Climate change debate: ‘calm, civilised, informative’ Andrew Neil #GrubStreetJournal @afneil

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Climate change debate: ‘calm, civilised, informative’

Andrew Neil | 10:28 UK time, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Yesterday the Daily Politics broadcast a debate on global warming between two leading professors in the field. It was calm, civilised and informative.

Above all, it showed that there are real differences to debate and that those who’ve tried to shut debate down — not just scientists, the green lobby and politicians but many in the media too — might be doing us a disservice.

We plan more debates on the run up to the Copenhagen climate summit.

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Professors Singer and Watson in the Daily Politics’ climate change debate

President Obama echoes most mainstream politicians in the Western world when he insists “the science is settled”. Many viewers watching yesterday’s debate must have wondered if that is really true.

Moreover our debate was staged in the aftermath of leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s climate research centre, a leading advocate of man-made global warming of international repute, suggesting something of a cover up when it comes to the raw data on which it bases its conclusions.

Even George Monbiot, one of the country’s leading exponents of global warming, describes these e-mails as “a major blow” to his side of the argument.

Indeed in this morning’s Guardian he says they could “scarcely be more damaging” and confesses to being “dismayed and deeply shaken by them … There appears to be evidence here to of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request … worse still, some of the e-mails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics or to keep it out of a report by the IPCC [the UN’s official body on climate change] … the head of the [university’s] unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the e-mails should be re-analysed.”

Mr Monbiot, quite reasonably, doesn’t think the e-mails are “the final nail in coffin” of global warming theory, as some sceptical bloggers are claiming. His faith in the theory remains pretty much intact; but he is enough of a believer in full disclosure and transparency to be shaken.To call for Phil Jones to resign is quite remarkable: he is probably Britain’s leading global warming scientist.

Mr Monbiot’s honest and fair reaction to the e-mails is in stark contrast to David Aaronovitch’s response, who (for reasons he doesn’t give) dismisses the e-mails as “quite inconsequential” in today’s Times.

Some will wonder what his qualifications are for such a de haut en bas judgement. Whether you agree or disagree with Mr Monbiot, nobody can doubt his expertise in such matters, which is why many will conclude that his response is much more significant (and reasonable).

One thing seems pretty sure: the debate certainly isn’t over!
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