Page last updated at 09:47 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Cold reality of global warming efforts

Martin Livermore (Image: Scientific Alliance)
Martin Livermore

Setting targets to cut emissions is easy, achieving them is not, says Martin Livermore. In this week's Green Room, he questions the current wisdom of placing so much faith in systems that have failed to deliver.

The impression is that governments want to say the right things, but hope that the whole issue will go away before they have to do anything

To some, any suggestion that the world is not on course to make drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions smacks of heresy and should be given no credence.

In their view, fossil fuel use simply must be reduced if we are to avoid disaster later in the century.

But, although most politicians subscribe to the view (informed by the scientific mainstream) that urgent action is needed to avoid possibly catastrophic global warming, policy actions do not yet match their words.

Setting targets is easy, achieving them is not.

The much-vaunted European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has turned out to be an ineffective and costly piece of market fixing, which will not achieve its stated aims.

Carbon offsetting is even worse: transferring money to developing countries to fund projects that probably would have been implemented anyway, and with little real impact on emissions.

The carbon emissions market risks being the next bubble to burst.

Man drinking from a water fountain (Getty Images)
1998 remains the warmest year on record, and since then there has been no discernable upward trend

A dose of cold realism is needed if any significant, affordable reductions in carbon intensity are to be made.

Believing strongly that drastic reductions in fossil fuel use are essential does not make them happen; it just ignores the reality that effective action is not taking place.

It is in everyone's interest, whether you fully believe or are sceptical of the received wisdom, to accept this rather than allow policymakers to repeat the mantra of emissions reduction without taking realistic and effective action.

The impression is that governments want to say the right things, but hope that the whole issue will go away before they have to do anything.

Why would so many powerful people say that global warming is the single biggest threat facing humanity and yet fail to take action?

Weather woes

There are probably three main reasons for this.

The first is timescale. Put simply, weather patterns are just not following the sort of steady trend which would instil confidence in IPCC pronouncements.

No amount of "it's even worse than we thought" headlines will convince a sceptical public if the words don't fit with the evidence of their own eyes.

1998 remains the warmest year on record, and since then there has been no discernable upward trend.

Offshore wind turbines (Image: PA)
Can renewables such as wind make the impact that politicians assume?

Last year saw a miserable summer in much of western Europe, and the same countries are in the middle of a winter which has been colder than for many years.

For the average layman, global warming remains a distant prospect.

Politicians are naturally reluctant to impose apparently unwarranted costs on their citizens if those same people can vote them out of office at the next election.

Which leads to the second point: whoever bears the initial cost, ultimately taxpayers (and therefore voters) will have to pay.

Businesses may have to buy emission permits, but (unless the cost is so small as to be meaningless as an incentive to reduce energy consumption) they will pass on the additional amount to their customers.

Whether we care to admit it or not, it is wealth created in the private sector which is taxed and enables the public sector to operate. The two cannot be divorced.

If businesses have higher costs, they either try to absorb them, become uncompetitive and fail (leading to both lower tax revenues and higher welfare costs for the state) or they put their prices up and consumers pay.

After you...

The third reason follows naturally: neither companies nor countries want to go out on a limb.

For almost all countries, it is a case of "we will if you will". If everyone moves in concert, then co-ordinated action is possible.

If some countries are perceived to be benefiting unfairly, then the whole system can fall apart.

This is the reason why agreement on a post-Kyoto deal in Copenhagen in December is going to be so difficult. This is only the first stage of a long process, a setting of targets and commitments.

Experience in the EU, which likes to see itself as setting an example to the rest of the world, suggests that not all countries will leave their negotiated goals unquestioned after agreement is reached.

Sizewell B reactor hall (image: PA)
The answer is to use the best available and most cost effective low carbon technology for base load generation (nuclear power), increase the focus on energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy, and encourage R&D

There is certainly no guarantee that even the most enthusiastic will reach their targets.

Worse, from the point of view of those who see an effective deal as vital, is that Kyoto set rather undemanding goals, which look unlikely to be achieved by all countries who ratified it.

The world recession will cut energy consumption and help reduce emissions (every cloud has a silver lining), but will make no structural changes to how we generate and use energy.

What chance, then, for the far more demanding post-Kyoto targets?

