Science as dogma
The Melbourne Age
Letters, May 5, 2005
You report Dr Rajendra
Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as saying:
"But you can't keep questioning the science forever, because if you do, you only
postpone action" ("World should look beyond Kyoto, climate expert says"; below).
I have news for Dr Pachauri. "Questioning the science" is exactly what scientists, all of them, are paid to do.
The day that a science hypothesis (that dangerous human-caused global warming is occurring) becomes an established dogma is the day that propaganda and politics takes over. Sadly, from Dr Pachauri's comments overall, one has to conclude that is precisely the fate that has befallen the IPCC.
Professor Bob Carter
World should look
beyond Kyoto: climate expert
The Melbourne Age
News Report, May 4, 2005
Debate about climate change needs to shift from the Kyoto Protocol to the level of global warming that is "dangerous", the head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says.
Rajendra Pachauri said the world urgently needed to decide the level at which greenhouse gases should be stabilised and work towards that goal.
"Unfortunately, a great deal of effort has been wasted just debating and discussing the Kyoto Protocol," said Dr Pachauri, who will address an international air pollution conference in Hobart today. "And I think what we really need is to focus on some longer-term targets."
Many of the world's climate-change scientists are now debating the issue of "dangerous" global warming. Dr Pachauri said this was a subjective thing: a small island state might feel existing global warming is already dangerous while, in Australia, one more degree in average temperatures would begin to kill coral reefs.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change supervises the work of 2500 scientists who assess global warming science and model what may happen in the future to advise governments.
He was unfussed about Australia snubbing the Kyoto Protocol. The international agreement to reduce global-warming pollution would generate a momentum of its own, he said. But countries such as Australia and the US, the only other major developed country outside the framework, should play a large role in repairing the trust between rich and poor nations over global warming.
The Federal Government has argued that it should not sign the protocol because poorer countries - which will become big emitters as they develop in the next decades - were not asked to set targets.
But Dr Pachauri, an Indian, said the spirit of Kyoto was that rich countries first take action on a problem they created with the pollution of the past 150 years of industrialisation. The other principle was that developing nations would not be denied the right to progress and better living standards, but richer nations would help with cleaner technology.
"There's been an enormous loss of confidence. If you go back to 1992 there was a totally different spirit... Developing countries were, by and large, quite willing to do something. Then it took five years for the Kyoto Protocol to be agreed on. Then after that, there's been such a delay in its ratification," Dr Pachauri said.
Unless this loss of confidence was repaired, developing countries would not make any commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, he said. "You need to see the developed countries do a lot more and particularly those that are not part of the Kyoto Protocol."
He said he was particularly concerned that poorer nations would bear the brunt of climate change's worst impacts.
He believes he is winning his battle with global warming sceptics - many of whom belong to, or are connected with, think tanks funded by oil company Exxon Mobil. "They are showing signs of desperation," he said. "They see the scientific community (getting) so much support and having so much conviction, so they feel insecure.
"I wish them well and hope we always have sceptics. Because scientists are no angels. They can get carried away, some are very arrogant... But you can't keep questioning the science forever, because if you do, you only postpone action."
The intergovernmental panel's next report is due in 2007. The last one, which connected human activity to the warming of the planet, was published in 2001.