If climate change doesn’t grab you, meet its evil twin

Whoever leaked that clutch of Climategate emails last month must be laughing his socks off. For he has unleashed upon the rest of us the phenomenon of the born-again climate sceptic, the kind of man (always a man, almost invariably wearing a tweed jacket) who now materialises beside me at parties and confides that he has been having second thoughts about climate change.

My first instinct is always to humour him. I say I would be absolutely overjoyed if in a few years’ time we were to find out that Richard Lindzen, the most distinguished sceptic among the academic meteorologists, has turned out to be right and that the early 21st century got itself into a hysterical panic on the basis of trends based on highly uncertain computer predictions. But, I add, there are reasonable odds that he is wrong. My follow-up question is this: “Do you know that climate change is not the only reason to be uneasy about carbon emissions?”

On each occasion I am met by a look of puzzlement, followed by a perplexed nod, and I realise the person in question hasn’t a clue what I am talking about. He hasn’t heard of the acidification of the sea, a phenomenon quite separate from global warming but just as alarming. The reason, I suspect, is that it does not rate a line in the bestselling sceptical books on global warming by Christopher Booker or Nigel Lawson — which seem to be all that my tweedy friends have read on the subject.

Ocean acidification has been quite scandalously left out of the reckoning in the past few weeks. I am not for a moment belittling the science behind man-made global warming. This still seems to me solid, despite the shenanigans at the University of East Anglia. That levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are rising is not disputed. We have known since the 19th century that carbon dioxide was a crucial greenhouse gas. Venus has a lot of it and is hot as hell. Mars has almost none and is cold as ice.

Charles Clover The Sunday Times, 13 December 2009. Full article.

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