Faced with a less than enthusiastic electorate, suspicious of the motives of other countries and having learnt some hard lessons from the example of Kyoto, it is hardly surprising that politicians try to play a waiting game.

They go with the flow in setting targets for carbon dioxide emissions reductions, but do not take radical action to achieve this because they want neither to alienate voters nor harm the economy.

This is not to say that drastic reduction of fossil fuel use without upsetting most members of the public is impossible.

The answer is to use the best available and most cost effective low carbon technology for base load generation (nuclear power), increase the focus on energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy, and encourage R&D on new transport and power generation technologies.

But to start to move in this direction needs policymakers to acknowledge the hard fact that the present unwarranted faith in power from renewables and emphasis on punishing emitters is going nowhere.

Martin Livermore is director of the Scientific Alliance

The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website

Do you agree with Martin Livermore? Are politicians promising more than they actually want to deliver? Are businesses and governments scared of going out on a limb? Or are the consequences of inaction too great to leave it to the markets and the private sector?

Amazing! An article on the BBC's Green Room that is actually pragmatic and realistic. After endless: "if we all work together to do our bit" nonsense, or "why can't the government just tax cars off the road and convert our whole energy industry wholesale to renewables" pie in the sky, someone who actually has the common sense to say it as it is. Scientists warn us of the dire consequences of a failure to reduce CO2, but this is then simply used as an excuse to push whatever ideology groups subscribe to. Reducing our CO2 emissions is a numbers game, pure and simple. The economy cannot be miraculously de-carbonized; turning off our mobile phone chargers will do nothing; people will not give up affordable personal transportation and attempts to do so would be totalitarian; the sustainability pitch is mass wishful thinking. There are solutions, but they relate to large scale practical changes to energy production and plug-in hybrid technologies; not our carbon footprints. And why is the BBC so gutless and spineless to NOT stand up for the silent majority here? No wonder our politicians play an endless game of "who can pretend to be most virtuous", when they are not held to account by a "green and catastrophic" enraptured media.
Gary Moran, Birmingham, UK

For once I am pleased that politicians are simply empty-headed figureheads who have been making minor tweaks to policies which have been in place for decades. Whilst their inaction is not for the right reasons, at least I am not being taxed because of "scientists" (I use the term loosely...I am technically a scientist myself, but then, who isn't these days as long as you have a BSc) erroneous declaration that "Carbon is our enemy". Burst the Carbon bubble? I hope so. The great carbon lie is as shameful a money-making deceipt as that pulled by the "of course complex financial instruments help the economy" bankers. Not that I don't agree of course that sulphur dioxide, methane and consumption in general need to be moderated. I'm not suggesting fossil fuels are a good thing. I just hope we use our logic to make correct decisions for the future i.e. general move away from "dirty" fossils to "clean" nuclear electricity-powered, ignoring prohibitively ineffective wind/wave/solar power etc etc.
Chris K, London

The Stern Review said that tackling global warming would cost 1% of GDP but this is based on a 25% reduction in CO2 by 2050. The government is committed to an 80% reduction. In other words: 3.2% of GDP. This figure is based on a "social cost" of carbon of $310 per tonne but the IPCC says it could be as high as $1500 per tonne (nearly 5 times as much). So the actual figure could be anywhere between 1% and 15.5% of GDP. Even at 3.2% this would mean a recession lasting 40 years. Environmentalists need to be honest and admit that the cost of tackling climate change is going to be huge and ultimately may not even be possible. The only way to do it is to tax the living daylights out of fossil fuels and ban private use of the internal combustion engine which is highly unlikely to happen. So massive R&D into new ways of providing energy is the only option.
Richard Wing,

I am confused. For the last 10 years global temperatures have been declining as shown on the Met Office website. The Sun is in one of its quietest phases for a long time which may indicate a significant period of cooling and there are a number of scientists who point out that the IPCC computer generated projections on warming have never been met, so why are we still talking about global warming? If, as some scientist think, we are entering a cooling phase, then the few deaths due to the hot weather recently will pail into insignificance compared to the possible famines that could take place if we do experience the cold phase associated with the lack of sunspots around 1700
adrian kerton, Bristol UK

