Liz Hunt is repelled by the behaviour of both sides of the climate change argument, and hopes that Lord Lawson's review can inject some sense.
With less than two weeks to go before the climate change jamboree in Copenhagen, I'm bored senseless with the tit-for-tat rantings of the believers and the deniers. Both sides have exhaled enough hot air to fast-forward global warming a decade or five, to the detriment of what I understood to be reasoned, scientific debate.
The problem is this: I'm as repelled by the smug, self-righteous certainty of those holding the consensus view – well, they claim it's a consensus – that the world is getting hotter and that man is to blame, as I am by the twitchy naysayers who insist that a Left-wing, anti-business conspiracy is behind it all.
This week – and it changes weekly – the naysayers had the advantage, after the publication of thousands of emails from the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Selected excerpts, taken out of context, do seem to hint at something sinister. "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty," says one missive. Another voices unease about the Freedom of Information Act and public access – God forbid! – to the unit's data. And there are mutterings about "troublesome" journal editors who should be got "rid of " because they're sceptical about global warming.
A defensive university spokesman insisted that the unit's published research is always "fully peer reviewed". Which would be reassuring, if one of the emails hadn't suggested that peer review can be manipulated to achieve a desired outcome. Fantastic! Even the late, great populariser of science as fiction, Michael Crichton, couldn't have thought this one up. Except, of course, that he did, in his 2004 novel State of Fear, which has evil environmentalists plotting mass murder to advance their dodgy cause.
I'm not suggesting that the eminent climatologists of UEA would go that far – and if they sue me, it will confirm my theory that global-warming zealots have no sense of humour – but the emails still make me question their credibility.
However, just as I was on the verge of being persuaded that global warming is a con and that for every glacier retreating, there's one advancing elsewhere, a raft of august institutions – the UN, the Royal Society, the World Meteorological Organisation – delivered a counterblast. (I'll ignore the Met Office's participation – "barbecue summer", anyone?) The UN et al announced that, actually, greenhouse gas levels are increasing faster than ever – and there was I convinced that swapping my aerosol deodorant for a roll-on had actually made a difference.
But seriously, this is too important to joke about. If the world is warming because of man's activities, then action is needed. And if it isn't, then action is also needed to stop hundreds of billions of pounds being wasted on limiting carbon emissions, and prevent millions more children being brainwashed by the climate change credo. Have you ever tried to engage in a discussion with a teenager who's seen An Inconvenient Truth? They've been blinded by science – or somebody's version of science.
And that's the problem. The debate is so polarised, with both sides so closed off to the views of others, that no sane person wants to listen any more. So I welcome the cool-headed intervention of Lord Lawson and his new think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, as a forum for re-energising the debate, and damping down hysteria. Lord Lawson says he's open to the possibility of climate change, but sceptical about policies to counteract it that go unchallenged because of the stranglehold of the "consensus". It's a sensible view that will resonate with millions of us who no longer know what to think. Who can argue with that?