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Date: 17/10/16 | 2016 Annual GWPF Lecture


The Royal Society, London

17 October 2016

Matt Ridley delivers the 2016 Annual GWPF Lecture at the Royal Society, London 17 October


I am a passionate champion of science.

I have devoted most of my career to celebrating and chronicling scientific discovery. I think the scientific method is humankind’s greatest achievement, and that there is no higher calling.

So what I am about to say this evening about the state of climate science is not in any sense anti-science. It is anti the distortion and betrayal of science.

I am still in love with science as a philosophy; I greatly admire and like the vast majority of scientists I meet; but I am increasingly disaffected from science as an institution.

The way it handles climate change is a big part of the reason.

After covering global warming debates as a journalist on and off for almost 30 years, with initial credulity, then growing skepticism, I have come to the conclusion that the risk of dangerous global warming, now and in the future, has been greatly exaggerated while the policies enacted to mitigate the risk have done more harm than good, both economically and environmentally, and will continue to do so.

And I am treated as some kind of pariah for coming to this conclusion.

Why do I think the risk from global warming is being exaggerated? For four principal reasons.

1. All environmental predictions of doom always are;
2. the models have been consistently wrong for more than 30 years;
3. the best evidence indicates that climate sensitivity is relatively low;
4. the climate science establishment has a vested interest in alarm.

Global greening

I will come to those four points in a moment. But first I want to talk about global greening, the gradual, but large, increase in green vegetation on the planet.

I think this is one of the most momentous discoveries of recent years and one that transforms the scientific background to climate policy, though you would never know it from the way it has been reported. And it is a story in which I have been both vilified and vindicated.

In December 2012, the environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University drew my attention to a video online of a lecture given by Ranga Myneni of Boston University.

In this lecture Myneni presented ingenious analysis of data from satellites proving that much of the vegetated area of the planet was getting greener, only a little bit was getting browner, and that overall in 30 years there had been a roughly 14% increase in green vegetation on planet Earth.


In this slide he argued that this was occurring in all vegetation types – tropical rain forests, subarctic taiga, grasslands, semi-deserts, farmland, everywhere.

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