Without energy storage capability for power generated when conditions are good, wind and solar energy are virtually useless. In Denmark where they have more wind farms than anywhere else in the world they have not dispensed with any part of their conventional power generation infrastructure. The vast quantity of tax payers money spent on wind turbine farms is currently wasted. Investment into renewables will not provide value, and will unnecessarily increase household bills, because we cannot use the generated electricity when we need it. This was highlighted by the House of Lords Select committee report "The Economics of Renewable Energy" in November 2008, that recommended investment into energy storage technology. The best way to store variable and intermittent generated wind energy will be to use an electrolyser, that is able to convert the generated electricity with water to produce a sustainable clean alternative fuel. A fuel that is compatible with today's engine technology and infrastructure, hydrogen. In fact when the wind is blowing at three in the morning any conversion of electricity to hydrogen in an electrolyser would result in "free" hydrogen because otherwise the power would have been wasted. We need a clean sustainable carbon-neutral fuel. Town gas used to comprise 50% hydrogen so our grandparents were used to it before North Sea gas arrived. Today we could supplement our North Sea gas with hydrogen to fuel our homes (mix is called Hythane). Critically the ability to store energy and use it when we need it turns the way we manage the grid on it's head, allowing supply to match demand instead of shoveling in more coal to keep the lights on for the TV schedule. Electrolysers will offer smart storage for a smart grid, decarbonising the economy through evolution rather than revolution, supplementing our existing reserves to providing energy and fuel security and put the economics into wind. What we need is joined-up government thinking to deploy storage to renewables and grid management. A UK company is developing electrolysers in Sheffield, to make a renewable fuel affordable.
Charles Purkess, Malmesbury

Our political system is about the here and now based on 4 years of service where a politicians goal at the end is to keep his job, not promote the countries best long term strategy for the next 50 years. Little wonder then that massive challenges like this remain virtually the same from 20 or 30 years ago. Our politicians are like bad parents who only want to give their kids good news and spoil them, even if it's going to ultimately kill us all in the long run. But the power to change this is possible. Trouble is that will take time, something we have probably all ready run out of.
Alastair, UK

It's really very simple. It's not the framework/system that is the problem - but the application of it. Cap and trade works - but the permits need to be auctioned off and the cap reduced significantly each year. Political will is the issue and nothing else. THe politicians know how to deal with the problem but are too worried about their position, being afraid of taking unpopular action.
Ed, London

There is increasing evidence that the IPCC climate models might be basically wrong. Wrong because they postulate water vapour acts as a positive feedback mechanism that increases the low level effectiveness of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and so greatly enhances heating. This should lead to an increase in water vapour in the troposphere. However, numerous radiosonde measurements of relative humidity over a number of years indicate a fall in humidity at all altitudes. If this is so then the feedback is negative or neutral so warming will be minimal regardless of the quantity of CO2. Furthermore, the models predict a temperature hot spot in the troposhere. Again numerous searches for this have failed to reveal any such thing. The IPCC has cast doubt on the veracity of the measurements, however even if the instruments are not particularly accurate at measuring individual temperatures or relative humidity it is completely unlikely that the trends will be false. And these empirical measurements correspond well with the decadal leveling of temperature and recent downward trend whereas the IPCC models all forecast ever increasing temperatures with increasing CO2 which has not happened. This argument may be easily solved. The IPCC spend billions a year on climate theories. All it needs to do is to concentrate on producing accurately calibrated instruments and carry out a comprehensive programme of radiosonde surveys; but perhaps they are frightened to do so for fear of too much egg on too many faces. But then I am a cynic.
Peter Stroud, Hook Hants

precisely: this can be summed up as i) the environment functioning at a much longer time frames than democratic or funding cycles, ii) capitalist democracy undermines environmental objectives and iii) the tragedy of the commons.
stuart, maputo, mozambique

