Veil Lifted on French Academy Debate on Climate

PARIS—The French Academy of Sciences finally produced a statement after a full day of debate on climate change Monday that had been shrouded in secrecy.

The debate followed a rumpus triggered by former research minister Claude Allègre and a handful of other scientists, who have contested the causes of climate change. The debate was ordered by Education and Research Minister Valérie Pécresse in April, after more than 600 scientists signed a petition alleging "denigration" by Allègre in his book L'imposure climatique (The Climate Fraud) and asking her to disavow it.

The statement appears to be in response to an outburst at the weekend from the French daily Le Monde.

In a front-page editorial, the paper lambasted a total blackout on the debate, the identity of the participants and their submissions. "What is it (that the Academy is) afraid of," it asked. The secrecy "arouses suspicion."

According to the statement, participants in the debate concluded that links between solar radiation variations and the earth's orbit are not contested, but that the jury is still out on the importance of the impact of solar activity cycles.

Participants agreed, the statement said, there was a consensus on the direct impact of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by human activity, but that their indirect effects are still controversial. One of the ways towards better understanding of climate patterns is the physiochemistry of clouds, they agreed.

As for who attended the debate, the mystery has been unravelled: 93 academy members, including Allègre, and 24 outsiders.

The reason that publicizing the details of the meeting was important, said Le Monde, was that pirated e-mails and errors in the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) already aroused "considerable mistrust." But the reaction in the Anglo Saxon world, particularly from scientific institutions, was immediate, the newspaper noted. Five independent inquiries were conducted, none of which contested the IPCC's main conclusions. "Climatologists were submitted to critical and rigorous questioning … it would be normal for their detractors to have the same treatment," it added.

The Academy plans to release a report on the meeting next month.