The Corner

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Gordon Brown, prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

If we do not reach a [global climate] deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice. By then it will be irretrievably too late. So we should never allow ourselves to lose sight of the catastrophe we face if present warming trends continue.

Mike Hulme, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (U.K.):

First, the discourse of catastrophe is a campaigning device being mobilised in the context of failing UK and Kyoto Protocol targets to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. . . .

Second, the discourse of catastrophe is a political and rhetorical device to change the frame of reference for the emerging negotiations around what happens when the Kyoto Protocol runs out after 2012. . . .

The language of catastrophe is not the language of science. . . . To state that climate change will be “catastrophic” hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions which do not emerge from empirical or theoretical science.

What makes this all the more interesting is that Professor Hulme wrote this back in 2006.


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