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Ed Miliband's "War on Climate Sceptics"
Volume 13, Number 6: 10 February 2010

In an article that appeared in the 31 January 2010 issue of the British newspaper The Observer, its environment editor (Juliette Jowit) wrote in an article entitled "Ed Miliband declares war on climate change sceptics" that the Climate Secretary of the United Kingdom had commenced what he described as a "battle" against people who dispute the climate-alarmist views of the recently-wounded Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its likeminded defenders. Acknowledging the seriousness of some of the IPCC's recent "mistakes," as he called them, Mr. Miliband said that they should not be used "to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there."

So, what is "the overwhelming picture" that has been presented by the IPCC?

Mr. Miliband declares that "we know there's a physical effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leading to higher temperatures," and so we do. But how significant is it? Do we know, for example, the magnitudes -- or even the signs -- of all of the many feedback effects of both a physical and a chemical nature that are generated by the initial CO2-induced impetus for warming? Or do we adequately understand -- or even have knowledge of -- all of the climatic consequences of the biological and biochemical impacts of the CO2 increase itself? On all counts, the answer is We don't (Trenberth, 2010). And he who says we do is either deceitful or deluded.

Mr. Miliband also says "we know CO2 concentrations are at their highest for six thousand years," and so they are. In fact, they're at the highest they've been for more than six hundred thousand years (Siegenthaler et al., 2005). And he goes on to say, in this regard, that "we know there are observed increases in temperature," and so there are. But as scientists have looked backward in time, to when the air's CO2 concentration was at a much lower level than it is today, they have found that earth's temperatures were often much higher than they are today.

Over the warmest portions of the prior four glacial-interglacial cycles, for example, when the highest atmospheric CO2 concentrations are known to have been about 25% lower than what they are today, temperatures were more than 2C higher than they have been recently (Petit et al., 1999). And the most up-to-date analysis of the subject (Sime et al., 2009) suggests that the "maximum interglacial temperatures over the past 340,000 years were between 6.0C and 10.0C above present-day values."

So much for what Mr. Miliband says "we know" about carbon dioxide and climate change. How about considering what we don't know? Even here, the esteemed Climate Secretary cannot bring himself to say anything different. In fact, he says that "everything we know about life is that we should obey the precautionary principle," and that "to take what the sceptics say seriously would be a profound risk."

Well, the precautionary principle is a two-edged sword, and it cuts both ways. Consider, for example, what could happen if we took what the climate alarmists say seriously. Accepting their description of the problem and their proposed cure, we would have to drastically curtail our CO2 emissions to the point where the air's CO2 content would begin to decline towards a target value that many alarmists set significantly below today's level; and in following this course, we would be significantly limiting the ability of our agricultural crops to produce the yields needed to sustain the planet's growing human population, because of the dwindling availability of carbon dioxide, which is one of the two primary substances (the other being water) that plants require for their growth and development. And as a result, we would need to divert essentially all usable freshwater on the face of the earth to the greatly-expanded agricultural enterprises that would be required to meet the food and fiber needs of our growing population a mere forty years from now (Wallace, 2000; Tilman et al., 2001). And this expansion of agriculture would require the land that currently supports a full third of all tropical and temperate forests, savannas and grasslands, according to the analysis of a distinguished group of scientists (Tilman, et al., 2001), who also correctly state that the destruction of that important natural habitat would lead to the extinction of untold numbers of plant and animal species.

In our application of the precautionary principle, therefore, we feel that we truly need the aerial fertilization effect of a CO2-enriched atmosphere, together with its water-use-efficiency-promoting effect to preserve both ourselves and what yet remains of what we could call wild nature.

The answer, as to which side has the more correct perspective on the issue, resides in real-world data, not theoretical computer models, for which climate alarmists are forever striving to obtain more funding to achieve ever-greater computing power, while they are ever seeking, but never acquiring, a sufficient knowledge of the truth. And those real-world data support our point of view, not theirs, as you may verify for yourself by perusing the most recent voluminous report of the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change or NIPCC, which may be accessed directly from the home page of our website.

As is the case with nearly all important issues, there are generally two sides to the debates they provoke; and the CO2/climate change issue is no exception. If you have only been exposed to Mr. Miliband's views, you owe it to yourself to investigate ours as well. It's all there, on our website (, in the form of reviews and analyses of literally thousands of peer-reviewed scientific articles. Come and explore ... the other side of the story.

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Jowit, J. 2010. Ed Miliband declares war on climate change sceptics. The Observer, 31 January 2010.

Petit, J.R., Jouzel, J., Raynaud, D., Barkov, N.I., Barnola, J.-M., Basile, I., Bender, M., Chappellaz, J., Davis, M., Delaygue, G., Delmotte, M., Kotlyakov, V.M., Legrand, M., Lipenkov, V.Y., Lorius, C., Pepin, L., Ritz, C., Saltzman, E., and Stievenard, M. 1999. Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature 399: 429-436.

Siegenthaler, U., Stocker, T., Monnin, E., Luthi, D., Schwander, J., Stauffer, B., Raynaud, D., Barnola, J.-M., Fischer, H., Masson-Delmotte, V. and Jouzel, J. 2005. Stable carbon cycle-climate relationship during the late Pleistocene. Science 310: 1313-1317.

Sime, L.C., Wolff, E.W., Oliver, K.I.C. and Tindall, J.C. 2009. Evidence for warmer interglacials in East Antarctic ice cores. Nature 462: 342-345.

Tilman, D., Fargione, J., Wolff, B., D'Antonio, C., Dobson, A., Howarth, R., Schindler, D., Schlesinger, W.H., Simberloff, D. and Swackhamer, D. 2001. Forecasting agriculturally driven global environmental change. Science 292: 281-284.

Trenberth, K. 2010. More knowledge, less certainty. Nature Reports Climate Change: 10.1038/climate.2010.06.

Wallace, J.S. 2000. Increasing agricultural water use efficiency to meet future food production. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 82: 105-119.