU rules to CO2 emissions from cars.  These rules appear to be predicated on two assumptions:
 
A)  That it is vital to reduce CO2 emissions.  This is debatable — though for reasons of energy security we should of course seek to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels
 
B)  That we should select the least efficient and most expensive approach to CO2 reduction we can find.  This is simply daft, even if you accept the alarmist assumption.  There are many much lower-cost approaches to reducing CO2, if you want to do that.  Like building nuclear power stations, and insulating buildings.
 
Why does Chris want to take this rather daft approach?  Well he has form on being daft.  He once went to a police station with a small amount of cannabis, and asked to be arrested.  The police told him to go home and stop being so silly.  He recently sent me a Met Office press release with a covering note saying (in effect) “Look — I’m right”.  I sent him a detailed and tightly argued rebuttal.  He responded (like those alarmists who posted on ConHome) with personal abuse.  “You think you’re so clever.  I think you’re a monster”.
 
No Chris, I don’t think I’m particularly clever.  But I do think I’m well briefed.  And I do think I’m right.

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