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Both these books look comprehensively at global warming and cover much the same ground in much the same order. There the similarities end. First published last year, Lord Lawson's Appeal is the best short book on the entire range of issues in the global warming debate that is available from a British publisher. This paperback edition with a substantial new afterword is therefore most welcome. Lawson is lucid, thoughtful and fair-minded. The book's highly useful footnotes and bibliography attest to Lawson's familiarity with the wide range of scholarship on the many scientific disciplines that contribute to understanding the climate and with the major economic analyses of the energy-rationing policies proposed to deal with warming.

That should not be surprising. Lawson was an active participant in the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs, which took expert testimony from a wide range of scientists and economists. In 2005, the committee produced the best official report on global warming that has so far been done. Although leading peers from all three major parties were involved and agreed unanimously, their report has been ignored by all three major parties. Its conclusions, you see, were "sceptical".

Lawson's book is for the most part sceptical as well. And appropriately so: a healthy scepticism is a most reasonable attitude to take towards claims of intellectual and political authority. He argues that the rate of warming has been modest, the predictions from computer models of much faster rates in the future are not credible, and the possible adverse impacts are wildly exaggerated. Turning to policy, he argues that adapting to changing climate is much more sensible than trying to reduce drastically greenhouse gas emissions, which would be colossally expensive even if it were possible. Lawson observes that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the European Union's efforts to reduce emissions are not working and that a new international agreement to follow Kyoto that would include the US, China and India is almost certain to fail as well. 

More speculatively, Lawson finds the attraction of pursuing energy-rationing policies that would cause much more harm than the potential global warming they are meant to prevent to be based on a quasi-religious enthusiasm. He shrewdly observes that this recent quasi-religious commitment to saving the planet from a harmless trace gas necessary for life, which is popular among the secularised chattering class, is encouraged by political leaders and government officials because it serves their interests by providing a new rationale for exercising their authority and expanding government control over people's lives.

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