THIS should have been one of the great weeks of the year for my outdoor pursuits: the trout fishing season has opened in the North West and my shallots and red onion setts have been sitting patiently in the cellar, bursting (or rather, sprouting) in their anxiety to be planted out.
But with the soil saturated from melting snow at the weekend, then frozen solid by frost midweek, and the trout still comatose in their winter bank holes, I did the sensible thing: I sat down with a good book. And came face to face with a revolutionary new slant on a subject which has regularly vexed readers of this column, global warming.
The book in question, State of Fear, was written by Jurassic Park author Michael Chrichton, a qualified doctor who preferred the pen to the stethoscope, and his premise is quite simple: that global warming is a worldwide confidence trick being perpetuated by scientists to raise billions in funding so that they can continue to live and work in comfort in their space age laboratories and travel to some of the most exotic places on the globe.
Global warming a con, says Jurassic Park
Now I am in no position to say whether this somewhat sensational charge in true or false but I have in the past reported the views of some highly reputable British scientists who say that, yes, the climate is getting slowly warmer but, no, it is not being caused by human activity. It is merely part of one of Earth's regular cycles that have been going on for millennia.
This has in the past attracted some very hostile correspondence from the global warming lobby, as Chrichton anticipates in his book. But he takes it to extremes: his baddies are eco-terrorists who stage geological disasters to make their wealthy sponsors keep coughing up the cash so that they, the scientists, can keep their jetset lifestyles going.
Now this, of course, is a bit of tosh to make a gripping work of science fiction. But it would be unwise to write off Chrichton as a simple sensationalist in search of a few more literary millions. He is, indeed, a hugely wealthy writer and film producer but he qualified as a doctor at the world-renowned school of medicine at Harvard and many of his books are solidly based in hard-nosed science.
He first became famous for the Andromeda Strain, a chilling account of the spread of a deadly virus unknown to medicine. Years later came Aids and, now, avian flu which have startling similarities to the book.
And although no-one believes that it will be possible to extract DNA from dinosaur bones 300 million years old - the basis of the Jurassic Park plot - there are today scientists in Russia who are said to be close to re-creating a woolly mammoth from a body preserved in the Siberian permafrost.
To back his case, Chrichton lists a 29-page appendix of real-life scientific papers from many of the world's most learned journals which say that global warming is either not happening or that, if it is, it is a natural phenomenon rather than man-made.
The is nothing new about great authors reaching scientific conclusions long before scientists get there. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne predicted space travel and deep-ocean research a century before we had the technology to do such things.
And there are scientists in today's space programme who readily admit that they were inspired to go into that field by the works of Arthur C. Clarke, writer several space odysseys, who predicted a system of space satellites sending phone and TV signals round the world long before the rocket boffins had even thought of the idea.
Now I am not saying, if Crichton's predictions come true, that we shall have Tyrannosaurus Rex tramping the Yorkshire Dales. But I do believe we should pay a little more attention to hard-headed realists who take the Chrichton line.
It is now totally politically incorrect to question the man-made global warming theory. Nations are being urged to invest billions of pounds and dollars and euros to stave of a disaster that may never happen: the climate of England gave us hotter summers and colder winters in Elizabethan times and the nation survived that without central heating. With that thought, I leave you: must get back to my book!