In the early days of TV in South Africa, ie the late 1970s, a programme portentously called “Is the Ice Age coming?” was screened. After watching it, and being of a naturally panicky disposition, I spent a long time afterwards worrying about our imminent freezing to death. Had I been born twenty years later, I would have been in a state about sizzling and shrivelling in the not too distant future. The Scientists had spoken, after all.

Now, frankly, I don’t know what to think. What is a layman to make of, for example, the article “And now it’s global COOLING! Record return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 60% in a year” that appeared in the UK Daily Mail on September 7? According to this, a colder-than-expected Arctic summer has left well over a million more square kilometres of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year, this coming just six years after the BBC had reported that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2013 because of global warming.

Then there is an article by Rupert Darwall, author of The Age of Global Warming – A History that appeared in the July 13 issue of The Spectator. According to him, the UK Met Office had just held a crisis meeting to discuss why they had gotten the weather “so wrong for so long”.
In September 2008, he wrote, the Met Office had “forecast a trend of mild winters: the following winter turned out to be the coldest for a decade”. With regard to its ominously warning of the “barbecue summer” that was supposed to follow, a season of “unrelenting rain” ensued. Last year, it forecast a “drier than average” spring. What Britons received instead was “another historic deluge that was accompanied by the coldest temperatures for 50 years”.

Darwell’s explanation for this disastrous record is that the Met Office has allowed itself to become “a propagandist for global warming alarmism”, with the result that its predictions have been consistently scuppered by its reliance on climate scientists’ assumptions about global warming. In short, he writes, the Met Office had “become an accomplice to a climate change agenda that now affects where and how we travel, the way houses are built, the lights we read by”. At the bottom of it all was the culpability of global warming scientists themselves for having “abandoned science as the disinterested pursuit of knowledge to become political cheerleaders”.

It would be quite easy to dig up and quote from similar articles purporting to demonstrate that the climate change is a gigantic fallacy that is now inevitably unravelling in the face of undeniable evidence to contradict it. However, go to Wikipedia, which can always be relied upon to present the Establishment point of view, and the first thing you will read is “In the scientific literature, there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused primarily by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. No scientific body of national or international standing disagrees with this view … disputes over the key scientific facts of global warming are now more prevalent in the popular media than in the scientific literature, where such issues are treated as resolved … ”

That’s just — forgive the execrable pun — the tip of the iceberg. The overwhelming thrust of both the scientific and popular literature will essentially tell you the same thing. So what is one to make of it all? Anyone even superficially familiar with the history of science will know that far from the majority view always being the right one, it is the minority viewpoint that time and again has emerged on top.

The stakes are incredibly high: If the Climate Change Affirmers are right, then it is crucial to take drastic action today (no matter how massive the expense might be) to ensure our future survival. If the Deniers have read things correctly, then our collective prospects are being torpedoed by pseudo-scientific panic-mongering that threatens to lead to perhaps the greatest squandering of human resources and potential in history.

While I fully acknowledge being a complete novice in the area, if you put a gun to my head and forced me to take sides, I’d probably put myself in the Sceptics camp. There is something a little too pat and categorical about the way the establishment has gone about dismissing challenges to its notions, and I also suspect that having gone out too far on a shaky limb, the all-too-human response of most academics involved in the field will be to close ranks and defend their theories to the last come what may.

What if Climate Change does turn out to be essentially accurate? In that case, I have a theory regarding how at least one of the envisaged disasters to the planet can be offset, namely rising sea levels. Just off the Egyptian coast, in the largely uninhabited Western Desert, is an enormous area below sea level known as the Qattara Depression. Would it not be possible to cut a channel to it from the sea and create a large off-shore lake, thereby syphoning off the extra ocean volume caused by the melting ice caps? I really don’t see why it shouldn’t work. If anyone can explain why it would not, I’d love to hear from them.


  • David Saks has worked for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) since April 1997, and is currently its associate director. Over the years, he has written extensively on aspects of South African history, Judaism and the Middle East for local and international newspapers and journals. David has an MA in history from Rhodes University. Prior to joining the SAJBD, he was curator -- history at MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg. He is editor of the journal Jewish Affairs, appears regularly on local radio discussing Jewish and Middle East subjects and is a contributor to various Jewish publications.


David Saks

David Saks has worked for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) since April 1997, and is currently its associate director. Over the years, he has written extensively on aspects of South African...

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