OCTOBER 15TH 2005
I have just completed my comments on the First
Draft of the Fourth Scientific Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC).
As you may know, the IPCC was
set up by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988 as a response to
the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),
signed by many nations, including our own, and including the legally
binding definition of "Climate Change:" as "a change of climate
which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that
alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is is
addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time
periods". The use, by the IPCC, of the words "Climate Change" in
its title, and in the titles of its publications implies that its major
task is to provide evidence for the greenhouse hypothesis of climate
alteration. Although a disclaimer of this aim is given as a footnote in
the last Report ("Climate Change 2001" ) all the reports have
emphasized evidence for the greenhouse hypothesis and downplayed
evidence which suggests it si unimportant.
The latest Report has a request that I "do not
quote, do not cite" and I will honour this request. But there is no
reason why I cannot comment on the new report in general terms, and
mention some of my comments.
The new Draft does not include a disclaimer for
the FCCC definitiion of "Climate Change" and it continues the
emphasis of all previous reports in highlighting any evidence that can
conceivably support a major importance of the greenhouse effect, and a
downplaying, or exclusion of any evidence to the contrary.
It continues to emphasize the
surface temperature record as a guide to global temperature increase.
Everything has been done to question the temperature measurements from
satellites and weather balloons, but the surface record is sacroisanct.
A recent paper by McKitrick and Michaels which shows that the
surface record is biased upwards is simply omitted.
They use a statistical trick to
"linearise" irregular data, such as the global temperature record. and
pretend that this constitutes a "tend". For example, the surface
temperature record only began to increase in 1990. and the satellite
record only in 1997, as if greenhouse gases, which are supposed
to have built up for many years, only just started suddenly
to raise global temperatures at these recent dates. Also most of
the warming was over land rather than the sea, so can greenhouse gases
choose where to act?
They also stand by the "Hockey
Stick" graph purporting to show that current temperatures are
":unprecedented" despite the paper by McIntyre amd McKitrick which
identified serious errors in the preparation of this graph and
several others like it.
They continue to make
extravagant forecasts about the future. My comment on this Chapter was
that I cannot take any of it seriously, since they are scared to test
any of their previous forecasts against what has actually happened, and
learn appropriate lessons. All the early forecasts were exaggerated
when tested against what happened several years later, and the last one
was even unable to forecast the present, as its figures for the year
2000 were also mostly too high...
Two senior econoimists, Ian
Castles of the Australian National University and David Henderson,
currently a visiting Fellow in London have attacked the IPCC economics
forecasts as completely out of line with current best practice, to the
extent that they produce absurd results, such as one :"scenario" which
predicts that Mali and Ruanda in Africa will be more prosperous that
the USA by 2100.
One of my general comments was
that they should grow up. At present the "Summary for Policymakers"
which precedes every Report, and which is the basis for political
decisions, has to be agreed line-by-line by government representatives.
The scientists cannot be trusted to write their own summary, and they
cxannot be allowed to mention the fact that many scientists do
not agree with the conclusions which are likely to be expressed in the
"Summary for Policymakers" usually expressed in ambiguous language.
One of my consistent complaints
is their dishonest and unscientific treatment of uncertainties. The
Chapter on observations (No 3) adopts the standard scientific practice
of quotiing 95% confidence intervals for their averages, meaning that
there is a one in twenty chance that the figure can be outside this
range. Several of the other Chapters cheat by using a lesser,
often not stated level, such as "one standard error" ( which means only
a one in three chance of accuracy) or a 90% level, to make the figures
look better. When they do not have any basis for actual accuracy
figures they apply a self-assessed series of qualitative
guesses, where there are only three levels, "likely", "very likely" and
They won't take much notice of my comments.
This is not a genuine "peer review" where serious objections are
supposed to be addressed before publication. I do it mainly to
find out what they are up to, and to receive a useful literature survey.
STATEMENT OF LORD NIGEL LAWSON
(UK Chancellort of the Exchequer,
House of Lords, United Kingdom
Kyoto Protocol: Assessing the Status of Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse
I am grateful for your invitation to testify before you today. I am
aware that you have
been provided with the Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on
on The Economics of Climate Change in advance of these proceedings, so
I intend simply
to summarise our key findings and to provide some commentary of my own.
