Heated debate

John Milne (Letter, 12 August) asks who a lay person should believe about climate change. It is a sensible question, one I wrestle with constantly. The Royal Society has the motto Nullius in Verba, which roughly translates to “take nobody’s word for it”.

For me there is no alternative but to dig a little deeper – beyond the press releases of pressure groups and arguments from authority of “experts”.

There are many things a lay person can establish. For example, predictions and claims from the more alarmist proponents of dangerous climate change can be shown to have been wrong. That is the case with confident predictions of an inexorable increase in temperature – or some of the outlandish claims of Al Gore.

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Mr Milne’s concern for the risks from anthropogenic climate change to future generations also resonates with me. I do consider we need a flexible and robust response to weather and climate impacts on humans, and especially the poor.

Yet pinning dangerous climate change to human emissions has proved remarkably difficult. Public policy has been badgered into taking some actions which cause more harm than good.

Such is the case with the devotion of huge areas of land to subsidised biofuels production – a policy which has driven up world food prices – hurting the world’s poor. Similarly, green taxes on energy have a disproportionate effect on the energy costs of the poor. Often it is better to do nothing than the wrong thing – especially where the so-called “settled science” is far from settled.

(Cllr) Cameron Rose

City Chambers

Edinburgh

Cameron Rose and Professor (of plant physiology and molecular biology) Trewavas are confusing the temperature big picture with what is actually happening to climate and environment on the ground.

Temperature may have failed to rise for the last 15 years in the Rose and Trewavas back gardens, or on average on a worldwide network of weather stations, but the local effect of climate change elsewhere is marked.

There are a number of island groups in the Pacific, such as the Marshall Islands, which are looking for other places to cultivate, while their existing agriculture is being devastated by increased 
salinity in the ground water.

I am sure they would welcome a visit from Cameron Rose to tell them that all is well. So might the citizens of Bangladesh, while in the long term London may be no longer viable.

In the Antarctic the ice shelves which help keep the ice cap in place are breaking up and drifting out to sea. The Arctic sea ice is thinning, which may allow offshore oil development but not necessarily for the overall common good. The first dead polar bear, starved through the inability to hunt seals, has been discovered. The permafrost is melting, causing considerable damage to buildings, and releasing large quantities of methane which had been “locked” in it.

Extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandie will cost insurers a bomb and drive up premiums. We now learn of rivers in the atmosphere which can deliver several weeks of rainfall in a day to unfortunate areas, not just in the UK but central Europe as well (we should not be insular!).

If the global temperature has failed to rise in the last 15 years while CO2 emissions have continued to increase it would be helpful to know what will happen next. Is anyone working on this? It would help to know how much time we have to get it sorted.

Even if our current situation is not man-made, wouldn’t it be sensible to behave as if it were, to try to curtail the effect as much as possible?

Finally, the term “global warming” should be banned. What is on offer is “climate chaos”.

Frank Donald

Tantallon Place

Edinburgh