Is climate change really on the horizon?
The Queen gave a speech about climate change on her state visit to Germany recently. Should the world be concerned about climate change or simply continue to research it?
On Thursday 4th November, the Today programme spoke to Myron Ebell. He is an American who advises President Bush on climate change and the director of global warming at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington.
During the interview John Humphrys asked him, ''Could it be, that you deny the evidence on global warming because the US is the biggest polluter?' He replied by saying, 'Not so, It's because the US is the only country to have many independent scientists, not funded by the government, unlike the EU, Japan or Australia.'
His reply sparked a few responses from our listeners. We thought we would air some of these emails and see if you wanted to join in this debate as to whether should be concerned about global warming or simply just continue to research it?. We are always grateful to hear from you.
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I could scarcely believe your interview with Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute this morning - I've had to use the "listen again" facility to confirm that he really did say those outrageous things. There can be little hope of the Americans taking the threat of Global Warming seriously whilst those who advise the President are given to paranoid fantasies like this. I was very surprised that he was not more strongly challenged over his assertion that Sir David King is not properly qualified to assess the risk of global warming. I think it is fair to say that a Fellow of the Royal Society is reasonably well-qualified to evaluate the meaning of scientific data. Or maybe there'll be a story about lowering standards for admission as FRS soon?!
From: Richard Hall
The interview with Mr Bush's scientific adviser this morning was a very frightening warning for us all. The level of ignorance displayed by him was breathtaking and his statement that global warming was a European plot to hurt American industry displays stupidity on an unbelievable scale. I fear for the planet with morons like this in positions of influence.
From: Richard Rose
Your interview with Myron Ebell this morning was the most spine-chilling I can ever remember.
He said "America is the only country in the world that has independant scientists": indpendant from whom? If the US government is not funding them then one must assume that they are funded by commercial interests. How independant can he feel when he is taking half a millions dollars of support from Exxon (Greenpeace claim for 2002)?
Interestingly the CEI website states that they have 40 staff (that includes the receptionist) and a budget of $3m per year. After real estate costs and staff costs that leaves a budget of how much? While he is dismissive of every other vocal scientist in the world it is not clear just what research the CEI actually does. Reading their mission statement it is difficult to believe that they are any more than a political lobbying organisation.
Today listeners will form their own views on the content of the interview but it would have been useful for some more background on the CEI, its delivered scientific work and so its credentials to make the statements that Myron Ebell made.
From: John Ovenden
Excellent. If you weren't getting "censured" occasionally you'd be doing it wrong. Keep up the good work. It's what I pay the licence fee for :)
From: Mark Serlin
That man would make an excellent Witch Finder General in the new administration.
From: Dr Francis Pryor
Now the so-called religious right are responsible for global warming! Perhaps the BBC should work on a link between Christianity and its role in the extinction of the dinosaurs. When will the BBC get off this tired old hobby horse of bashing the Bible and promoting a secular liberalism that has lost its ability to impress and guide the lives of people? American enthusiasm for religion and life is not necessarily a bad thing; indeed, infinitely preferable to the apathy in this country that has allowed so many minorities with a grudge push through their agenda
From: The Rev Tom Shields
Hello, why on earth did the Today programme devote almost half an hour to a nutter conspiracy theorist claiming that climate change was a Government conspiracy? It was incredible as he stumbled through an argument about the Queen, the Chief Scientist, and then ALL scientists in Europe and Japan (because they are in receipt of Government funding) are misleading the public about climate change. Okay, it was amusing for a while, but a 10 minute segment!! Please, can we seriously debate what policy measures we must do to slow climate change, instead of giving airtime to nutters in the interest of free speech.
From: Justine Johnson
Please let me know the name of the person John Humphrys interviewed on the above. He was a Bush advisor on Climate Change- worryingly so!
From: John Strawson
Dear Today team,
I couldn't help but marvel at this man's view of global warming as being a plot by the entire world to undermine the competitiveness of the US. Such deep-seated and overwhelming paranoia surely deserves some reward. Is a "Conspiracy Theorist of the Year" nomination possible?
