Allegations of hysteria and false claims regarding the extent of global climate change were debated at the Fund Strategy Investment Summit in St Moritz last week.
Both speakers in the debate – James Heartfield, the author of Green Capitalism: Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance, and Trewin Restorick, the chief executive of the Global Action Plan charity – agreed that the extent to which the climate is changing has been exaggerated by some.
In his opening address, Heartfield argued that there is a “world of difference” between what the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a group of international scientists – says is happening and how it is reported by many. For example, the IPCC forecasts that by 2100 the average global temperature will rise by between one and four degrees Celsius, while many in the media suggested there would be an 11- degree rise.
“It’s all about grabbing attention,” said Heartfield. “Hysterical projections have been made over time but with little basis in fact.” Heartfield’s argument is the creation of this hysteria has become a way of making money: what he calls “green capitalism”.
However, Restorick said he had no problem with individuals or companies making money out of climate change. He also agreed that there had been some hysterical projections related to climate change but said the extent of the real problem was worse than Heartfield made out.
“The science behind climate change is very complicated and difficult to pin down, but we are in unprecedented territory,” he said. However, he argued that the IPCC statistics quoted by Heartfield were probably too conservative and that scientists had since said carbon emissions were rising faster than they initially predicted.
Restorick also pointed to the £3 billion cost of the floods in Britain in June and July, 2007. He warned of further financial costs if nothing is done to address the problem of extreme-weather-related events caused by global warming.
It was agreed that curbing and cutting the cost of energy was the wrong response but Heartfield saw the proposed green growth solution as a “square-the-circle solution”.
While Restorick argued that proposed reforms to carbon trading would improve the situation, he conceded – despite having started out as an anti-nuclear campaigner – that nuclear energy was part of a “needed solution”. He said one reason for his change of stance was that technology has solved the problem of nuclear waste.