I appreciate that this is a viewpoint article, but all the same I think a little bit of fact checking and due diligence should be applied by the BBC if it is going to publish these opinion pieces as part of their news output. The Scientific Alliance is not, despite the misleading name, a scientific organisation, but an Industry Lobby and PR group. The BBC is always careful to identify Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and such like as environmental groups in its reports and the Beeb would serve its readership well to make clear the nature of Martin Livermore's organisation, especially as it carries an intentionally deceptive title. It is out-and-out nonsense for Martin to suggest that weather, not following a steady trend, is incompatible with the IPCC projections - it's an example of the old weather (highly variable, short term and local) vs climate (average of lots of weather over a large timescale) chestnut. Thanks to the magic of probability you can predict the average result of a large number of dice rolls (analogous to climate) with a high degree of confidence, predicting the result of individual rolls (or future weather) is very uncertain as the results are highly variable. Rolling a 2 doesn't mean the the average over a large number of rolls isn't going to be very close to 3.5 It is flat out false to say that there has been no discernible upward trend since 1998. Not only would it be statistically incompetent to try and deduce a significant trend from short timescales in data with a lot of natural variability, but the briefest check of the data from GISS in the US and Hadley here in the UK reveals that the readily discernible and statistically significant rise in Global Mean Surface Temperatures has continued in the the 21st century. I'd like to know where Mr Livermore is getting his data, and I'd certainly be interested in how he is interpreting it. Perhaps by referencing 1998, by far the warmest ever recorded boosted by the strongest el nino in a century Martin is hoping that BBC readers will draw the conclusion that because 1998 was unusually hot and hotter than subsequent years the overall trend does not show warming. However by cherry-picking a singularly unusual points of reference you can't really be surprised if a casual investigation leads you to singularly unusual conclusions. This is called spin and while it might be useful at distorting opinion it is not useful for helping readers understand reality. While I share many of Martin's frustrations at both the lack of political and commercial will and progress in enacting change I cannot be as pessimistic.
Jay Pettitt, Colchester, UK

Well, our ingenuity has kept food supply well ahead of population growth (as against what Malthus envisages) surely our ingenuity can keep waste disposal ahead of population growth too... in fact its an easier problem isn't it? It's just perhaps that waste disposal has never been fashionable as a subject to work in!
ron, aylesbury

The ecophobics need to stop creating a climate of fear. These 'targets' have always been pointless without any means to achieve them. Lets start admitting that the problem here is fossils fuels. Not cars. Not airplanes. Not power stations. Fossil fuels. Rather than spending billions on the next unenforcable target or dodgy dossier on melting polar bears, lets have some serious expenditure on credible alternative energy sources. 2nd generation bio-fuels from grass, sea weed or rubbish. Hydrogen. Clean new nuclear power stations. The guy who is saying this works for industry so we shouldn't believe him??? So far the ecophobics have achieved an a steady increase in global CO2 emissions - I don't find that too credible.
John, England

Individuals CAN prevent Global Warming. I am not completely convinced CO2 has anything to do with Global Warming. That notwithstanding, I am certain that reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is both a good idea and necessary, for a large number of obvious reasons. The good news is that we can all make a difference. It goes way beyond buying a few (polluting) low energy light bulbs, and will have a real impact if even half of those concerned about Global Warming follow the proposals. The beauty is that even if only half do this, it makes no difference what the rest do! Renewable energy will become cheaper than fossil fuels with enough investment in the technology, and everyone will move over naturally! Firstly, buy renewable energy. As far as I am aware, you have the choice to buy renewable electricity in all developed countries. If you cannot now, you should campaign for that inalienable right immediately. Currently our own household buys 25% of our electricity as renewable, costing us about US$33 extra per year. 100% would cost US$183). Some argue that if millions of householders (and industries, I would hope) buy renewable energy, there will not be enough. If you do not buy it, there will NEVER be enough. If you do, the money will be used to INVEST in infrastructure for future renewable energy, so making the expense just as effective. Secondly, stop investing in 'Big Oil' and 'Big Coal'. It comes as a shock to many ordinary citizens to be told that the huge greedy corporations actually make money for THEM, not for some faceless consortium. Sure, corporate flunkies may make millions of dollars, but WE, as investors, make billions, and even trillions. Their huge payouts and massive junkets are insignificant compared to the profits the companies make for their investors. You may well think that you do not invest in these companies, but if you have a pension or investment fund, you almost certainly do. These funds will, quite obviously, be invested in the very companies that make the most profits and returns for their investors. All these corporations are doing is actually acting effectively YOUR instruction, ie to get the best possible return. If WE stop investing in them, they fail, and will be forced to change their practices to survive in a capitalist environment.
JER0ME, Sydney, Australia