From: Janet Savage
Dear Today Team
It was really scary to hear the views of the American scientist on the topic of Global Warming. His relentless denial of reliable FACTS I see as a 'symptom' of a primitive polarized mind-set which is being exploited in consumerist driven cultures - ie The West. Another symptom of this is the assumption that it is safe to trust our self-terrorizing fantasies of A Big Bogeyman Under the Bed or Behind the Curtain - 'Iron' or otherwise. These persecutory ideas are a bi-product of a culture where the capacity to THINK has been steadily undermined/devalued and notion of easy solutions promoted. It isn't in the interests of Big Business to have punters who question too much !We humans tend to mistake Symptoms for Cause especially as we are often unconscious of the latter and painfully aware of the former. There have always been charlatons and quacks ready to exploit our muddle-headedness. As I see it,we humans are Our OWN Worst Enemy in this respect.It was once said that 'the Devil has all the best tunes' and Colonel Booth set out to rectify it. At present it would seem that knowledge of our UNconscious processes* is being exploited by meglomaniacs AND a tendency in too many of us to want the so called 'Easy Life'. We have been educated to be dangerously passive and are now terrorized into the painful belief that we as individuals have no potency. May I hope that you will invite more guests from the Institute of Psychoanalysts who work daily with their patients in an endeavour to confront unconcious fears and beliefs.
From: Barbara Robson
Neil Britten sent us a three page essay on the issues of global warming.
Who is going to defend the world from American fundamentalist extremists like him?
From: Ken Morton
I listened to your interview with the USA spokesperson with growing dismay, but at the same time it gave me the best laugh this week. This is the kind of isolationist, arrogant, ignorant claptrap which I have come to expect from such people. My every visit to the States (Usually from Canada) confirms my view that they have NO IDEA what is going on there beyond their own shores.
From: Lynne Rushworth
Hearing remarks about David King (who apparently knows nothing) from a US spokesman, I am forced to wonder whether the US is going to spend 4 years defending its position by mud-slinging.
From: Peter Bissmire
Please get an official response to the OUTRAGEOUS comments of this man just now, who said that Sir David King apparently "doesn't know anything". If there needs to be only one example of the US conservative agenda this interview is it.
From: Lucy Rogers
They say that a "democratic" country gets the government it deserves. The tragedy is that in America's case that government then inflicts its paranoid neoconservative perspectives on the rest of us. It's bad enough waking up to the prospect of another four years of George Bush's world-wide hegemony, but why on earth is the today programme giving air time to such outrageous tosh as I've just heard postulated about global warming! Research is skewed by scientists all over the world who are in the pockets of governments' hostile to US business!? I suppose there isn't a scientist in the USA who is in the pockets of corporate America! Unbelievable!
No wonder the scientists at the climate change conference in Germany are depressed. Listening to the man who is "scientific" adviser to Bush is enough to make any ill. His claims that only American scientists are capable of being objective on this subject would be funny if the consequences were not so serious. Unfortunately, he reminded me of a spokesman from a closed and totalitarian regime, making the claim that only they had true knowledge which just happened to fit in with their ideological raison d'etre.
The whole point of his argument seemed to be that global warming was an anti-American fiction. I would go so far as to remind listeners that Nazi German rejected particle physics because it was a "Jewish" science.
From: Martin Veart
I have just listened to the mind-blowing arrogance of the American scientific advisor denigrating the rest of the world's scientists for their naive acceptance of climate change research with increasing incredulity and disquiet. Yesterday was indeed a black day for the world.
From: Ann Ovens
I welcomed today's piece on climate change - 'the single most important challenge facing the world' - and was particularly impressed by the way that John Humphrys revealed the inadequacy (bigotry?)of the American argument in his interview.
However, as usual, the seriousness of the issue was completely undermined by John's chuckling response to the Berlin conference report. Why does anything environmental elicit this 'cute fluffy animal' response from presenters? This is not a lightweight feel good story - this is as/more serious than the war in Iraq and is already having a direct effect upon our lives in Britain. Please treat environmental subjects with a little more respect and understanding, and stop using them as 'lightweight fillers' on your otherwise excellent programme.
From: Alison Munro
Thank you for producing a fascinating, if depressing report on Bush's re-election and the prospects for action on global warming.
I hope people are aware that the Competitive Enterprise Institute, whose spokesman has advised Bush, is essentially a lobby group for polluting industries. His claim that the Kyoto treaty is an attempt to make American business in general less competitive is a gross distortion.
As an economist who has advised the British government on the subject and published many studies of various countries, I am aware that there has been a deliberate attempt in the USA to grossly overstate the cost of joining Kyoto. If carbon taxation is necessary, the revenues can be recycled to lower other taxes. This is much better than continuing to guzzle petroleum forcing world oil prices up, which only benefits OPEC.
