Saturday, September 26, 2015

RESPONSE TO A CLIMATE CHANGE DENYING FRIEND

By Ronald T. Fox


NOTE:  An old climate change denying friend forwarded me a statement by a person named Patrick Moore that appeared on conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager's website.  In the statement, Moore expresses skepticism about the validity of climate science.  (See: Patrick Moore on Climate Change). Moore bills himself as a scientist and co-founder of Greenpeace.  Listening to the statement, inspired me to write a response. Please understand, this friend and I have gone back and forth on the global warming question for years. This is just the latest salvo.  I've decided there will be no more.  Have you ever tried arguing with a climate change denier?  I don't need to say more.  Anyway, inspired by the Pope's visit, which my friend panned, I decided to post my response to the friend.  (I'm sending this while on vacation in Switzerland.)


Friend,

I listened to the statement.  Moore doesn’t deny the planet is warming, but since it has also warmed in other centuries, he questions whether the recent spike is a result of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. OK, call him a climate change skeptic, not a denier. As this view conforms to what you have expressed over the years, I can understand why you forwarded the pronouncement. It’s also your bible, the Wall Street Journal’s position.
 
I won’t attempt to go into the evidence that disputes this position—done that before to no avail (facts don't seem to matter).  Instead I’ll touch on the credibility of Patrick Moore and what’s behind the anti-climate science campaign.
 

First, I have to shoot the messenger. While clearly an interesting man, Patrick Moore has even less credibility in pronouncing on climate science than Prager. First, he is not a climate scientist; he’s an ecologist. He did not found Greenpeace; it was founded in 1970 by Phil Cotes, Irving Stowe and Jim Bohlen (Moore came on board in 1971 when he asked for a berth on the Phyliss Cormack). It is pretty widely known that Moore, who died in 2012, exploited his long-gone ties with Greenpeace for personal financial gain. He is a staunch conservative who worked as a Canadian corporate lobbyist, funded by industry groups—primarily oil, gas and energy companies-- for years through his Greenspirit Strategies. He liked to claim he founded Greenpeace to lend credibility to his alleged awakening to truth. Read up on this guy.
 
It’s not hard to find scientists willing to peddle an industry line—for a price. It is now known that tobacco interests paid scientists to deny that smoking caused cancer and heart disease, among other things. Scientists were similarly paid by corporate interests to attack ozone and acid rain science. Now, as Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway documented in Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, climate science is being attacked by many of the same individuals and organizations that attacked the earlier science, using many of the same arguments, as misguided today as they were then. Some $125 million in dark money has flowed to the pockets of climate change deniers. I urge you, and everyone else in the group, to read the Merchants of Doubt book. I won’t hold my breath, though.
 
As I’ve stated many times, I stand firmly behind the International Panel on Climate Change Assessment reports which over time has increased the certitude that the recent spike in global warming is a product of human caused greenhouse gasses. Its 100+ scientist authors from all over the world look at peer-reviewed journals to see what climate science research is finding about climate change (I know, you’ll say the journals are biased). The IPCC has found a general consensus among climate scientists that greenhouse gasses are a major cause of global warming. Each successive Report has increased the certitude of this conclusion. The Assessment Reports have been endorsed by numerous scientific academies, societies, associations and councils. Sure there isn’t 100% agreement. Does such certitude ever occur in the world of science? There are still some scientists who deny that smoking tobacco can lead to cancer and heart disease. Does that make the evidence still “theory?” At what point does a theory pass the line to reasonable truth?
 
According to NASA, 97% or more of actively published climate scientists agree that climate change is real and very likely caused by human activity. Most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. Do yourself a favor and read the IPCC Report for 2015—or at least the shortened summary report for policy makers. (By the way, you refer to a “great many respected climate scientist” deniers; how about sending me a short list, but be sure to vet the source beforehand.)
 
Since I am not a climate scientists and do not fully understand the science, I have little alternative but to rely on academic pronouncements, the IPCC, and what I observe with my own eyes: extreme rain and flooding, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, record draughts, the hottest months on record in several locations, including this May in Alaska (take that Sarah), and volatile weather patterns. Thirteen of the 14 hottest years since temperatures began to be recorded have occurred in this century. I’m satisfied with the scholarly and visceral evidence I’ve seen that we are facing a severe environmental crisis and human beings are responsible.
 
I will be happy to read the arguments of a credentialed climate science denier, as long as he/she has no financial ties to special industry interests. I will also listen to denial leaders on Capitol Hill, as long as they do not receive tons of cash from the oil, gas and energy industries. That leaves out someone like Senator Jim Inhofe, the leading denier who now chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee. People are still talking about the moron Inhofe bringing a snowball from a big DC snowstorm to the floor of the Senate as evidence that the planet isn’t warming.
 
We’ve gone back and forth on this topic for years; further arguing is fruitless. I’ve respected our differences of opinions on politics, partisanship, the economy, inequality and various social issues, but on climate change I have to draw the line. You are way off base on this one. You’re lining up with the kooks and crazies, the charlatans and economic royalists—people who place their private interests above those of mankind (I know conservatives believe the pursuit of private interest benefits mankind)-- or simply those on the right who have an anti-science bias.

This isn’t a partisan debate aimed at scoring points. We’re talking about peoples’ lives and their futures. The stakes are extremely high. A failure to address the climate crisis now will lead to untold human suffering, perhaps not so much for us old codgers, but for future generations throughout the world. We can’t afford to play politics with the earth’s future.

















4 comments:

  1. Well put, Ron. I couldn't have said it nearly as concisely.

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  2. Spot on Mr. Fox! Spot on. I have but one question for the deniers/skeptics. Which way would you rather be WRONG?

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  3. Hi Ron,

    There is a strong cause & effect relationship with Changes in Earth temperature & CO2 levels. Unfortunately for those wanting an excuse to tax carbon, it is the exact opposite of what they believe. As the temp rises or lowers, CO2 follows after a lag period of app 800 years. Check the Vostock ice core samples. The cause is change in temp followed by a change in CO2.

    There are other compelling reasons such as the whole solar system heating up at similar rates to Earth. Did we cause this with our pollution? Also, there is a strong correlation between sun spot activity and temperature. Now, if the complaint had been about water vapor I might have shown more interest.

    Water vapor is by far the most prevalent green house gas in the atmosphere. It is also the most powerful/efficient greenhouse gas. Do you here anyone complaining about increased water vapor caused by irrigation practices? Maybe because it is hard to tax water vapor.

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    1. Water vapor is indeed the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, but you fail to mention that the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is directly related to temperature. If the temperature increases, more water evaporates and becomes vapor, and vice versa. So when something causes the temperature to increase (such as extra CO2 from fossil fuels), more water evaporates. The additional water vapor causes the temperature to go up even further. This is what climate scientists refer to as the water vapor feedback loop. While many factors contribute to the warming of our planet, climate scientists share an overwhelming consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is the main culprit. The water vapor feedback makes temperature changes caused by CO2 much larger than they would be otherwise be.

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