25April2014

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The Neverending ‘Wakeup Call’

By David Cromwell and David Edwards

The new report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that the impacts of climate change are likely to be 'severe, pervasive and irreversible'. Impacts include droughts, floods, heat waves, endangered species, crop failure, food insecurity, famine and even war.

But for more than 25 years, since the IPCC was set up in 1988, there have been numerous scientific 'wakeup calls' and nothing significant has changed. In fact, turbo-charged, fossil-fuel driven capitalism has proceeded to run amok. And, for the vested interests who are the winners in the global economy, the tiny 'one per cent' or less, it is vital that nothing stops their continued 'success'. Their cynical propaganda campaign is often dressed up as the need to be 'sensible' and to take measures that do no 'harm' to the economy.

As Dana Nuccitelli, an environmental scientist and contributor to SkepticalScience.com, notes:

'Contrarians have tried to spin the conclusions of the report to incorrectly argue that it would be cheaper to try and adapt to climate change and pay the costs of climate damages. In reality the report says no such thing. The IPCC simply tells us that even if we manage to prevent the highest risk scenarios, climate change costs will still be high, and we can't even grasp how high climate damage costs will be in the highest risk scenarios.'

The BBC News website asked on its front page, 'Is climate report overly alarming?', and linked to a piece by environment correspondent, Matt McGrath. The BBC journalist had trailed his piece via Twitter:

'Dissent among scientists over key climate impacts report'

But, as several Twitter users observed, the 'dissent' among 'scientists' amounted to the objections of one individual, Richard Tol; that's one IPCC author out of 70.

Leo Hickman, chief adviser on climate change at WWF-UK, retorted:

'Hey, BBC, I've fixed the headline for you: "One go-to contrarian scientist dissents over key climate impact report"'

The noted climate scientist Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, retweeted Hickman's comment approvingly.

In fact, Tol is not even a 'go-to contrarian scientist', but rather a 'go-to contrarian economist'. He is a professor of economics at Sussex University.

The BBC's McGrath kept his head down. Twitter user Peter Webber noted:

'Days later and @mattmcgrathbbc hasn't had professionalism to rebut criticism of his "inaccurate reporting" on IPCC "scientific dissent"' 

Entirely missing from 'mainstream' coverage were salient facts about Tol's ideological stance and wretched background. For instance, Tol has worked with Bjorn 'Skeptical Environmentalist' Lomborg in downplaying the importance of tackling the climate crisis. In 2009, Tol was listed as an adviser to the Nigel Lawson-chaired Global Warming Policy Foundation, the notorious pro-business climate denialist 'thinktank'. Two years earlier, in 2007, Tol was among the US Senate Republican Party's 'list of scientists disputing man-made global warming claims'. Tol 'dismissed the idea that mankind must act now to prevent catastrophic global warming'. He outrageously scorned the Stern review on the economics of climate action, and the urgent need for concerted action, as 'preposterous', 'alarmist and incompetent.' 

Read more: The Neverending ‘Wakeup Call’

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