Lawrence Solomon: France to hold official debate on climate change

At the suggestion of France’s science minister, Valérie Pécresse, France’s National Academy of Sciences will hold an official debate on climate change to try to defuse this newly explosive issue.

The Academy of Sciences debate, expected to be held by October of this year, follows two months of heated debate on radio and television, during which France’s two most prominent sceptics, Claude Allegre and Vincent Courtillot, have sown great doubt in the minds of a once unskeptical French public.  Allegre’s new book, L’imposture climatique (The Climate Fraud), has especially caused the French public to reconsider the conventional wisdom about global warming.  In this runaway best-seller (110,000 copies sold to date), Allegre, France’s most celebrated scientist and a former Science Minister in a socialist government, calls the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a “mafia-like system” that promotes a “baseless myth” about climate change.

In an attempt to stop the erosion of their public support, some 410 establishment scientists petitioned the current science minster, asking her to rebuke the skeptics and to express confidence in the climate research community.  Her response was to turn to France’s National Academy with a request for a debate on the subject. The Academy’s president, Jean Salençon, readily agreed in the hopes that an airing of the issues would calm some of the fury on the subject.

Noting that the Academy does not take sides on the issue, and that the Academy’s website already reports the views of scientists on both sides of the debate, Salençon aims to defend the scientific method and the principles of scientific inquiry, not any one scientific position. When asked if sanctions might be in the cards for Allegre, a member of the Academy, or any other climate sceptics, he replied: “Under no circumstances! There is no question of ethical sanctions. Even less of an expulsion. The nomination for the Academy of Sciences is perpetual. It cannot be reversed, not even through a resignation.”

The participants in the October debate have not yet been determined.

Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, April 05, 2010

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