In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Climate Change Deniers

Posted 5/10/2012 by Grant Mitchell

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The Alberta election has yet again raised the incomprehensible denialof the science of climate change by people who should know better.During the election, Danielle Smith, the Leader of the Alberta Wildroseparty said that the science of climate was not settled. Similarly, butin a different forum – the Canadian Senate – these speecheswere given recently by Conservative Senators denying the science. Iexpect this position finds further support in the Conservative caucus.

Deniers of the science repeat a number of common arguments, each without any foundation:

They claim that there is a climate science conspiracy somehowcoordinated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).This is the global organization mandated by the UN to assess the scienceof climate change.

A conspiracy of this size would involve the efforts of literallythousands of scientists from all over the world and spanning over 150years. The science of climate change was first articulated in the early1800s when the link between GHGs and warming was first observed. Thoseoriginal findings have been corroborated many, many times since and, infact, predictions based on that original science have been confirmed byactual scientifically measured findings many times since.

Second, it would have to involve the clandestine communicationamongst these many thousands of scientists to "get their story straight"and how would that ever be possible?

Thirdly, there would have to be something in it for all thesescientists, one would think, for them to risk their reputations,integrity and jobs to do this. What could that possibly be? Scientistsgain great renown in their scientific community by debunking acceptedscientific wisdoms.  After over 150 years of this science beingadvanced, questioned, evaluated and scrutinized, no credible sustainingrebuttal of the science of climate change has ever been established.

Deniers claim that the scientists in the IPCC are somehow incompetent or influenced by politicians. Governmentsappoint their country's representatives to the IPCC. Both Conservativeand Liberal Canadian governments have appointed, for example, Dr. AndrewWeaver. He has been instrumental in the work of the IPCC.  He is one ofCanada's leading scientists, recognized at the highest levels manytimes over for his work on climate change. Do conservative climatedeniers suggest that their government is appointing representatives tothe IPCC who are incompetent or conspirators? Dr. Weaver, in hisappearance before the Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment,explained at great length the process by which the IPCC writes itsreports. Scientists from all over the world discuss and evaluatepractically every entry in their report. Everything reported must bebased upon science and cannot be speculative. They are careful to usemoderate language. The IPCC itself does no scientific research. Itsimply reviews and reports that which is done independently all over theworld and draws conclusions on the basis of it for policy-makers.

The deniers claim that there is a significant and crediblescientific community that rejects or doubts the science of climatechange. Not true. Every major academy of science from everymajor nation in the world accepts the science. Thousands upon thousandsof peer reviewed scientific articles have over and over again reaffirmedthe science. Increasingly sophisticated research and measurementtechniques continually reaffirm the science. There is literally no peerreviewed scientific literature that establishes any arguable doubt tothe conclusion that climate is changing due to human activity. Much ofthe work done by the deniers has been funded by oil companies.

The deniers claim that while there may be climate change, andeven warming, it is not caused by human activity, or it is causedpredominantly by things other than human activity. One of theirclassic arguments is that it is caused by increasing water vapor in theair, not by GHGs generated by human activity. However, they deniersneglect to acknowledge that air can only hold more water once it haswarmed. So, greater water vapor in the air is not a cause of warming; itis a consequence of warming.

Another denier favorite is sun spots being the cause of warming. Infact, if sun activity were the cause, then both the atmosphere and thestratosphere would be warming, but that is not the case. The atmosphereis warming because GHGs are trapping heat, heat which is no longerescaping to warm the stratosphere. The stratosphere is actually cooling.

Moreover, while sun activity will affect warming or cooling on earth,the last decade or so has been a period in which sun activity has beenin a cooler phase, and we will soon emerge from that. Despite that, inthis decade, almost every one of the ten years have registered recordwarming.

The deniers pull out the Michael Mann "hockey stick" "straw-man" andtry to say that it is the seminal and central observation by the climatescientists and then try to debunk it. In fact, there are many studiesthat confirm the hockey-stick finding, independent of the Mann study.

In the end, there is not even remotely reasonable doubt about thehuman contribution to climate change. It is happening and it may behappening even more quickly than we imagine. It demands action andleadership.

For anyone who still believes that humans are not causing warming, Isay that they should be praying that they are wrong. Because if we arenot causing it, we cannot fix it — and are they saying that whateverthey think is causing it will stop at some convenient temperature thatwill not be destructive and will be survivable? How do they know?

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