The uses old garbage data, based on pre-2007 inputs like the de-bunked "hockey stick graph" to scare people, and keep the grant-money flowing. Nasa says the sun is suddenly losing power and it is already "13% cooler". That's a fact - not a theory. Throw another log on the fire. It's record cold where I live.
Norman G Smith, Chilliwack, Canada

Nuclear power heats the surrounding environment directly by heat transfer via millions of gallons of water used to cool the reactor. So, while nuclear plants produce almost no particulate emissions, they produce significant heat. Wind power, by contrast, produces almost no particulates, and almost no heat. That is the cold reality. So, nuclear is not a long-term answer, though it is a short-term requirement. We need more breakthroughs. Meantime, we need to tell the truth about the waste-heat produced by steam-turbine technologies--including nuclear. If we do not tell the truth, we will not move in the direction of more breakthroughs of the kind we really need.
Patrick McDermott, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Australians were yelling all over the internet about having a cold summer until those 2 weeks in August. That does not make it the hottest summer ever. In fact it was not even close. The two weeks in August were a replay of similar events in the 40's and 50's. There has been no warming since 1998. I do not think that 18 years of warming in an otherwise cooling 4 centuries is worthy of all this screaming about global warming. I am sure in time there will be a time machine and all of you who find it to warm can be sent back to the Little Ice Age. That is if we do not destroy the planet by lowering C02 levels below the point where plant life can be sustained. At that point, it's lights out, all animal and human life on the planet wiped out by environmentalists.
Eve, Toronto

I am simply not prepared to close down half of industrial civilization and eliminate half of the population on this planet (how and whom exactly?) to gratify these alarmist fantasies. Sorry, but I'm proud to be a denier! But yes, the more money spent on R&D the better.
Thomas Goodey, Cuxton-upon-Medway

There is nothing wrong with the politicians. The biggest problem comes from from a printed paper, called: MONEY. People do everything for money and power, which leads to self destruction. Hope I am wrong. VN
Vasile Niculici, Melbourne-Australia

Gullible warming is a complete and total farce. Prove me wrong!
Tom, USA

Thinking people all over the world are realizing that man-made global warming is a hoax that threatens our future and the future of our children. More than 650 international scientists dissented last year over the man-made global warming claims. They are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers. Additionally, more than 31,000 American scientists have signed onto a petition that states, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate…" "Progressive" (communist/socialist) politicians like Obama seem determined to force us to swallow the man-made global warming scam. We need to defend ourselves from the UN and these politicians, who threaten our future and the future of our children. Based on a lie, they have already wasted billions and plan to increase taxes, limit development, and enslave us. If not stopped, the global warming scam will enrich the scammers (Gore and Obama's Wall Street friends), increase the power of the U.N. and communists like Obama, and multiply poverty and servitude for the rest of us.
AntonioSosa, Coral Gables, FL, USA

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that if "1998 remains the warmest year on record, and since then there has been no discernable upward trend" then CO2 was not what was driving temperatures up in the first place. CO2 levels have certainly not gone down accordingly. What part of reality has the gullible warming crowd lost touch with? How many years do we have to be cooling before the gullible warming crowd will admit we are not warming? Looks to me like people have to be beyond gullible to the point they may as well be considered monumentally stupid if they buy into gullible warming at this point. Gullible warming is not about saving the planet it is about controlling the people on it.
Tom, Billings USA

Whatever you think about Climate Change, whether it is all mankind's fault or down to solar winds and sunspots, the prevailing response of most people - even those in authority - seems to be "If it only means a sea level rise of about 1 metre in the next 100 years, surely that is a long way off, insignificant in terms of tidal range and anyway it will be accompanied by a warm southern European climate. Quite nice really!" A bigger shock is going to hit us long before that. Indeed, it probably just has. This "Credit Crunch" is only an early symptom of that shock. Our debt culture has been sustainable only while it was assumed that those debts could be repaid. As soon as it was determined that debts with repayment periods extending several decades into the future would be susceptible to forces quite unlike those we know today the illusion had to end. The true value of a debt today is determined entirely by a comparison with its forecast value - or likelihood of being repaid - in the future. The prospects of coal, tar sands, or other forms of ancient sunshine being a route out of this predicament are impractical in the extreme. The economics of such ventures will be heavily geared to the diminishing returns profile of oil. Bio-ethanol or other supposedly carbon-neutral combustion fuels are unlikely ever to be able to play a major role without limiting the supply of food to the world's poor. GM technology will not be able to fill that gap, being so utterly dependent on (oil-derived) agro-chemicals. So we are being hit by 2 problems at the same time - which thankfully may well share the same solution. We need to reduce the amount we travel, inevitably reducing global trade. We need to think carefully about the technologies we embrace, to ensure that we do not jump from the frying pan into the fire. We need to acknowledge that ultimately we will only have a secure economy and civilization if we do not continue to squander our inheritance.
Jonny Holt, Buntingford, UK

