Saturday, October 13, 2007

Science, Logic Gored By Nobel

At least Al Gore hasn't won a Nobel for science. That really would have ruined the prize's reputation. But awarding the peace prize to Gore and the UN's panel of scientists on climate change comes a close second for at least two reasons. The Nobel Committee's award is premised on the idea that the dire warnings about global warming emanating from the two recipients might prevent war in the future by... Well, by what exactly? Increasing awareness of the environmental problems the planet faces is a good thing. Whether that makes the world a safer place is another. After all, the growth of international trade - and pollution with it - that arguably has done most to prevent a world war and reduce other conflict in the past 50 years. t's a shame that the U.N. officials actually charged with keeping the peace - rather than those running computer models based on unreliable assumptions about the climate decades from now - aren't worthy of a prize. If there has been and is going to be less armed conflict over natural resources, the spread of global markets might be the reason rather than a former U.S. presidential candidate with time on his hands and an exercise in science-by-committee.It's far easier and cheaper to buy and sell the resources you want than go to war over them. Exploiting financial markets may be the best way to find a solution to the problem of carbon emissions, at least to the degree they're a problem on the scale of ills such as a range of pollutants, disease and huge shortfalls in schools, hospitals, power stations and other infrastructure in many parts of the world. The Nobel judges would be pushed to claim that the two recipients have prevented any wars to date. Secondly, awarding Gore et al the prize indirectly endorses the science underpinning their views. Here, the timing is particularly unfortunate, given the latest publicity over the errors in Gore's Oscar-winning film on global warming "An Inconvenient Truth." Those mistakes have proved sufficiently inconvenient in themselves for a British judge to rule the film, rashly handed out to schools in the U.K, has to be accompanied by a warning, alerting children to nine inaccuracies it contains. It leaves you with the suspicion that had the Nobel Committee been around at the time of the Italian Renaissance, they would have awarded the Church a peace prize, not Galileo.