Now let me try to get this clear...
Thousands of readers have written to me to say they are confused about global warming. Or they would have written to me if they were not too confused to do so.
Thousands of readers have written to me to say they are confused about global warming. Or they would have written to me if they were not too confused to do so. To help them, I have prepared the following simple guide.
The climate is changing. It always has changed, and at the moment it appears to be getting warmer.
Unusual weather is not a reliable indicator of this, as we have always had unusual weather. Unusual weather is quite normal.
A quite large group of scientists believes that at least some of this warming is probably caused by humans, emitting carbon dioxide in various ways.
A smaller group of scientists believes that it isn't.
In the historical record, an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has always been linked with global warming - but, irritatingly, the warming has always come before the carbon dioxide.
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Most politicians like the idea of human-induced global warming because it means they can raise taxes, dictate to people, convene crisis meetings, order inquiries of various kinds and avoid doing more urgent and important things. This is why Labour's David Miliband said he would be refuting the TV programme “The Great Global Warming Swindle” before he'd actually seen it.
The national media like global warming predictions, especially if they're catastrophic, because it makes a good story. And of course they're completely unbiased, which is why Mr Miliband likes to “highlight the work of the parliamentary press gallery essay competition in taking forward the message on climate change”. Hmm.
The large group of scientists says the small group are heretics who are probably getting paid by the oil or coal industries. They would like them to be gagged.
The smaller group says they wish they were getting paid by the oil or coal industries, but they aren't. In fact, they say, all the money around is going to the larger group through government funding: the words “global” and “warming” function rather like “open” and “sesame” where cash is concerned.
Powerful people like Al Gore and big business are making, or will make, a lot of money out of global warming.
Poor people and small businesses are likely to lose money and quality of life, not so much through actual warming, which might even help some of them, but through regress-ive taxes, government demands for carbon reduction measures and the blocking of development in the Third World. The large group of scientists says the research of the smaller group is obviously untrue, twisted or outdated.
The small group of scientists says the research of the larger group is untrue, twisted or outdated.
They are both wrong. And, possibly, right.
Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA, admits that “scientific knowledge is always provisional knowledge” - in other words, it will constantly be supplanted by new knowledge - but adds frighteningly that this knowledge “can be modified through its interaction with society” and that scientists (and politicians) “must trade truth for influence”.
Sorry, that's a bit complicated. Let's just say you can't rely on the current state of scientific knowledge, because it will change completely in 10 years' time. Either that, or the earth is flat.
I hope that's cleared things up.
IS THIS DEMOCRACY OR JUST AN ILLUSION?
The chance of a freak outbreak of English democracy is on the cards at Cromer, where a referendum may be called on whether car parking should be included in the revamping of the delightful North Lodge Park historic clifftop area.
A 2,000-name petition opposes the idea, and the town council has now gone further, successfully demanding a town poll - although North Norfolk District Council, for reasons best known to itself, ruled the first attempt out of order on a technicality.
This worthy petition stands more chance of succeeding than petitions put up on the 10 Downing Street website - the most recent of which is for dualling the Acle Straight.
The feeling that such petitions are little more than an attempt to placate a disillusioned populace refuses to go away - perhaps because of an exchange reported in a national newspaper on the subject of road charging.
Apparently the minister of state for transport, Dr Stephen Ladyman, had let slip in the presence of an undercover reporter that road charging legislation had been delayed because of the petition - but only until after the local elections in May, when things would have “quietened down”.
Meanwhile Tony Blair was telling people who had signed the petition: “Let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing.”
So probably best not to hold our breath there.
The Norwich scheme to create congestions is forging ahead, of course, with more roads being closed to ensure that there will be plenty of traffic queues on the few remaining routes in and out of Norwich when the Blair-Ladyman master plan comes to fruition.
I WONDER WHO WE SHOULD BLAME HERE
A motorcycling acquaintance stopped in Happisburgh to allow children to alight from a school bus safely.
After the bus had departed, with all but one student having dispersed, he put the bike into first gear and had just begun to move when with what he describes as a “spiteful smirk”, the remaining girl stepped suddenly into the roadway so that he had to make an emergency stop.
I wonder who would have been to blame if the child had been knocked over. TV road “safety” ads that blame the driver or rider when a girl steps out in front of them and is killed? Or the motorcyclist, for existing? Place your bets now.
WATCH OUT FOR THE BORG
I can't help noticing, as I wander the Norfolk beat, the increasing number of people who have machinery growing out of their ears.
Sometimes this is combined with talking to themselves.
I can only conclude that the Borg, after frequent defeats by the Starship Enterprise, are taking over humanity by stealth instead. If the machinery spreads, we shall know, but by then it will be too late, and we shall all have numbers instead of names and stop thinking for ourselves.
The process may already have started. Soon, Seven of Nine may not be the only stunning figure on show. Just call me 14 of 40.