The very wastefulness of the American economy in terms of fuel means that it can cut emissions at virtually no net cost - provided it acts gradually. Kyoto initially gave America plenty of time to do so - it is mostly because of the lobbying and disinformation of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and their friends in Congress that any action has been delayed, at which point it genuinely does become more expensive.
From: Huw Edwards
John Humphrys interview with Myron Ebell was chilling. Can this man really be so deluded as to think he is holds the real truth and the rest of the world, driven only by envy, is simply attempting to spoil America's success?
How long will it be before America is not content with simply referring to itself as 'Leaders of the free world', but steps towards even more sinister ways of getting what it wants?
From: Graham Charlton
As an American, I listened with horror and depression to your interview with President Bush's so-called science advisor this morning. It is well known in the U.S. scientific community that the Bush administration has classified research which reaches conclusions which disagree with administration policies. This ensures that the public will never read this research. In other cases, scientific papers are edited to tone down their dissent. This was the subject of a recent NY Times article and is in fact the true experience of many in the U.S. Scientific community. Listening to Bush's "science" advisor made the reasons for these actions even more clear. With such a blind ideologue as the president's advisor, God help us all.
There is a direct correlation between the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the production of bovine faeces. The arguments of the American "expert" interviewed this morning brilliantly proved the point.
From: Bob Fitzharris
I am flabbergasted by the interview this morning on global warming. I can only hope that the Americans are as right about the lack of any evidence of global warming as they were wrong about the threat of Saddam Hussein's WMD? There will be much more significant implications for the world at large if, as I suspect, events prove them wrong again.
From: Adam Maxwell
Your interview of the man described as "Adviser to President Bush on Global warming" was fascinating. Last week I went to a performance of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible". Suddenly I was back in the theatre, listening to the same distorted logic. America has become, over the last decade, suddenly more dangerous than she has been over the last 100 years. Next time you have the opportunity, ask the American Ambassador to name the time and day when God put America in charge of the world and truth. We await the interview with bated breath.
From: Peter Biddulph
I've just had a brilliant idea! All we have to do is convince the Americans that climate change is a punishment from God for their greed, selfishness and arrogance - sort of Noah's Flood II. Shouldn't be too difficult - if they believe in Bush, they'll believe in anything.
From: Marilyn Dismore
As a climate science professional (a Professor) I was dismayed by the comments made by Myron Ebell on the Today programme. His sweeping generalization about climate scientists being effectively 'corrupt' is staggering. Moreover, his criticisms of Sir David King are nothing short of insulting. Sir David commands wide respect within the scientific community: a person does not reach the position of Government Chief Scientist without considerable skills in understanding a wide range of scientific issues.
Ebell's criticism of the IPCC 3rd Assessment Report as having had its findings being 'debunked' is myth. A large group of US scientists - The Union of Concerned Scientists - released a report earlier in the year criticising the US Administration for ignoring policy aspects of scientific findings, including climate science. This was signed by many leading figure including a number of Nobel Prize winners. It is notable that there is no such alliance in Europe of concerned scientists. Lastly, the US' own National Academy of Sciences was commissioned to review the IPCC 3rd Assessment Report on Climate Change and concurred with its findings.
I am insulted by Ebell's comments implied on my own and my colleagues' (including many US colleagues) integrity as scientists.
From: David Lee
I could not believe the arrogance of the so called American expert this morning. It makes me embarrassed to admit to being a US citizen. We have lived in this country for 21 years and felt then that the US was a society in decline. The election outcome, the state of the American press and the nonsense spewing out of this man has finally confirmed it.
From: Rebecca Shaw
I have never been so exercised as to write in to any media forum as I am now in response to John Humphrys brilliant expose of the extraordinarily blinkered Byron "whatever", the American who believes that global warming is merely a trade conspiracy against the United States. I am conservative by nature and a self confessed "American-ophile". In one fail swoop Byron has set back my faith in America as a nation immeasurably. This is not because I believe he is representative of all Americans, as I have many US friends who are equally alarmed by such narrow and arrogant views, but because he may not be seen for the dangerous fool he clearly is, despite JH quiet, measured and clever interviewing style that helped Byron expose himself as the myopic moron that most right minded people on this side of the Atlantic will judge him to be. My fear is that too many of our friends across the pond WANT to believe him and will allow the planet to sink into a decline that will eventually become irreversible. In the "world court" of future generations, I pray that such selfish and ignorant views AND individuals are ruthlessly exposed for what they almost inevitably are. Sadly by then, it will probably have been too late.
