Climate skeptics fiddle with truth while planet burns

Vancouver Sun
BY CHRIS GENOVALI AND PAUL PAQUET, SPECIAL TO THE SUN, AUGUST 5, 2009

We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own set of facts.

Moreover, not all opinions are of equal value. That said, Jonathan Manthorpe’s column denying the role of humans in climate change (“Global warming is the new religion of First World urban elites,” The Vancouver Sun, July 29) is a deeply flawed, Palin-esque polemic that frames efforts to ameliorate climate disruption as darkly conspiratorial.

Religion is faith, and faith is belief in the absence of evidence. There is incontrovertible evidence of human-caused climate change. Manthorpe’s denigration of climate change science as an “extremist religion” is nothing more than ideological sloganeering, bolstered by the selective use of misinformation. Like the proverbial horse, it appears that scientists can lead Manthorpe to information, but can’t make him think.

As for Plimer, his principal accomplishment has been to feed the paranoid conspiracy theories of militant climate change skeptics such as Manthorpe.

Michael Ashley, professor of astrophysics at the University of New South Wales (NSW), states, “If Plimer is right and he is able to show that the work of literally thousands of oceanographers, solar physicists, biologists, atmospheric scientists, geologists, and snow and ice researchers during the past 100 years is fundamentally flawed, then it would rank as one of the greatest discoveries of the century and would almost certainly earn him a Nobel prize. This is the scale of Plimer’s claim.”

Plimer’s contention that humankind survived severe glaciations and the intervening warm periods is true, but as nomads we depended little on our built environment and could relocate. Nearly seven billion people now occupy and are dependent on a vastly complex system of our own making, and that system is extremely sensitive to disturbances.

All scientific theories are provisional and subject to testing and refutation, but it seems to be poorly understood by Manthorpe that science advances by challenging accepted interpretations, as well as by the accumulation of new evidence.

And all the credible evidence vetted in countless scientifically peer-reviewed papers shows the primary cause of climate disruption is anthropogenic. Further, the scientific community agrees that global warming poses severe risks to humanity and requires immediate action to limit carbon emissions.

Yet, doubters continue their desperate efforts to defy reality and sway public policy. A faction of naysayers denies climate change is occurring, and a sub-set, like Manthorpe and Plimer, denies that climate change is a concern and is actually something to be welcomed.

Environmental skeptics are familiar characters throughout human history. There were likely such deniers right up to the final days of the Anasazi society, the Mayan civilization, and the Easter Island people, encouraging those societies to exceed the carrying capacity of their environment.

We’re also reminded of malicious efforts by the tobacco industry to obscure the undeniable proof associating smoking with lung cancer. The purpose was not to prove tobacco harmless, but to cast doubt on the science and delay governments from taking action.

The denier sect is small, but has the advantage of being bankrolled by greenhouse gas producing industries. Media researcher David McKnight, of the University of NSW, explains their three-fold strategy: “First, the implications of the science are frightening. Shifting to renewable energy will be costly and disruptive. Second, doubt is an easy product to sell.

Climate denial tells us what we all secretly want to hear. Third, science is portrayed as a political orthodoxy rather than objective knowledge.”

McKnight concludes “climate denial may turn out to be the world’s most deadly public relations campaign.” Indeed, doing nothing to address climate disruption would essentially constitute a game of global Russian roulette.

NASA climate scientist James Hansen has stated that we have already passed what he considers the threshold for “maximum permissible concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

A study by the Pentagon suggests the impacts of climate change could be disastrous. According to the Climate Institute, “the study raises the possibility that global warming could prove a greater risk to the world than terrorism. Among potential consequences, if climate change occurs abruptly or at the high end of scenario projections, might be catastrophic droughts, famines and riots.”

Apparently, the Pentagon is in on the climate change conspiracy, coerced by Manthorpe’s shadowy cabal of “elites, Jacobins, Torquemadas and ayatollahs.”

Chris Genovali is executive director of Raincoast Conservation and Dr. Paul
Paquet is Raincoast Conservation’s senior scientist.

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