By way of background, the Economic Affairs Committee is one of the four
committees of the House of Lords, and fulfils one of the major roles of
our second chamber as
a forum of independent expertise and review of all UK government
activity. It is composed of
members of all three main political parties. Its climate change report,
which was agreed
unanimously, was published on 6 July 2005, just ahead of the G8 summit
at Gleneagles in
In summary, the Committee concluded that:
· The Government should give the UK Treasury a more extensive
role, both in examining the
costs and benefits of climate change policy and presenting them to the
public, and also in
the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC);
· There are concerns about the objectivity of the IPCC process,
and the influence of political
considerations in its findings;
· There are significant doubts about the IPCC's scenarios, in
particular the high emissions
scenarios, and the Government should press it to change its approach;
· Positive aspects of global warming have been played down in
the IPCC reports: the IPCC needs
to reflect in a more balanced way the costs and benefits of climate
· The Government should press the IPCC for better estimates of
the monetary costs of global
warming damage and for explicit monetary comparisons between the costs
of measures to control
warming and their benefits;
· A more balanced approach to the relative merits of adaptation
and mitigation is needed, with
far more attention paid to adaptation measures;
· UK energy and climate change policy appears to be based on
dubious assumptions about the
roles of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the costs to the
UK of achieving its
objectives have been poorly documented, and the Government, with much
involvement, should review and substantiate the cost estimates involved
and convey them in
transparent form to the public;
· Current UK nuclear power capacity should be retained;
· International negotiations on climate change reduction will
prove ineffective because of the
preoccupation with setting emissions targets. The Kyoto Protocol makes
little difference to
rates of warming, and has a naïve compliance mechanism which can
only deter countries from
signing up to subsequent tighter emissions targets. Any future
Protocols might be more
fruitfully based on agreements on technology and its diffusion.
I cannot of course speak for the Committee as a whole, but my own
understanding of the issue is
· The IPCC's consistent refusal to entertain any dissent,
however well researched, which
challenges its assumptions, is profoundly unscientific;
· Although its now famous "hockey stick" chart of temperatures
over the last millennium, which
inter alia featured prominently in the UK Government's 2003 Energy
White Paper, is almost
certainly a myth, the IPCC refuses to entertain any challenge to it;
· The IPCC's scenarios exercise, which incidentally incorporates
a a demonstrably fallacious
method of inter-country economic comparisons, manifests a persistent
upward bias in the likely
amount of carbon dioxide emissions over the next hundred years. For
example, a combination of
steadily increasing energy efficiency and the growth of the less
economy has led to a steadily declining rate of growth of carbon
dioxide emissions over the
past 40 years: all the IPCC's scenarios unaccountably assume an abrupt
reversal of this
So why is the IPCC so adamant that it will not revisit its conclusions?
It may be that they are so profoundly concerned about the perils of
global warming that the
darkest possible picture is painted in order to secure urgent action.
There may also be the inevitable institutional characteristic of making
the problem more
serious than it is in order to command greater attention. This too may
be a consequence of
the way research funding is administered - it is a cold, isolated world
for the climate change
contrarian in the modern scientific community.
Whichever reason - and I suspect it may be both - the IPCC's absolutist
position is unhelpful.
The world faces a number of other, and arguably more imminent,
challenges and competing claims
on resources: the threats from nuclear proliferation and international
terrorism, and the need
for humanitarian aid for the world's poorest, are obvious examples.
Choices always have to be
made, and they need to be based on rational assessment.
So far as climate change is concerned, I am not qualified to pronounce
on the science. While it
seems clear to me, as a layman, that - other things being equal -
increasing carbon dioxide
emissions will, in time, warm the planet, I note that the science of
climate change is
uncertain and that reputable scientists hold greatly differing views
about the rate at which
such warming is likely to occur - which in any case is not simply a
matter of the science: it
depends just as much on the likely rate of future economic growth and
the pattern and nature
of that growth.
The key question, which is not a matter for scientists at all, is what
should be done about
such global warming as may occur.
· There are two possible approaches, which are not of course
mutually exclusive: mitigation,
that is, seeking to stabilize and if possible reduce the amount of
carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere, and adaptation, that is to accept that the climate may well
be warming, and to
take action to counter any harmful consequences that may flow from
· The IPCC and its acolytes make only the most perfunctory
acknowledgment of adaptation. Their
estimates of the damage from global warming are based on the assumption
that very little
adaptation occurs, and focus almost exclusively on the need for
mitigation. In my view,
however, the most important conclusion of the House of Lords report is
that adaptation needs
to take centre stage. Numerous studies have shown that adaptation is
the more cost-effective
option, which is hardly surprising. Not only is that the way in which
we normally come to
terms with climatic vagaries, but there are benefits as well as costs
from global warming.
There are, of course, regional variations: in northern Europe, for
example, including Britain,
for the rest of this century the benefits are likely to exceed the
costs, whereas for the
tropics the reverse is the case. But adaptation, which implies
pocketing the benefits while
acting to diminish the costs, has obvious attractions.
· The four principal costs potentially involved in global
warming are damage to agriculture
and food production, water shortage, coastal flooding (as sea levels
rise), and - allegedly -
o In the case of agriculture, adaptation, much of which will occur
autonomously, that is,
without the need for government action, would consist of cultivating
areas which have hitherto
been too cold to be economic and, in other cases, switching to crops
better suited to warmer
o In the case of water shortage, there is massive wastage of water at
the present time, and
ample scope for water conservation measures - which incidentally would
also help on the farming
o The most serious likely cost is that caused by coastal flooding of
low-lying areas, where
government action is clearly required, in the form of the construction
of effective sea
defences - as the Dutch, incidentally, put in place more than 500 years
ago. With modern
technology this becomes an admittedly expensive but nonetheless highly
o Finally, as to malaria - which leading malaria experts, whom the IPCC
was careful to exclude
from its deliberations, argue is in any event unrelated to temperature,
noting that the disease
was endemic in Europe until the 17th century - the means of combating
if not eradicating this
scourge are well established.
· By contrast, the Kyoto and emissions caps and targets approach
seems a most unattractive
o Even if the existing Kyoto targets were attained they would make
little if any difference to
the predicted rate of global warming. Kyoto's importance is presented
as a first step to other,
stiffer future agreements. But this is pie in the sky.
o The developing countries, including major contributors to future
carbon dioxide emissions
such as China and India are - and are determined to remain - outside
o Since the only sanction against non-compliance with Kyoto (which is
likely to be widespread)
is even stricter targets in any successor agreement, the realism of
this approach is even
harder to detect.
o In addition, even if targets were achievable, the cost of reaching
them would be horrendous.
Essentially, it would work by raising the cost of carbon-based energy
to the point where
carbon-free energy sources, and other carbon saving measures, become
economic. For Kyoto-style
mitigation to be seriously effective, it would involve a substantially
greater rise in energy
prices than anything we have yet seen despite recent spikes.
o The real cost of this approach is not so much dearer energy as the
reduced rate of world
economic growth which this would imply. It is far from self evident,
not least for the
developing countries, that over the next hundred years a poorer but
cooler world is to be
preferred to a richer but warmer one. Nor should it be overlooked that
the Kyoto strategy
requires the present and next generation to sacrifice their living
standards in order to
benefit more distant generations who are projected in any event to be
considerably better off.
· Mitigation can however, be a desirable complement to
adaptation. Far better than the Kyoto
approach is additional support for research into reduced carbon
technologies of all kinds,
thus bringing forward the time when at least some of these technologies
may become economic.
A nation which performs relatively well in terms of cutting back
emissions is bound to lose
out competitively whereas a nation which achieves a technological
breakthrough is likely to
In conclusion, I believe that the IPCC process is so flawed, and the
institution, it has to
be said, so closed to reason, that it would be far better to thank it
for the work it has
done, close it down, and transfer all future international
collaboration on the issue of
climate change, where the economic dimension is clearly of the first
importance, to the
established Bretton Woods institutions.
It is profoundly important that all governments, most importantly their
make their own independent and rigorous economic analysis of the issue.
At the time the Lords
committee was taking evidence this, for whatever reason, had not
happened in the UK. I very
much hope that, following our report, it will.
We appear to have entered a new age of unreason, which threatens to be
as economically harmful
as it is profoundly disquieting. It must not be allowed to prevail.
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