My hopes were lifted today when I read this article ripping shreds out of climate change sceptic Sean Thomas in…wait for it…no, not The Guardian, but the Daily Telegraph!
Might this be a game changer? Instead of giving column space to climate change sceptics such as James Delingpole is The Telegraph now looking to publish serious scientists such as Professor of Climate Change Science at the University of East Anglia, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and PhD holder in oceanography, Corinne Le Quéré?
Can we finally move on from spending our time responding to the delusional few who keep peddling the ‘is global warming man-made?’ debate and start discussing how we are going to limit and mitigate the impact climate change is already having?
Maybe I am being too optimistic, but either way this article in today’s Telegraph by Corinne Le Quéré is an absolute corker and well worth a read.
Despite what ignorant pundits may have to say on the topic, climate change has raised the risk of flooding in this country
Sean Thomas depicts me in his blog as professing a new type of religion because I speak about climate change and flood risk. His tweet appears to describe me as a “nutter”. Mr Thomas appears to be himself professing ignorance, something I hardly recommend.
I am a physicist of 20 years’ experience, and climate change research is a science, not a faith. That means it is based on observations and on understanding of how the world works. It is the same kind of science that provides the tides, currents and weather forecasts. It’s not perfect science, but science, and knowing the weather, has taken us a long way in making our everyday life a lot more comfortable.
Mr Thomas is ignorant of the fact that heavy precipitation in winter has increased over the past 45 years in all regions of the UK. That’s not just stories told by people based upon their own experience, it is a lot of data collected and analysed all over the UK.
Mr Thomas is ignorant of the fact that that heavy precipitation is an anticipated consequence of a warming climate in wet regions of the world, such as the UK. It is simple physics: the planet warms, water evaporates more, more moisture is available in the atmosphere for individual storms, therefore more heavy precipitation. Storms are made by the weather, but climate change puts more moisture into the atmosphere that makes the rainfall heavier.
As for his ignorance on Arctic melting, Mr Thomas cites one year of data for his claim. The September ice cover has shrunk by 40 per cent in 30 years. When there is no ice, seawater evaporates and loads the atmosphere with moisture, which affects the weather patterns. A look at a map shows that the UK is close to the Arctic, and the possibility that changes in the Arctic might play a role in the weather that we are experiencing in the UK and elsewhere. Mr Thomas takes science and data very lightly.
What is harder to detect is the exact contribution of climate change to extreme weather when it occurs. Bad weather has always been around and “extreme” is a relative term. The techniques required to detect the role of climate change in extreme weather is at an early stage of development, and we don’t yet have the capacity to apply it while weather events occur. If UK science had that capacity then it would help alleviate Mr Thomas’s ignorance over the difference between weather, climate and belief. It would also help put a cost to the risks we are taking by changing the climate.
Mr Thomas refers to the “eerie and echoing syntax” and “the faintly theological tones of the estimable Professor Corinne Le Quéré” – but the only faintly theological tones here are made up by Mr Thomas’ livelihood as a writer of religious fiction. His fatalistic belief that data and independent evidence is of no value, and that climate change is all in the mind of the thousands of scientists specialising in the topic, is ignorant and foolish. While Mr Thomas might believe that it is all in the hand of god, science attributes manmade climate change to man, and coping with and limiting the consequences is in our hands.
If Mr Thomas would like to improve upon his fictional writing, my university, the University of East Anglia, has an esteemed creative writing programme, though he’ll have to do better than this to win a place.