From: Peter J Curtis
I just listened to the interview with the American so-called 'environmental advisor' where he claimed climate change was a European conspiracy motivated by jealousy of American business success. It was very eye opening to see how advanced the denial of environmental reality is in the Bush administration. I just wish you had had a real climate expert and a government minister there to respond to the outrageous allegations made of David Kay and the EU; that an American can come over and so rubbish those who have been chosen to advise our own government without comeback from that government shows how far down the path of American domination we have slid. My question is, how can Tony Blair expect his recent public hand wringing about climate change have any credibility whatsoever while he allies himself with an administration that believes this claptrap and while he allows such patent rubbish to be broadcast unchallenged?
From: Luke Rendell
How appropriate given the advisor to George W Bush's comments on the Today programme this morning concerning global warming being in the imagination of European governments, that today's quote in The Very Curious Language of George W Bush calendar is " Americans have reached a great consensus about the protection on (sic) the environment."
I.E. do nothing about it and continue to burn the planet up for their own convenience.
From: Ric Brice
Well, the gates of Uncle Sam's asylum seem to be well and truly open now. John's interview with Mr Ebell showed the staggering deceit that is promoted by American commercial interests in stifling the potential for progress in tackling the ongoing problem of climate change. Mr Ebell ridiculed the majority of worldwide climatologists as being government sponsored. Why was it not mentioned where Mr Ebell's interests lay? - sponsorship by Exxon/Mobil, for example. Now that's independence for you!
From: Jon Hubbard
I listened to John Humphrys interviewing the American spokesman on climate change and at first I couldn't take it seriously. Then I realized that this man was speaking with total conviction and actually believed that European scientists use fantasy facts and figures to prove climate change. When John suggested that according to this argument the EU Commission was simply out to get the USA because it can't compete in the world business market, this man agreed that this was a fair assessment. The real danger to our planet is not fanatical terrorism but the equally fanatical blind self-interest of the USA government.
From: Evelyn greaves
I am writing in response to your interview with Dr. Ebell on the subject of climate change. As someone who is undertaking research in this area, I was extremely disturbed by the views he was purporting. The scientific evidence stands on its own merit and I do not consider this an appropriate place to present it. However, what I do take issue with is his claim that independent US scientists conclude that climate change is not occurring, contrary to their European counterparts who are supposedly less academically independent. The consensus view held by all scientists, even including those working in institutions directly funded by the US government, is that climate change is the most challenging problem our era and the only differences are on the exact magnitude of the substantive effect we will experience. In future, a more balanced representation of the scientific view, rather than that held by the purely economic constituency that Dr. Ebell represents, would be beneficial.
From: Dr. Jonathan Reid
Your presenter this morning was dumbstruck when this guy debunked the whole of the scientific community claiming that climate change didn't exist, and that they are all non-independent because they take government money.
Ebell slandered David King by name, and went on to say that he knew many "independent scientists" who denied the facts of climate change.
Your interviewer should have asked for some names of the "scientists" who supported the interviewee's opinion, rather than let him get away with saying that "most do".
Given more time, your interviewer could also have asked a basic scientific question: "What is the age of the Earth?" If his answer is "6000 years", for example, then we need look no further as to where he stands in relation to science.
The Climate Change policy of America sometimes sounds as if it's made on the assumption that the world is going to end anyway in the next 50 years, because it is set by people who believe the second coming is real soon now.
From: Julian Todd
When we discussed global warming issues at university some 35 years ago and one of the models showed an ever increasing speed up of the effects (the initial heating up raises the water vapour in the AP which acts as another greenhouse gas) some one joked 'well
The other models don't show anything like as rapid a result - the only scientific response is to experiment - carry on and find out! Can someone explain to the Yank how the sense of humour works - he obviously took it seriously.
We don't want to wait until the US links increased hurricanes with Kyoto
From: Barry Wrankmore
Congratulations to John Humphys on his interview this morning with Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming at the US Competitive Enterprise Institute. How calmly and adroitly Humphrys fed the ammunition and then watched as Ebell shot himself in the foot!
'Could it be,' Humphrys asked innocently, 'that you deny the evidence on global warming because the US is the biggest polluter?' 'Not so,' was Ebell's reply. 'It's because the US is the only country to have many independent scientists, not funded by the government, unlike the EU, Japan or Australia.' In other words, this whole theory has been put forward to level the global playing field for business and to hamper US competitiveness! So now we have it from the horse's mouth. It's just another plot to 'get America' and George Bush simply isn't going to be taken in by it.
From: Lesley Hampshire
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