On the Scientific Alliance website, Martin Livermore describes the Channel 4 documentary 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' as a "plausible view" - bang goes Mr Livermore's credibility and bang goes the 'Scientific' from 'Scientific Alliance'.
Paul A, London, UK

Kit, Stephen, Jim and Richard need to stop kidding themselves that they can wish away inconvenient ideas by personal attacks on their authors. The members of the Scientific Alliance seem to be real scientists; maybe they have a valid point of view. Maybe they have taken time - and have the understanding - to weigh the evidence and how it is gathered. Have Kit, Stephen, Jim and Richard done that? Are they competent to do so? Martin Livermore (and the Scientific Alliance) are perhaps wrong in their conclusions, in which case let us have the basis for such a conclusion. Or they may be right, or at least have good grounds for their opinions. Either way, judging evidence, not trying to smear the author by innuendo, is the way forward. That, apparently, is not what Kit, Stephen, Jim and Richard want to do: they seem to need to campaign for their favoured position without being willing to defend it against criticism. Remember that there are no absolute truths in science; every hypothesis is there to be tested to destruction.
Valentine Dyall, London

Having had solar panels refused by the local planning authority - overturned, yes I agree that things need to change. Since then I have installed panels and turbines, am massively insulating my house and going as far as investing in LED lighting! Its now too late for limited gentle measures. In my lifetime (I'm 50ish) this country will be suffering, not enough food, too many people! We will however be lucky in that we won't be suffering as much as most of the rest of the world. Do we act as a lifeboat, get overwhelmed and go down? Or as in 1939 accept the coming storm and start preparing! We need a Churchill or failing that a Thatcher! But we must start to prepare now, unlike a war there will be no declaration!
Simon Mallett, Maidstone, Kent, UK

It's the first time I read an opinion against the scheme that is currently used to fight climate change that is not based on an economic argument, and since the base of that scheme was one of economic incentives (to make contamination more expensive, or, in other words, to force the ones who pollute the environment to internalise the economic consequences of their actions) this brings a whole new perspective of the issue.
Alberto Oses, Santiago, Chile.

This has been the main difference between USA action on climate change and European action on climate change. The USA bluntly says, "No, we will not burden our taxpayers with this." The EU meanwhile sets ambitious goals, highlights their green credentials, then fails to come even close to meeting those targets. Meanwhile both the USA and the EU steadily improve efficiency with new technology and tactics, but none of it will show the results that environmentalists want to see. It is time to start thinking about adapting human culture to global warming instead of trying to stop it all together.
Andy, MI, USA

This appears to be one of the very few articles you have published which acknowledges that temperature trends over the last few years simply don't match the predictions. Yet at the same time, other articles appear (as today) noting that climate scientists are coming forward with yet more pessimistic predictions for the future. Why does there appear to be no debate over the actual temperature figures seen to date ? Is it through a desire not to detract from the thrust of the argument that ever more urgent action is needed on the part of governments worldwide ? And if that is so, why would news organisations such as the BBC adopt that approach to the issue ? Is it a conscious choice ? By way of example, recently the BBC featured an interview with a senior representative of the Met Office, who perpetuated the idea that global temperatures had continued to rise during 2008 (whilst being very careful not to actually say that in so many words) and yet any perusal of the various temperature graphs on the Met Office website confirms that temperatures have levelled off since 1998, and actually appear to be falling (save, apparently, for particular regions such as the Arctic). The interviewer did not subject the figures or the interviewee to any scrutiny at all. My concern is not just with the actual science - as a layman I am in no position to judge whether the environmental establishment or the sceptics have got it right - but with the almost complete lack of debate in our media (not just the BBC) on this subject, an absence which feeds the impression that the issues are now being largely spoon-fed to the public in a particular simplistic form featuring polar bears, glaciers and disappearing Pacific islands. Approaches to climate issues seem ever more disjointed, at present, on at least two levels ; firstly this lack of proper media debate on the science and the degree to which it is supported (or not) by present observations and measurements, and secondly the approach adopted by governments such as our own, which sees ministers expressing ever-deeper concern over the implications of a failure to act coupled with ever more drastic co2 reduction targets, whilst clearly lacking any will or intent to bring about those reductions (third runway anyone ?)
Chris Grimson, Douglas, Isle of Man

