David Richardson: Why I’m a climate change agnostic

President Obama still believes in the threat of climate change, according to his inaugural address.

He promised measures to slow its effects over the next four years of his US presidency. Meanwhile, here in the UK, the Met Office has conceded that for the past 15 years the upward trend of world temperatures has levelled out and that it does not now expect further global warming for at least another five years. In other words, it got its previous forecasts wrong.

I am, of course, conscious that 20 years is a blink of an eye compared with the enormous scale of world history. But I am concerned that in times of extreme financial stringency, governments – ours and many others – should still be imposing costly regulations on individuals and industry because of a “phenomenon” that may be a myth.

I do recognise that climate and weather are not necessarily the same, but I have not felt, over the past few weeks of freezing temperatures, that I was living in a country suffering from global warming. One night in mid-January at Norwich Airport, not far from here, the temperature dropped to -13C and several times since then it has been almost as cold. We’ve had more than a foot of snow at times causing traffic snarl-ups in town centres and numerous accidents.

Some areas have had it even worse, and may I remind you that this is the second severe winter in three years, the last one being in 2010-11 resulting in, among other things, the loss through sharp frosts of tens of thousands of tonnes of sugar beet and winter vegetables,

Indeed I read that Piers Corbyn, a well-known independent weather forecaster with a good record of getting his long-term predictions right, has suggested that because of reduced solar activity we could be at the start of a mini ice age that could give us cold winters and wet summers for perhaps 30 years. Echoes there of similar forecasts from the Climatology Department of the University of East Anglia back in the 1970s. This is the same Department that has more recently been at the forefront of climate change propaganda. Might I suggest the reality is that they don’t really know?

I have lived long enough to have experienced many different extremes of weather. And last year, as we suffered deluge after deluge of rain, I recalled my late father’s recollections of the summer of 1912. In August that year unprecedented rain fell on Norfolk – supposedly one of the driest counties in the country. The streets of Norwich were flooded and impassable except by boat and my father remembered sheaves of wheat being washed out of flooded fields and on to roads that looked like rivers.

We may just be suffering from “normal” climatic variation as we have for generations.

OK, I admit I’m a layman on the subject, but I remain a climate change agnostic. I just don’t know if human activity is affecting our climate. But that does not mean I do not take seriously the need to use energy sparingly. Fossil fuels are becoming scarcer and therefore more expensive. Fracking, the new technology to harvest gas from deep wells, will extend the life of the world’s resources. But it, and other alternatives including bioenergy, are horrendously expensive and economics alone dictates we must use energy as efficiently as possible.

Farmers, like other energy users, need to find better ways to do so.

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