Global warming: fact or theory?

A former policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher has claimed that the threat of global warming is an illusion created by a self-serving bureaucratic cabal.

Viscount Monckton's speech, televised at the Union on Monday, drew a standing ovation from the Union president and much of the audience. His controversial views have drawn criticism from public figures such as George Monbiot and Al Gore, who he has challenged to a televised debate on the issue.

After an early intervention by a heckling journalist, the Viscount started his speech by claiming that the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was not an objective reporter of scientific fact on the climate change issue and that he would give the audience the science "they don't want you to hear about".

He challenged Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth, describing it as the "Best Sci-Fi Comedy Horror" film of the year, and claimed to have found serious and deliberate scientific errors in both An Inconvenient Truth and IPCC reports.

These included the deliberate alteration of decimal places when calculating the retreat of ice sheets, and an attempt to conceal climactic history by censoring the high temperatures common in medieval Europe from climactic data in order to exaggerate the relative level of today's temperatures.

He even accused the IPCC of doctoring reports after presenting them to scientists for ratification, for instance claiming that the 1995 report had been altered to include the phrase "The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global warming."

Monckton used statistical data in an attempt to show that climate change was unlikely to be related to excess carbon-dioxide emissions but rather was directly correlative to solar activity. Monckton stated that "carbon dioxide is not a major factor in the climate" and that as for global warming, "I don't expect it to get too much bigger, even with China and India ."

Why then, Monckton asked, was the alternative thesis of climate change as a serious global problem requiring imminent action so popular?

Monckton claimed figures in the media, politics and science had decided to deliberately exaggerate the dangers of climate change, quoting Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University climatologist, as claiming "Unless we announce disasters, no-one will listen" and claimed that the BBC has an "open, systematic bias" towards an "alarmist" interpretation.

He claimed that the IPCC is politicised and has a vested interest in exaggerating the danger to prolong its existence. The Viscount ended with a passionate appeal not to allow Third World economic development - and by extension living standards and mortality rates - to be constrained by other Western agendas.

Monckton was hit with questions on both scientific matters and the alleged bias in the media.

All this demonstrated how well he had engaged his audience, as well as provoking interesting statements from the Viscount. These included claims that "there is no such thing as market failure," and that when dealing with environmental issues government's should "stand back and let the private sector do its job" instead of interfering.The re-colonisation of Zimbabwe was among the other theories the Viscount toyed with. It was a relevant and thought provoking evening, demonstrating that the controversy is far from over.

Josh Hardie

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