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Dr Bill Durodié

spiked

Morals vs evidence
Contribution to the spiked debate, 'Global warming'.

Dr Mike Hulme's contribution is very revealing. He argues that 'even if one could generate robust monetary estimates of benefits and costs.…[w]e urgently need our society(ies) to debate these questions'. In other words, regardless of any possible development, he seeks to promote a moral dimension to the issue. According to this outlook, data derived from models using the best available evidence merely becomes an inconvenient burden on the path to achieving a greater goal - that we should 'debate these questions'. Quite what we would debate without the science remains unclear.

But why does he not simply state his goal from the outset and be done with models and evidence altogether - or would that reveal too clearly the profoundly anti-scientific outlook that informs this approach? Having dispensed with science, Hulme appeals to 'our responsibility to future generations'. Far from presenting a formidable constituency, this goes to show the extent to which such moralism presumes to know what is best for people, even those who have yet to be born. This implicit rejection of democracy is a necessary consequence of his rejection of reason.

Margaret Mogford typifies the extent to which business is prepared to compromise. She points out that 'gas is the lowest carbon content fossil fuel' - you would not want to be on her side in a fight. Far from indicating how responsible corporations have become, such concessions further erode the scientific basis they ultimately rely upon.

In the long run, the elevation of moral 'values' over the best available evidence will make for a far more unstable and unpredictable environment, as matters become dealt with increasingly at the level of perception or opinion.

Published on Spiked, 20 November 2001