UK Economist: Climate Skeptics are Confused

Associated Press + More

MEERA SELVA,
Associated Press Writer

LONDON—A leading British climate change economist warned Tuesday that those who doubt the science of global warming are confused—and said their skepticism should not derail efforts to strike a climate deal in Denmark.

Nicholas Stern, who wrote a British government report on global warming, said hackers who posted documents snatched from the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia had muddled the debate at a critical moment.

Critics of the science behind global warming argue the hacked documents show academics manipulated data to strengthen their argument backing the phenomenon.

"It (the incident) has created confusion and confusion never helps scientific discussions," Stern told reporters in London.

Governments have begun final preparations for the 192-nation conference in Copenhagen next week, where parameters will be set for a new climate change agreement. The U.S. and China, two of the world's biggest polluters, have set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and Stern said it was vital that countries managed to agree on measures to tackle global warming.

"We have a moment now when we could get a strategy agreed," he said. "If it were to dissolve in disarray it would not be easy to put this momentum back together again."

He said that if countries did not manage to reach agreement, world temperatures could rise by five degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, making much of the world uninhabitable.

Some of the scientists whose private e-mails were stolen by hackers have said they believe those who leaked the documents had deliberately tried to undermine the Copenhagen conference. Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, has said that he believes the hackers distributed only those documents that could help attempts by skeptics to undermine the scientific consensus on man-made climate change.

He said some of his own e-mails that were stolen were presented online out of context.

Stern, who wrote an influential report on the cost of climate change three years ago, said the science of climate change was sound and that those who did not accept it were mistaken.

"People have a right to speak up but if they are muddled and confused I do not believe they have the right to be called anything other than muddled and confused," he said. "The degree of skepticism (on climate change) among real scientists is very small."

Stern was launching a report on ways political leaders can take action on climate change at the London School of Economics, where he is now chairman of its climate change research institute.

In his report, he said countries need to reduce the annual emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent to 50 percent below the levels they were at in 1990. He also said rich countries need to provide $50 billion, or around 0.1 percent of their gross domestic product a year by 2015 to help developing countries combat climate change.