Sir Alan Peacock: Hot air surrounding climate change post

Here is a cautionary tale for those who will be following the fortunes of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's much-heralded investigation into climate change policies for Scotland.

Last week, there appeared in the advertisements for top executives a search for a principal adviser to the Directorate General Climate Action (CLIMA) of the European Commission. Much of the text explains in oppressive detail what CLIMA does and the job specification for the post. This is why I would advise any self-respecting economist, social or natural scientist to think twice before applying.

First, CLIMA expects you to agree that how to keep the future average global temperature increase less than two degrees Celsius below "pre-industrial levels" can be precisely determined. You presumably have to know and to accept how to specify the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to achieve this objective by 2020 and the appropriate policy instruments EU members should adopt to achieve this.

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Second, this implies that your remit extends to considering "all aspects of policies" associated with "inevitable climate change". For example, CLIMA has acquired a remit that extends to encouragement of innovation, economic growth and job creation. So you will already be perfectly familiar with how these ends can be achieved by adoption of low carbon technologies and adaptation of existing technologies.

There is a third, more fundamental problem. You have to "demonstrate proven negotiating skills" together with "a thorough knowledge of the international climate change negotiations". That extends your role from being more than a navigator explaining to his captain what will be the consequences of taking a particular course to having to justify whatever action he takes.

The remit is thoroughly out-of-date, for no serious discussion of climate change any longer accepts that the "science is settled".

Moreover, if a major objective is to save poorer countries from becoming even poorer by the "ravages" of global warming, a simpler and quicker way of doing so is to help their economies now, so allowing them to reach this objective themselves if they so desire.

The ambitious 2030 target set by the EU commissioner for climate action, Connie Hildegaard, is totally unrealistic.

Resist her blandishments and withdraw your application to become her poodle.

This is not the isolated view of an aged professional dissenter. The former chief scientific adviser to the government, Sir David King, has also emphasised that the setting of ambitious targets for reducing emissions "will mean losing public support".

He has travelled some distance away from his stance as one of the arch-inquisitors of the Royal Society (of London) with rude things to say about "deniers". We have graduated to become "sceptics"!

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So my message to my colleagues of the Royal Society of Edinburgh is this. If you want to be listened to in professional and government circles, indicate that you are fully aware of both the criticisms of the science of climate change emanating from scientists of rare distinction and also emphasise your expectation to contributors that their proposals are both realistic and relevant.

Professor Sir Alan Peacock is a Royal Medallist of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and member of the Academic Advisory Council of The Global Warming Policy Foundation.