03 Apr 2010
Two weeks ago I reported on what is potentially the greatest global warming wheeze of all – a scheme to claim $60 billion in carbon credits for keeping intact a large chunk of the Amazon rainforest which is not under any threat, The architects of this imaginative project are the environmental campaigners of the WWF and their close ally the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts.
Last week a letter to this newspaper from Woods Hole's CEO, William Brown, averred that it was not, as I had said, an "environmental advocacy group" but a "widely respected scientific institution". This is precisely the claim which has been dismissed by, among others, the renowned atmospheric physicist Professor Richard Lindzen, who has more than once emphasised that the Woods Hole Research Center is "an environmental advocacy center, not to be confused with the far better known Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution", a genuinely respected scientific body.
It was a shock claim by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest is threatened by global warming which gave rise to "Amazongate", one of the many scandals lately battering the IPCC, when it emerged that this prediction was based only on a propagandist claim by the WWF, unsupported by any scientific evidence. Mr Brown's letter went on to challenge this, arguing that the WWF's claim was upheld by "several peer-reviewed papers including four published
by the Woods Hole Research Center".
It was nothing of the kind. Despite the best efforts of Woods Hole's leading advocate on the Amazon to promote fears that global warming might pose a threat to the rainforest, these were only based on now discredited computer modelling. Various papers from the wider scientific community suggest a very different, much less alarming picture. But if Woods Hole and the WWF fail to promote a concern over a climatic threat to the Amazon, they might miss a chance to share in that $60 billion prize (a figure worked out by Woods Hole itself) for keeping parts of the rainforest just as they are – in what would amount to the most lucrative set-aside scheme that human ingenuity has ever devised.