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Climate facts before fiction

A two-year-old claim that the great glaciers of the Himalayas will melt away by the year 2035, now proven to be false, has a special relevance in the comfortable environs of south Dublin, where a battle is raging over waste disposal.

Accusations of bias and misrepresentation are being thrown around in a war of words which mirrors a bigger, and equally passionate debate about man-made global warming.

The Economic and Social Research Institute has accused the Department of the Environment of distorting the outcome of a year-long study on waste disposal policy by letting it be known at the outset that an incinerator would not be the preferred option.

Environment Minister John Gormley, an avowed opponent of waste incineration, is hardly in a position to accuse the Government's leading economic advisory body of bias, but other opponents of the new incinerator are saying what he would probably like to.

The controversial incinerator is an alternative to landfill which emits methane, among global warming's most potent greenhouse gasses .

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had to admit recently that it grossly over-stated the rate at which Himalayan glaciers were receding.

Since the IPCC is the UN's principal advisory body on climate change, suspicion fell upon the entire hypothesis of man-made global warming and its dire consequences.

The British government's chief scientific adviser was among the first to admit that the impact of global warming had been exaggerated by some scientists and he has called for more honest disclosure of the uncertainty of predictions.

On the whole, scientists who are convinced of the reality of man-made global warming and its time scales ought to be less hostile to sceptics, for scepticism is an important part of the scientific process. Hypothesise, if you will, but prove your case before presenting your hypothesis as fact.

Public confidence in climate science would be greatly improved if there were more openness about its uncertainties and if hysterical predictions were backed by clear, scientific evidence.

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Once the facts are proven scientifically, they defy distortion or contradiction.

And, as the battle of south Dublin continues, one incontrovertible fact that cannot be ignored by Mr Gormley is that the problematic incinerator now being built in his constituency is in full accordance with Government policy.

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