Back in the days I used to believe in global warming, I realised that nothing serious would ever happen when I saw the response to a 1p rise in the price of petrol. Paradoxically, I'm furious with the global warmers because they have spread the lie that "we can do nothing", because everytime they tell the public "if we do nothing ... it will warm 2C" the public's subconsciously quite like the sound of that 2C, and so are quite happy to do nothing. So why am I furious? Because there is a far bigger crisis about to hit us, and that is the end of oil and gas. In order to cope with this we need much more renewable energy than is currently being considered, and the problem is not "sometime next century", it is "sometime in a few decades". I'm young enough to be still working when we run out!!!! The best thing that could happen is to have a few years of good old fashionned cold weather, for the global warming balloon to be deflated, and for everyone to understand the critical problems of energy shortage that are about to hit us.
Mike Haseler, Lenzie

Mark, you clearly are the product of a poor education. When temperatures stop increasing the previous trend of increasing temperatures has stopped. There WAS an upward trend in temperatures, that trend stopped 10 years ago. Recommendation 1: Buy a dictionary and read it. Recommendation 2: Don't be so angry. It's very unattractive.
Jim, Turriff

Yes, I am fully agreed with Martin Livermore. The Political class is busy in maintaining their own power and to defeat their political counterparts. The business class interested in their profits and this pattern is going on. Most of the people who are not organized, know that the real power is the natural power and the ultimate profit is the profit of well being of this planet, are worried on the anti-natural pattern of the development. Some urgent way out is necessary as the challenge is becoming difficult day by day.
Sanjay Singh Thakur, Indore,India

"1998 remains the warmest year on record, and since then there has been no discernable upward trend." Um, when 8 out of the 10 warmest years on record have been in the last decade, what sort of "trend" do you think fits that??? "We haven't seen anything higher" isn't "no discernable trend", it's what a record hottest year MEANS: no year has been hotter. And Australia has seen ITS hottest summer so far. No trend? You don't know what trend MEANS.

This seems to be another of those "elephant in the room" topics. Certainly politicians, and a great many others, are fond of rhetoric announcing the greatest crisis we've ever faced. Equally, they aren't taking action even remotely equal to their rhetoric. Either they don't believe their own words or they daren't take action. I have to add in a whole raft of environmental groups with the same problem. The hyperbolae about the end of the world are even more extreme, but you can't have a tidal barrage because the birds won't like it, you can't have nuclear power because of its association with bombs, you can't try for fusion power because its simply too "big business" for their liking. And don't even mention that less people on the planet would help. Clearly the environmental groups don't believe climate change is the biggest threat we face either, they're just using it as a tool to push their own agenda. Perhaps there's a clue there as to what politicians are up to?
Ian Nartowicz, Stockport, England

The BBC should make very clear that Scientific Alliance articles are as one sided as any so called pressure /special interest group. This article should therefore carry a health warning regarding its progeny. The Scientific Alliance is a lobby group that promotes arguments on the 'benefits' of everything from GM crops to nuclear power. Scientific Alliance views appear identical to those of the US right-wing think-tanks, funded by the major oil companies amongst others. On climate change, they quote research from the Competitive Enterprise Institute to argue that Britain should take a "delayed approach". In December, they published a paper in collaboration with the American (Exxon-funded) George C Marshall Institute that emphasised "uncertainties" in the science. A quick perusal of the members of their 'Scientific Advisory Forum' shows ex members of the Nuclear Power Industry and Crop reseach organisations initially funded by Monsanto, Co- Signatories of climate change denial letters sent to the UN, and Co-authors (with Dr D. Bellamy) of addresses on climate change denial. This is a 'stealth' special interest group par excellence. At least with the usual environmental protest groups you know where they stand, and what their particular biases are. Whilst The Scientific Alliance appears to be an 'independant voice' it has an in-built bias in favour of existing polluting technologies and industries. Declaring it's true colours (and funding) would be a good start to 'independant' debate.
Kit Lisle, Birmingham, UK

