Climate change scepticism spreads in EU


By Pelle Neroth

There has been for some time a fierce debate in English-speaking countries about global warming. But now continental Europe is joining the fray. One wonders what effect this will eventually have on EU policy-making.

Der Spiegel is Germany's most respected news magazine, and Germany is Europe's most environmentally conscious large country. So when Der Spiegel runs a long article attacking leading climatologists and some of climate science itself, it is clear that a new front has opened in the climate-change war.

Phil Jones, suspended head of the University of East Anglia's climate change unit, whose hacked emails sparked allegations of conspiracies in climate science from global warming sceptics, was given an easy ride by a recent House of Commons select committee report into the scandal. He should, the report chided, have done more to reveal his data, but he was understandably frustrated at the stream of Freedom of Information requests from sceptics who were just trying to prove his lifetime's work wrong. There was some inappropriate language used in the emails, but the phrases 'hide the decline' and 'trick' were not portents of wider fraud, just loose language. A report for the university also found no evidence of deliberate scientific malpractice.

Many pro-global warming editorialists have emphasised that the scandal casts no real doubt on global warming science. Some bits of Der Spiegel's article do make you wonder, though. The temperature graphs that showed a rise of about 1'C globally since 1850 are supposed to be the 'smoking gun' of climate science. They rely on actual thermometer readings, not dubious tree-ring projections. But the magazine finds sudden suspicious jumps in the water temperatures in recent years. The reason is apparently the way the temperature was measured; changed from hauling buckets out of the ocean to measuring water temperatures coming in to cool a ship's engines. However, a similar sudden jump in land temperatures worldwide has not been adequately explained, according to one of the few scientists given access to Jones's data ' calling into question the British scientist on a new angle.

German officials and scientists have come out highly critical of the International Panel on Climate change, the gatekeeping body of climate science. A recent IPCC report, with an unsourced graph, predicted 'monster hurricanes' in the next 20 years. It turns out that the phantom graph predicting soaring hurricane damages came from a London insurance firm and was never meant for publication ' and that the intensity of hurricanes may actually decline as the world gets warmer, according to research rejected by the IPCC.

The respected German Leibniz Association has become the first major scientific body in the world to call for IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri's resignation, and Germany's science minister has called in the country's IPCC reviewers for consultations. There has been no effect yet on official Germany's stance on global warming ' and even Der Spiegel's overall conclusion is that it is happening ' but it shows that a debate sparked by a British university and conducted largely in the UK and US has now become an issue in Europe too.

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