Science 'using language of the adman'

Global warming debate: Scientists agree world temperatures are rising but cannot find consensus on whether Man is to blame

TOM WILKIE

Science Editor

Official predictions of man-made global warming may have mistaken cause and effect, according to scientists sceptical of a link with fossil-fuel burning.

Global temperatures may be rising naturally, and as a consequence increasing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rather than man-made production of this greenhouse gas being the cause of global warming and increasing temperatures, according to Jack Barrett, of the department of chemistry at Imperial College in London.

The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which, as reported in yesterday's Independent, has now agreed that man-made global warming is under way, may be putting the cart before the horse, Dr Barrett said. He cast doubt on official predictions that the concentrations of carbon dioxide could double. "I don't believe it can or will happen," he said.

Dr Barrett believes that the oceans will act as a "sink" for the gas, which will dissolve in seawater and thus be cleared from the atmosphere. He said that the predictions by the IPCC of up to a 3.5C rise in temperatures over the next century were "unimpressive, because they come up with numbers which are less than the overall uncertainties in the quantities they are trying to predict".

The criticism of the IPCC was taken up by Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The IPCC produces "waffle statements which don't say anything, which nobody can disagree with", he said. Science was resorting in a "very unseemly" manner to the language of the advertising industry, Prof Lindzen maintained. "I think in the long run the IPCC statement will be an embarrassment to the scientific community." By that time, however, he said, the leaders of the IPCC would long since have gone into retirement.

The warming of the global climate over the past century has been completely within the range of natural variability, Prof Lindzen said: "The climate is changeable."

The IPCC had got agreement between its computer models and the actual behaviour of the climate only by including the effect of aerosols in the atmosphere, he said. But the panel had included "an arbitrary amount of aerosols", and so it was not surprising that it had obtained the correlation.

Prof Lindzen pointed out that the major part of the warming took place before 1940, before most of the fossil-fuel burning had taken place and therefore before the major portion of the carbon dioxide had been released into the atmosphere. Between 1940 and 1960 the global climate actually cooled slightly, before warming again to the late 1970s.

Yet since 1979, there has been no net increase in the average global temperature, Prof Lindzen said. "The net trend has been insignificant, but the IPCC would have predicted at least half a degree increase."

Dr Barrett also says there is no experimental evidence for anything that could be ascribed to man-made effects. But he also takes issue with the fundamental conceptual approach underlying the climatic models of the IPCC. The panel, he says, has underestimated the extent to which the oceans would naturally absorb carbon dioxide, and eventually it could be converted to limestone. He also believes that the panel is mistaken about the length of time the gas lingers in the atmosphere. On average, the gas can only remain in the air for about seven years whereas "the IPCC says decades to hundreds of years".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Consultants - OTE up to £35,000

£15000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Franchise Operations Manager - Midlands or North West

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The position will be home based...

Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent publishing and...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue