You may laugh but a flat earth was a scientific ‘fact’ until people like Galileo and Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier respectively challenged these theories. Yet when we hear about climate change, we’re often told that global warming is being caused by greenhouse gas emissions and that it is a scientific fact.

Climate change is happening and has been happening for billions of years – there’s nothing new in that. Anybody who says otherwise has lost touch with reality.

We should minimise our waste and impacts on the environment. I don’t want to live in a city where the air is so foul that it’s killing me. Or the water is so full of contaminants that it makes me sick.

Recently, I watched a presentation by Piers Corbyn, the brother of the leader of the United Kingdom Labour Party. He’s convinced that climate change is driven by the actions of the sun. If you can get past his dreadful slides and his slightly kooky delivery, what he says is really interesting. He thinks that the rise in carbon dioxide is driven by climate change (driven by the sun activity) not the other way round. Is he right and all the climate change scientists wrong? I have no idea. Is Piers Corbyn the Galileo or Copernicus of our time? I’m not sure which is more scary, that, or the scientific fact of climate change. Either way it’s an unnerving place to be.

What Corbyn claims to be true is that his prediction of weather, sometimes a long way in advance, is much better than traditional forecasting. The other lovely little gem he produced was that ants produce 10 times more carbon dioxide than man, so shouldn’t we go to war with ants? Absurd isn’t it?

A more interesting interview is with Freeman Dyson, a colleague of Richard Feynman. He doesn’t doubt that man has an impact on climate but he asks how much impact and is it good or bad. For example, in the last 30 years carbon dioxide has increased by 40% and vegetation has increased by 20%. He argues this is good. The point is also made in that interview that 90% of greenhouse gas is water and concentrating on carbon dioxide is perhaps misguided. He quotes a Japanese colleague who developed the first climate models in the 1960s, which all models are now based on, as saying models are great for explaining climate, not predicting.

So where does that leave us? Am I a climate change denier? No I’m not. What I’m confused about is what is right, what is fact and who to believe. Two final things to consider:

1. When I was at primary school, all the climate research was going into the forthcoming ice age - and that was only 40 years ago.

2. What would happen to all those scientists in the IPCC if they turned around and said that man’s influence on climate change is negligible?

Our climate is changing. That is a fact. We need to manage that change and its effect on people. We should try to minimise the amount of rubbish we put into the land, sea and air.

Are these two linked? It doesn’t really matter if we’re addressing both issues. However, to focus on one pollutant above all others is, perhaps, foolish. Surely a better use of resources would be to target all the little plastic fast food toys that are filling up our landfills and floating over our oceans. Watch the videos below from Corbyn and Dyson.

This thought leadership article by Iain Rabbitts, a water and wastewater manager in our water resources team, is intended to provide you with insights and relevant information on what is driving climate change. Our thought leadership articles on topical and specialist issues are designed to present the key points in an easy to digest and interesting manner.

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