Scientists, politicians and the general public all have differing views on climate change.
An opposing argument to global warming maintains that the scientific community and environmental activists have bought into global warming because of the financial benefits - it has become a global industry. If you are a scientist or NGO and you want funding, they argue, just work a climate change angle into research and the money will pour in. Media complicity is explained away by their need for headlines that sell. Another group believes that the current warming trend is entirely natural, probably because of increased sunspot activity. It will reverse fairly soon, they reassure us, thus proving the wider scientific community wrong.
Others say that rising heat will increase evaporation, thereby producing more clouds which will block out the heat. The system will balance out nicely in the end and all's well that ends well. Some fringe elements support George W Bush's decision not to participate in the Kyoto Protocol's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the whole issue is built on shoddy science.
Muddying the Debate
The writing of statistician and political scientist Bjørn Lomborg comes up in many debates on climate change and global warming. His controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist - Measuring the Real State of the World is one of the texts that muddies the water for people like you and me who just want to understand what is going on and to make the necessary consumer and voter decisions accordingly.
The issue, Lomborg argues, has nothing to do with whether global warming is taking place, but rather by how much it is happening. He maintains the worst case scenario put forward by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (a 6°C increase in average temperature within the next century), is overblown and that the lower end of its prediction is a more likely increase: l.5°C. This small amount of warming will benefit the north as its frozen high latitudes become opened up to agriculture and development by the creeping thaw, which is already turning the tundra soft and muddy.
Lomborg digs out reams of literature which support his positive view of things and ignores a massive body of work which does not. Science is all about dissidence and building good arguments by disproving unsound ones.
By Leonie Joubert