Yes; basically he's saying we've made no progress at sticking a plaster over the symptoms. So it's gong to be a really bad day when we finally all sit down and admit what the real problem is; we've run out of planet to rip up for money. There is too much human activity, we are in overshoot; and somebody has to take the economic, social, and political hit of getting us back down to the levels of human activity - a reduction to about 30% of present levels - that planet will tolerate. And I'm afraid that's going to be "us". We are the generation of grandchildren that every body else was leaving this "to worry about it." So; if we can't even manage to stick a sticking plaster over the symptoms; it suggests the real thing is going to go pretty badly. Oh dear ! Cheers Steven
Steven Walker, Penzance

1. Isn't Scientific Alliance backed by Exxon-Mobil and Robert Durward of British Aggregates? 2. "To some, any suggestion that the world is not on course to make drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions smacks of heresy" To whom exactly? 3. "weather patterns are just not following the sort of steady trend which would instil confidence in IPCC pronouncements." When have weather patterns ever followed a steady trend year-by-year and when did the IPCC say they would? 4. 1998 was exceptionally hot because of a super-El Nino and soot emissions from the Asian fires, soot having a powerful warming effect. This January, globally averaged, was one of the warmest on record.
Jim, London

Yes I agree with what Martin said. Politicians are promising more than they can deliver because businesses and governments are scared of going out on a limb. They do not care about the future only about their current financial return in this economic climate. And based on that information who can blame them? We all have to survive. The government has only a four year period to worry about. The period after that is someone elses problem. So why should they care? So we are left the problem that busimesses are more interested in their own economic growth and governments are interested in the next four years and not a distant (in their eyes) future. These are the factors that we have to change. We are becoming aware that our impacts on the climate and the environment are due to economic growth leading to the rapid expansion of the global population and industry. We have to change our lifestyles that are currently based on economic growth. A growth population is finite and we are already way beyond the carrying capacity that this planet can support. But of course people do not want to change their lifestyles and politicians would never agree to a steady-state economy (google it)....theres no money to be made! Plus the real issues of climate and environmental change will be our childrens problem. It will stare them directly in the face and they will ask us why we didnt do anything about it. The markets and the private sector are the problem based on basic ecological reasoning. They can get us out of some mess but they cannot convert finite resources to infinity. They cannot solve poverty however much politicians tell you. Growth must come to an end at some point and its about time we started thinking about how we can do it. This would be the next revolution and it wouldnt be because of climate change. Climate change is the symptom not the cause. The real cause is the population size that has to be fed. If economic growth is finite based on resources then we need to focus our efforts on a new economic model that is based on ecology and sustainable living. And the answer is probably more difficult than any other. Anyone got a spaceship?
Sam Bonnett, Nantwich

"Ultimately, responding to global warming is a political issue." --Lorrie Goldstein, Sun, 16 March 2008 "What I learned in the past few years is that politicians often adopt convenient policies that can be shown to be inconsistent with long-term success, given readily available scientific data and empirical information on policy impacts." --Dr Jim Hansen, NASA "I'm going to tell you something I probably shouldn't: we may not be able to stop global warming. We need to begin curbing global greenhouse emissions right now, but more than a decade after the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, the world has utterly failed to do so. Unless the geopolitics of global warming change soon, the Hail Mary pass of geoengineering might become our best shot." --Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine, 17 March 2008
Brad Arnold, St Louis Park, MN, USA

The Scientific Alliance is a British industry-friendly organization that promotes biotechnology, genetically modified food, and climate change skepticism. What a surprise, according to industry-friendly climate change deniers, the private sector and nuclear power are going to save us from climate change. According to SourceWatch, Martin Livermore was formerly a PR consultant with Dupont, a chemical and GMO company. I'll take his recommendations with a pinch of salt. Anyway, what is he doing commenting on environmental issues anyway?
Richard, london

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