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Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK


Sci/Tech

'Ignore global warming hype' says scientist

Climate change is caused by many factors, including volcanic eruptions, says Professor Stott

By Professor Philip Stott, University of London

During the next few days, our media will suffer a collective bout of hypochondria over global warming and the future of the Earth. Why?

A cynic might say it is all the aircraft fuel burnt to carry the hundreds of delegates and journalists to Bonn, Germany, for the Fifth Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). But even this would be to accept the ecohype of the global warmers.

Why are we so surprised that climate is changing? Climate always changes. It would be newsworthy if climate stopped changing.

Slow and rapid changes

During the last 18,000 years there have been both gradual and abrupt changes, some much larger than any we are currently experiencing.

And what is the consensus about the present changes? A rise of between 0.3 and 0.6 degrees Centigrade during the last 150 years, although there has been cooling as well during this period. Some measures, such as those from corrected satellite readings, still indicate overall cooling.

So why are we so desperate to criminalise human beings for this change? No single factor can account for climate variability.

Climate is governed by millions of factors, from the flip of a butterfly's wing, through volcanic eruptions, the oceans and natural greenhouse gases, to solar activity and meteors.

'The biggest myth of all'

The idea that climate change is brought about by just one or two factors, such as carbon dioxide emissions, is simply nonsense. We must grasp the fact that curbing human-induced greenhouse gases will not halt climate change. That is the biggest myth of them all.

My advice is therefore to ignore the hype. It will only make you unnecessarily anxious. Let them play with their inadequate climate models and come up with scenarios, the worse the better.

Instead, remember that humans have survived climate change for thousands of years, not by playing God with one or two politically selected factors, but by adapting to the new conditions, whether hot, cold, dry or wet. And, moreover, what about the opportunities global warming presents - far better than cooling any day!

Philip Stott is Professor of Biogeography at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London.



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