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An Inconvenient Debate

par Cécile Philippe
jeudi 9 novembre 2006.

Article published exclusively on the Institut économique Molinari’s website.

It is hard, if not impossible, not to put in parallel the release of Al Gore’s documentary film in Europe and the anger of some French climatologists towards Claude Allègre. The film, An Inconvenient Truth, is acclaimed while attempt is made to discredit Claude Allègre who dared raise his doubts about accepted wisdom over human-induced global warming.

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It is hard, if not impossible, not to put in parallel the release of Al Gore’s documentary film in Europe and the anger of some French climatologists towards Claude Allègre. The film, An Inconvenient Truth, is acclaimed while attempt is made to discredit Claude Allègre who dared raise his doubts about accepted wisdom over human-induced global warming.

In a column published in L’Express last 21 st September, Claude Allègre refused to yield to alarmism and called for cautiousness by reminding that the cause of climate change was not known. “The cause of this climate change is unknown. Are man’s activities responsible for climate change ? Is climate change a reflection of natural variability ?” Since its publication, Mr. Allègre’s column unleashed a genuine storm within the research community and the media.

We thus learn that several climatologists sent a protest letter on 3 rd October 2006 to the Academy of Sciences, to the National Institute for the Sciences of the Universe (INSU), to the Minister of Research and also to L’Express. Mr. Allègre is explicitly blamed for having brought discredit on the climate research community and for having cast suspicion over accepted climate wisdom.

This wave of protest was soon relayed by the media campaign that is currently covering the release of Al Gore’s documentary film. It goes further than the protesters themselves and brushes aside the views of the sceptical Allègre by giving emphasis to the well-known discourse about planetary urgency.

These two events are typical examples of what the climatologist Richard Lindzen denounced in an article published in the Wall Street Journal on 12 th April 2006, namely, that the upholders of human-induced global warming are trying to avoid all debate on this issue and wish to lead us to believe that complete agreement has been reached among climate experts on this issue.

Richard Lindzen opines that three claims which have widespread scientific support – global mean temperature has increased by about one degree since the end of the 19 th century ; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% during the same period ; and CO2 should contribute to future warming – neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man’s responsibility for the warming that has already occurred.

This responsibility is also thrown back into question by some researchers in Canada, especially by Ian Clark, a Professor of Hydrogeology and Paleoclimatology at the University of Ottawa. Indeed, these researchers believe that global warming is mainly the consequence of a more intense solar activity. They have shown, in particular, that global warming and cooling cycles match with the solar cycle with a small lag. [1]

According to Richard Lindzen, alarmists are trumpeting “model results that we know must be wrong.” Still worse, they are trumpeting “catastrophes that could not happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming.”

As Claude Allègre who observes that “the ecology of helpless protest has become a very profitable business for some people,” Lindzen specifies that the success of climate alarmism can be gauged in terms of the increased federal spending in the US on climate research : this spending rocketed from a few hundred million of dollars before 1990 to 1.7 billion dollars today.

It is not easy to stand up against that which locks contemporary climate science in alarmism. One must be a former minister and one of the most honoured French scientists – Mr. Allègre is a Crafoord laureate, was awarded the Wollaston Medal, and is also recipient of the Gold Medal of the CNRS – in order to dare fly in the face of taboos and not give in to fear and intimidation.

Other persons have also had this courage. Thus, in the early 90’s, the American journalist Ted Koppel (a 42-year veteran of ABC News) deemed publicly inappropriate a request made by Al Gore, then Vice President of the US, to get involved in a witch-hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists.

One can only be delighted by Claude Allègre’s views which rise up against this alarmist gale and remind us that the debate about climate change and its causes is far from being over. Time has come for a genuine debate to be held not only about climate warming, but also about the means – such as the Kyoto Protocol - to be used in trying to limit it.

Cécile Philippe, Director of Institut économique Molinari and Researcher at the Centre for the New Europe

[1] P. Thejll et K. Lassen, « Solar forcing of the Northern hemisphere land air temperature : New data », Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 62, 2000, pp. 1207-1213 and also K.S. Carslaw, R.G. Harrison et J. Kirkby, « Cosmic Rays, Clouds, and Climate », Science, November 22, 2002, pp. 1732-1737.



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