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Claude Allègre : Against the Ecologically Correct

par Xavier Méra
mercredi 21 février 2007.

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

After previewing An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s documentary film about global warming, with his fellow Members of the Parliament, Yves Cochet declared in the French newspaper Le Monde : “There are no longer any global warming revisionists today, except Claude Allègre”. Was Mr. Cochet implying that “dissenting” views on climatological issues should be put on the same plane as revisionism relative to the Armenian genocide which has just been criminalized after a vote at the French National Assembly ?

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After previewing An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s documentary film about global warming, with his fellow Members of the Parliament, Yves Cochet declared in the French newspaper Le Monde : “There are no longer any global warming revisionists today, except Claude Allègre”. Was Mr. Cochet implying that “dissenting” views on climatological issues should be put on the same plane as revisionism relative to the Armenian genocide which has just been criminalized after a vote at the French National Assembly ? Is he issuing an invitation to close the scientific debate through the force of law ?

Just like the frosty reception that several journalists and scientists had in store for the views expressed by Claude Allègre, a former minister of education, (in L’Express, dated September 21, 2006 and more recently in Le Point, 15 Fébruary 2007), such reactions reveal that Mr. Allègre has put his finger on a truth, namely, that no genuine consensus prevails about human-induced global warming.

This truth upsets because it stands in contradiction to what the media deliver day after day as a conclusive argument in order to break down the ultimate barriers towards policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If all “experts” predict a disaster if “nothing is done”, on what grounds are we to go against it ? But, contrary to the impression one might have after the last IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) meeting in Paris, it is simply not true that all experts agree about the anthropogenic nature of climate change and about the scope of the phenomena.

In the US, the former President of the National Academy of Sciences, Frederick Seitz, set up a petition signed by more than 17 000 scientists, including 2 660 physicists, geophysicists, meteorologists, and oceanographers, which threw back into question the utterly pessimistic thesis. Among the signatories, one can find notably Richard Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, to whom Claude Allègre referred to as the author who led him to change his mind on these issues.

In France, scientists like Jean Jouzel, the Director of Simon Laplace Institute, have protested against the views held by Mr. Allègre through an open letter. But, who approached Marcel Leroux, Professor of Climatology at the University of Lyon III and Director of the Laboratory in Climatology, Risk and Environment, in order to seek his opinion on the issue ? Contrarily to Mr. Lindzen who throws back into question the causes of climate warming rather than the warming itself, Mr. Leroux claims that the latter is not even proved (Fusion, No. 95, March/April 2003).

The literature on climate change is more divided than what it seems and this is a quite natural state of affairs. Who can believe in all seriousness that scientists tackling so complex issues can speak with the same voice ? In any case, perpetual repetition of the consensus thesis as a proof is at odds with the scientific approach ; this is quite embarrassing since this “chorus”, as Allègre calls it, seeks to convince citizens that Science has brought in its verdict. In experimental sciences, skepticism is indeed a virtue : researchers in experimental sciences do not usually fear debates as the search for truth proceeds by confronting assumptions with empirical observations, the goal being to reduce as much as possible the unavoidable uncertainty that shrouds results. There is no room for incantations in this process.

Lastly, even if we were to reckon that the issue of climate change is resolved along the lines of the alleged consensus, the interventionist conclusions that this dogma deems as “responsible” would not ensue automatically. Proficiency in climatology does not confer to someone the competency in economic analysis or political philosophy required in order to assess the pros and cons of the Kyoto Protocol or dictate priorities. For example, if greenhouse gas emission restrictions were to hamper the development of some countries, it is not obvious that these restrictions would have to be implemented at all costs.

A debate needs to be conducted on the issue of climate change as well as on related economic and philosophical issues. Can it start at last ?

Xavier Méra, Associate Researcher, Institut économique Molinari




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