Climate change skeptics say it's hard to get heard

BRUSSELS Wed Apr 18, 2007 2:15pm EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - skeptics of the seriousness of global warming complained on Wednesday of not being heard by the public or policy makers while warning governments to take a second look at the scientific consensus on climate change.

Scientists who doubt the scope and cause of climate change have trouble getting funding and academic posts unless they conform to an "alarmist scenario," said Roger Helmer, a British member of the European Parliament, at a panel discussion on appropriate responses to rising global temperatures.

"If global warming is happening, we can then ask: is it accelerating and is it likely to be catastrophic?" he said. "Many people think not."

European Union leaders agreed in March to try to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least a fifth compared with 1990 levels by 2020 and as much as 30 percent if other industrialized and emerging countries joined in.

The EU pledge came shortly before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which groups 2,500 scientists and is considered the world authority on the issue, said all regions of the planet would suffer from a sharp warming.

David Henderson, an economist at the Westminster Business School in London and former head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD, said governments had given the IPCC a monopoly on climate advice.

"The very idea of creating a single would-be authoritative fount of wisdom is itself dubious," he said, urging countries to seek a more balanced approach than the IPCC and to stop pursuing programs to urgently reduce carbon emissions.

"In this area of policy it's high time for governments to think again," he said.

Mahi Sideridou, climate policy director at environmental group Greenpeace, rejected criticism of the IPCC.

"Saying that the IPCC is not balanced is probably the most ridiculous claim that anybody can make," she said, stressing the group's reports were based on scientific consensus.

The IPCC findings are approved unanimously by more than 100 governments and will guide policy on issues such as extending the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, the main U.N. plan for capping greenhouse gas emissions, beyond 2012.

Benny Peiser, a professor at Liverpool John Moores University, questioned the methods used by climate scientists. He said many were recognizing that using computer modeling to predict an "inherently unpredictable future" was illogical.

"Today's scientific consensus very often turns out to be tomorrow's redundant theory," he said. He said that scientific journals refused to take papers from scientists who doubted climate change.

Most scientists say climate change will cause seas to rise, glaciers to melt and storms to intensify, potentially leading to more natural disasters around the world.

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