Rebel Scientists Force Royal Society To Accept Climate Scepticism

  • Date: 29/05/10

Britain’s premier scientific institution is being forced to review its statements on climate change after a rebellion by members who question mankind’s contribution to rising temperatures.

The Royal Society has appointed a panel to rewrite the 350-year-old institution’s official position on global warming. It will publish a new “guide to the science of climate change” this summer. The society has been accused by 43 of its Fellows of refusing to accept dissenting views on climate change and exaggerating the degree of certainty that man-made emissions are the main cause.

The society appears to have conceded that it needs to correct previous statements. It said: “Any public perception that science is somehow fully settled is wholly incorrect — there is always room for new observations, theories, measurements.” This contradicts a comment by the society’s previous president, Lord May, who was once quoted as saying: “The debate on climate change is over.”

The admission that the society needs to conduct the review is a blow to attempts by the UN to reach a global deal on cutting emissions. The Royal Society is viewed as one of the leading authorities on the topic and it nominated the panel that investigated and endorsed the climate science of the University of East Anglia.

Sir Alan Rudge, a society Fellow and former member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee, is one of the leaders of the rebellion who gathered signatures on a petition sent to Lord Rees, the society president.

He told The Times that the society had adopted an “unnecessarily alarmist position” on climate change.

Sir Alan, 72, an electrical engineer, is a member of the advisory council of the climate sceptic think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

He said: “I think the Royal Society should be more neutral and welcome credible contributions from both sceptics and alarmists alike. There is a lot of science to be done before we can be certain about climate change and before we impose upon ourselves the huge economic burden of cutting emissions.”

He refused to name the other signatories but admitted that few of them had worked directly in climate science and many were retired.

“One of the reasons people like myself are willing to put our heads above the parapet is that our careers are not at risk from being labelled a denier or flat-Earther because we say the science is not settled. The bullying of people into silence has unfortunately been effective.”

Only a fraction of the society’s 1,300 Fellows were approached and a third of those declined to sign the petition.

The rebels are concerned by a document entitled Climate Change Controversies, published by the society in 2007. The document attempts to refute what it describes as the misleading arguments employed by sceptics.

The document, which the society has used to influence media coverage of climate change, concludes: “The science clearly points to the need for nations to take urgent steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, as much and as fast as possible, to reduce the more severe aspects of climate change.”

Lord Rees admitted that there were differing views among Fellows but said that the new guide would be “based on expert views backed up by sound scientific evidence”.

Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at LSE, urged the other signatories to come forward. “If these scientists have doubts about the science on climate change, they should come out and speak about it.”

He said that the petition would fuel public doubt about climate change and that it was important to know how many of the signatories had professional knowledge of the topic.

The Times, 29 May 2010

 

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