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December 14th, 2007:

Climate Change Remains Hotly Contested

Dec 14, 2007 – SCMP

I am writing regarding the article (“Alarmism is not the way to tackle climate change”, December 10), by Kendra Okonski, of the International Policy Network (IPN). Finding the article lacking balance, I did some research and found the IPN had received more than US$390,000 from ExxonMobil – an infamous supporter of global warming sceptics.

Given this, Ms Okonski’s claim of “biases” – towards global warming “alarmism” – resulting from funding by “powerful interest groups” is ludicrous.

It’s immensely deceptive to claim “the science of climate change remains hotly contested”.

It does not; witness the standpoints of august bodies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Britain’s Royal Society, and our own Hong Kong Observatory.

Among all but a tiny minority of scientists there is no longer debate over whether warming due to greenhouse gases is real – instead, any debates are now about just how severe it will be and what measures are needed to ensure we don’t devastate the world as we know it.

Ms Okonski appears oblivious to the fact some observed changes – such as melting of Arctic ice, and expansion of the tropics – have proceeded more swiftly than even some of the more alarming forecasts.

While noting the number of people killed by weather disasters has fallen since good records began, Ms Okonski fails to mention vastly improved warning systems and Oxfam’s report that the number of natural disasters has increased fourfold since two decades ago.

With no scientific foundation she claims the best thing to do about climate change is adapting, while helping people create wealth. Here, she is seemingly blinded to the obvious: if the worst of climate change predictions come true adaptation will prove impossible for countless people and there will be widespread economic reversals. Overall, it seems Ms Okonski’s piece stems from fear of doing the right thing and adopting measures that economists have suggested could cost 1 per cent of world income. With climate change real, the outcome is uncertain yet potentially devastating, it is alarming to read calls for yet more procrastination.

Dr Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors