Question: Which of the following will be completely frozen this week?
a. Building in Judea and Samaria.
b. Carbon emissions.
c. Temperatures in Copenhagen.
The answer, of course, is:
d. The debate over climate change data.
As many of you surely know, this week the UN will hold a massive conference on climate change, for which the world's leaders and environmental jet-setters will all fly to Copenhagen on their chartered airplanes to decide what punitive taxes to impose on commercial airlines, for those of us who cannot avail ourselves of taxpayer-funded chartered airplanes.
The basis for taxing and restricting air travel and other carbon and carbon dioxide output activities (breathing?) is the anthropogenic global warming theory or AGW. AGW theory claims that the Earth's surface and ocean temperatures are steadily rising and that this rise has been caused by the increase in man-made carbon pollution since the onset of the industrial revolution. It should be noted that even the maximalist proponents of the theory only attribute a 0.75 degree temperature rise over the 20th century and only a portion of this is anthropogenic - man caused.
However, in 1988, the UN empanelled the International Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, to address the issues of AGW and make recommendations. Since then, the IPCC has released four key assessment reports.
Interestingly the term "climate change" was adopted by the IPCC so as to remain neutral about the global warming. However, the first assessment report was said to have "settled the science" and proven AGW to be true. It was a good thing, too, because, as if on heavenly cue, surface temperatures immediately began to cool. The current decade has been significantly cooler than its two predecessors. The "settled science" came into question.
In 2005, hurricane expert Christopher Landsea resigned from the IPCC before the fourth assessment report was released. He viewed the process "as both being motivated by preconceived agendas and being scientifically unsound." A large amount of environmental climate research has been conducted at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. Last month, someone hacked into its e-mail accounts and posted a number of them on-line at http://www.eastangliaemails.com.
The running thread through these e-mails was that the CRU scientists knowingly contorted data, violated IPCC standards, suppressed skeptics and manipulated the peer review process.
The scientists who wrote the e-mails confirmed that they were factual but disputed the interpretation. For instance they say that using a "trick" to "hide the decline" in global temperatures is not a deception but a proven scientific technique. They were more hard-pressed to explain why they would rather delete hard research data than allow it to be reviewed by other scientists, especially when they were asked by the media to produce the raw data and admitted that it had been deleted. I encourage everyone to use the search tool on the Web site to skim through as many e-mails as possible.
Scientists not directly related to the CRU work could not deny that the CRU had been fudging some results and suppressing others. However, environmentalists like Dan Esty have justified the misdoings by stating that by massaging the data, the scientists helped the average person understand the problem, without exposing us to piddling, annoying contradictory facts.
IN ALL seriousness, the e-mails, while damaging, do not debunk AGW. However, they do require returning to scientific principles and reopening debate to truly determine whether or not carbon emissions have a significant detrimental effect on the planet.
However, even as the CRU e-mails have moved from the blogosphere into mainstream news, world leaders and delegations to the Copenhagen conference have refused to reopen the discussion. The only topic on the agenda will be which extreme measures can all governments agree upon to punish their citizens for releasing carbon and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Strangely, the majority of the people who propose raising taxes to discourage carbon output are many of the same people who insist that raising corporate taxes won't discourage business growth.
I am an environmentalist. I believe that we should maintain a clean society and that local governments have a responsibility to dispose of waste in a sanitary and responsible way. I also appreciate the preservation of green spaces and conservation of natural resources. But I also appreciate the quality of life that progressive industry and technology have provided us. Before our society is forced to curtail its progress and the conveniences, such as air travel, which facilitate business, investment and leisure, we must have an open and honest debate on the veracity of AGW and evaluate the risk/benefit ratio before taking drastic steps.
Israel already has a reputation as a contrarian state in the UN. If Environment Minister Gilad Erdan were to call for a cautious reevaluation with fair and open debate, based on raw data available to all parties, it would only be to Israel's and the world's benefit.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." The solution to the problem appears in the same play: "This above all, to thine own self be true."
The writer is head of the Israel Beiteinu Anglo division and ran for Knesset in the 2009 elections.