Sunday, August 02, 2009

A certain sameness

Booker returns with a vengeance to the subject of global warming climate change today, picking up on the discomfiture of the Met Office, caught out over its April forecast that we were in for a "barbecue summer".

To that, Booker adds an analysis of the root cause of the Met Office's ineptitude, the fact that it relies for its short-term forecasting on the same multi-million pound computer it uses to produce data used by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to predict global warming.

In this respect, says Booker, the IPCC's computer models have proved just as wrong in predicting global temperatures as the Met Office has been in forecasting those mild winters and heatwave summers.

Behind that, though, "a curious little drama" has been unfolding over attempts by Steve McIntyre, a Canadian statistical expert, to get the Met Office to divulge the computer data on which they base their temperature record.

McIntyre was not only the chief demolisher of the "hockey stick", showing how it was based on a seriously skewed computer model, but later exposed the "adjustments" which had skewed the other official record of surface temperatures, run by Dr James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

To date, all Freedom of Information requests to see the data used to construct the Met Office temperature record have been given "an almighty brush-off", the Met Office saying that this information was strictly confidential and that to release it would damage Britain's "international relations" with all the countries that supplied it.

The idea that temperature records might be a state secret seems strange enough, Booker observes, but when the policies of governments across the world are based on that data it becomes odder still that no outsider should be allowed to see it. Weirdest of all, however, is the Met Office's claim that to release the data would "damage the trust that scientists have in those scientists who happen to be employed in the public sector".

This, however, is more than strange. It is a downright scandal and should not be tucked away in the Booker ghetto or left to a Canadian statistician to pursue. Given the political and economic implications, this should be front page material, with the opposition parties baying for blood.

Therein lies the problem. Instead of that, we have a comment section, with over a hundred contributions, but with the discussion stuck in the same, well-worn grooves. There is nothing much new there, because there is nothing much new to say. The opposing sides have staked out their territories and are indulging in the dialogue of the deaf.

What is entirely lacking here is political engagement. As we saw with the equipment issue and Afghanistan, until there is a controversy centred around high profile political figures, and the media can personalise the issues in a domestic political context, there is no traction. The subject remains in the ghetto, ignored by the mainstream, where the proponents churn over the same old arguments, ad infinitum.

Of course, this points up the utter fatuity of the Tory policy and Cameron's espousal of the green agenda, but the fact of the matter is that, until we get an opposition party that is prepared to stand up and be counted on this issue, it is going nowhere.

There is too much money in the climate change industry, and too many reputations at stake for change to occur without a highly focused political initiative and, as long as Cameron is at the helm, this is not going to happen any time soon.