Andrew Holt says there are concerns about the validity and political use of climate change arguments

The debate on climate change took an unwel-come turn recently with the publication of Sir Nicholas Stern's report on climate change. Picking up on his apocalyptic vision, the media reporting focused on how we are all doomed and going to die.

And there is no doubt that, for a trained economist, Stern used language bordering on hyperbole in his report. On the threat of global warming, Stern warns it threatens to be: "On a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century." Strong stuff. But isn't this a bit too alarmist and over the top?

Lord Lawson thinks so. He recently deli-vered a devastating critique on the myths surrounding global warming in a lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies. He dismissed the Stern report as "scaremongering" built on a "battery of essentially spurious statistics based on theoretical models and conjectural worst cases".

He stated a list of other myths around the climate change agenda. Far from having reached a consensus, reputable climate scientists differed sharply over why the climate had warmed slightly and some said that the earth's climate has always been subject to natural variation, wholly unrelated to man's activities. A thousand years ago, temperatures were probably at least as high as, if not even higher than, they are today; and extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods have been occurring as long as records have existed.

And Stern's apocalyptic analysis contrasts sharply with a more measured House of

Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs report, questioning many of the negative assumptions around climate change. Not surprisingly, this was not picked up by the mainstream media, who are generally only interested in promoting the 'green' side of the debate.

The report, published last July, states: "We have some concerns about the objectivity of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process, with some of its scenarios on emissions and its summary documentation apparently influenced by political considerations.

"There are significant doubts about some aspects of the IPCC's emissions scenario exercise, in particular, the high emissions scenarios. The government should press the IPCC to change their approach."

The message is clear: the government is misleading us.

The committee says the government should press the IPCC to reflect in a more balanced way the costs and benefits of climate change. "The government should press the IPCC for better estimates of the monetary costs of global warming damage and for explicit monetary comparisons between the costs of measures to control warming and their benefits."

It wants the government, with much stronger Treasury involvement, to review and substantiate the cost estimates and to convey them in transparent form to the public. But, of course, they haven't.

The allegation made by climate change sceptics is that climate change has become something of a bogus science, which is used as a political stick to beat opponents through campaigns of vilification and professional intimidation.

A leading expert on this, Professor Paul Reiter of the Institut Pasteur in Paris, writes of this political agenda. "I have seen Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, read the book, and read the Stern report. As a scientist, I am appalled. Both authors present myriad dangers as truth - no doubts, a 100 per cent consensus. Yet a glance at the professional literature on glaciers, hurricanes etc, confirms that this consensus is a myth. Besides, consensus is the stuff of politics, not of science."

Of course the whole debate plays into the hands of the insurance industry. It means insurers can increase premiums on particular policies whether they be vehicles, businesses, homes and people when they are not deemed to be 'green'. No wonder the industry is playing along. IT