The danger of bogus science

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Believing what you want to believe (or pretending to believe in something because it’s in your commercial interests) has always been a problem.

But the stakes have never been higher than in the case of climate change. To yet again refer to the excellent New Scientist magazine, their editorial from the 13 August issue says that predictions are for a modest cooling of the atmosphere over the next ten years because of natural oceanic oscillations.

Robert Watson, former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, observed earlier this year: “Let’s say there wasn’t much of a warming for the next ten years. How will the public and politicians play this out?”

Watson has warned that – regardless of what happens over the next decade – the earth could heat up by 4% before the century is over, with disastrous consequences.

He was right to worry that evidence of cooling would lead to a backlash against global warming. I did a quick Google news search today and found this link.

I am not a scientist but from what I’ve read and studied (and, of course, I might be believing what I want to believe!) I think global warming is a reality.

Regardless of who is right or wrong it would do no harm for the chemicals industry to plan for a future shaped by either the reality of significant man-made climate change or the perception that it will happen.

As I have said before further legislation on emissions, recycling etc seems inevitable whether its country-by-country, through big multilateral agreements or a combination of both.

In the history of the planet, ten years of cooling would be an immeasuraby small fraction of a second.

And in the history of oil, the last few weeks amount to almost as small a passage of time. Still, this hasn’t stopped a groundswell of opinion developing that recent price falls have also exposed another bogus theory – that the fundamentals of oil supply and demand point to tight markets for at least the next five years.

I’ll be blogging on this in more detail over the next few days (as I write, prices have actually rebounded to above $119 a barrel on the East-West crisis), but the comparision with global warming is worth making here: companies might stop making the necessary investments to secure their long-term future.

In the case of oil, this might result in less interest in accessing harder-to-get-at reserves and in renewable energy.

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