Updated on 2020-09-25 by Adam Hardy
Back in November 2019 last year Jeremy Clarkson, lifelong petrol-head and scourge of the environmental movement, had a ‘green’ epiphany. He spoke of his experiences on the Mekong, confronted by one of the world’s great rivers reduced to a state that forced him and his team to cancel their plans.
He gained praise from multiple sources for his ability to admit that he’d been wrong about climate change, and admitted the irony of his predicament.
That’s why I was disappointed that he’s reverted to type in his latest column for the Sun. This column which chats about COVID-19 and the scientific progress so far, uses the situation to take a big swipe at climate science with that reliable journalistic crowd-pleaser, the Straw Man Argument.
He describes a situation that actually doesn’t exist – apparently all scientists are agreed on climate change and there is no more debate – and then he proceeds to bash it by comparing climate science with eugenics and Hitler’s Aryan theories.
Here’s a new example of where scientists don’t agree. A scientific paper came out recently in the scientific journal Nature
describing how ocean ecosystems are likely to collapse in 2020s and land species in 2040s unless global warming is stemmed. This research publication is suffering from really bad timing.
Jeremy Clarkson is missing all the debate
Although they didn’t know this when they put in their article for publication, they based their data on a United Nations prediction or scenario called IPCC RCP8.5. This scenario was used until recently by all climate scientists as a worst case scenario, but even more recently, some UN scientists published an article essentially “retiring” this scenario as too extreme and too unlikely ever to play out.
So what they are saying is, RCP8.5 with its dire conclusion of mass extinction this century is not happening. In all likelihood if the economy and industry go on without any intervention or carbon policy (ignoring COVID-19 for a moment or see here), then we are heading to a 3 to 4°C future: “A 3°C World Is Now ‘Business as Usual'”.
While that is still appalling and a Really Bad Thing, whichever way you look at it (the best compromise target is 1.5°C of global warming), at least we won’t all die by 2035 or become cannibals.
So while environmentalists across the world are slightly relieved by that news, there is as with all humans a tendency to stare, rapt in disbelief as Really Bad Things (true or not) appear on the horizon. In climate science, it’s known as ‘climate porn’ and is probably something that Mr Clarkson allows to get under his skin – hence the return to climate bashing newspaper columns.
The error that Jeremy Clarkson is making in his off-the-cuff newspaper column is not to realise that actually, scientists are still debating climate change. There’s just very little debate on whether it’s happening or not.
Using a simple example to show how Jeremy Clarkson would argue a different issue, he could say that vaccines and vaccination is bad science because nobody argues about whether vaccination works any more. Ten years ago there was a massive and short debate about side-effects, but not about whether vaccination is effective.
We absolutely need a vaccine to COVID-19, so somehow I can’t see him putting that in the Sun any time soon.