[by Earl Blacklock] One of the most polarizing issues of our time is the issue of global warming. Or is it climate change? No, the newly minted description is climate disruption. It’s like a supermarket that regularly rebrands so as to convince gullible consumers that they can stop being mad at it for poor service, misleading advertising, and prices that keep rising.
But that’s not why I’m a skeptic. And before I continue, let me make clear that I know that the climate is changing. It has ever been thus, and when I lived in Canada’s North I saw firsthand the evidence. The North, and in particular the Mackenzie Valley, is noticeably warming. Areas of permafrost are giving way to semi-permafrost, roadways are buckling, and foundations that were built on permafrost are no longer secure.
So why am I a skeptic? For these reasons:
Dishonest use of the term climate change
When activists demand that we “do” something about climate change, they are talking about anthropogenic climate change – man-caused. When they are questioned, however, they decry the questioner as a person who cannot acknowledge that the climate is changing, and they use the very offensive term “denier” (thereby equating climate change scepticism with holocaust denial) as a way to shut down debate. If climate change advocates wants my respect and attention, they will always make clear their terms – that they are talking about man-caused climate change. And they’ll stop using demagoguery to make their point.
The precautionary principle does not apply
The precautionary principle (the need to act on still-incomplete evidence because of the risks associated with doing nothing if the complete evidence confirms the current assumption) is laudatory. Applied to climate change, however, it’s meaningless. Until we know that a specific action will be sufficient to deal with a particular issue (in this case the extent to which greenhouse gases are contributing to global temperature increases and the number of severe weather events), the precautionary principle does not apply. To disrupt the economic well-being of billions of people, particularly those in developing countries, on a theory that does not correlate to the available evidence is just stupid.
Contractions in the evidence
Those who say we must do “something” tell us that we must cut down on the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere because as they rise, temperatures will also rise. But they haven’t – at least not in more than a decade. As greenhouse gases have increased, global temperatures have remained flat. Simply put, if temperatures do not rise in correlation to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, there must be something else acting on temperatures.
Most climate change advocates focus on the late 70s, the 80s, and the 90s as the period of greatest temperature increase worldwide. Their baseline is usually the cooling period in the 60s and 70s (during which climate scientists were warning of the next ice age). The 80s and 90s coincided with the period in which third world countries such as India and China (with a third of the world’s population between these two alone) were industrializing.
During the same period, I was working as a Communications Advisor for Canada’s Department of the Environment. I began to notice that events that had been going on for decades, and even more than a century, were beginning to be described as “first ever” or “greatest ever”.
For example, the ice shelves on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada have diminished more than 90%, with the greatest loss from the calving off of giant ice islands in the 1940s and 1950s. These islands were so large, aircraft were able to land on them and, for a time, military units from both the Soviet Union and the United States set up bases on them. Nevertheless, when a much smaller ice island calved off in the mid-2000s, it was heralded as evidence of anthropogenic climate change, an unprecedented event that heralded the rise of sea levels and the drowning of Pacific island nations.
Another example. Almost 50 years ago my family visited the Athabasca Ice Fields where we saw markers indicating the retreat of the glacier since the 1880s. The markers extended several hundred yards from the foot of the glacier at that time. Nevertheless, I’ve seen numerous news reports talking about the same retreat, which has doubtless been going on for centuries, as further evidence of anthropogenic climate change. More dishonesty.
Prominent climate activists demand that the world bow to the “consensus” on climate change. History is rife with examples of how scientific consensus was both wrong-headed and erroneous. One perfect example is our understanding of peptic and duodenal ulcers, which we now know are usually (60 and 90% of the time, respectively) caused by a bacterium, helicobacter pylori (usually shortened to h pylori). It took more than a decade for medical science to catch up to the first definitive evidence that this was the case.
The cure is (much) worse than the disease
Western nations are able to deal with economic disruptions caused by carbon pricing and other measures demanded by climate activists. Developing countries are not. To bow to the activists on the basis of such flimsy evidence is to doom many third world economies to perpetual poverty.
Our planet has proved to be resilient in responding to climate disruptions over time. The El Nino and La Nina phenomena are examples of how excess ocean heat or cold is dealt with.
Climate change activists call the results of the earth’s adaptations “severe weather events”, and they warn that we will see more hurricanes, tropic storms, tornadoes, floods, and other such events. In fact, what we are seeing is zero correlation between severe weather events and greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere. Rather, increased urbanization is making events that have been going on for millennia more damaging to lives and property.
When scientists come with real evidence of environmental concern, it is good and right for governments, industry, and individuals to take action. That is what occurred with ozone-depleting chemicals, and the planet is the better for the action taken. It may yet occur that climate change models demonstrate their reliability and we can take actions that would forestall disaster. The problem lies in the fact that this is not what has occurred to date.
Do nothing then?
How should we respond to the muddle that is the climate change debate? For my part, I am responsible about minimizing my use of fossil fuels, not because I have been convinced that anthropogenic climate change is real, but because it’s good stewardship. As a Christian, I am to be a steward of Creation, and part of being a steward is to avoid waste of the Master’s resources. Unlike climate change advocates such as Al Gore who profit from the hysteria they have created while living opulent lives, I live as simply as I can.
And therein lies the problem. I suspect when people see climate change activists acting like they actually believe their rhetoric, it will be fairly simple to create the change that the activists seek. Until then, I have no confidence in their message.
Read more in this series:
- I. It’s turtles all the way down
- II. More turtles all the way down
- III. Honey I shrunk the universe
- IV. Science continues to advance – sort of
- V. Why I’m a Climate Change Skeptic