Attacks on Climate Change Science Hinder Solutions

Tue, 2013-09-24 15:51Guest
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Attacks on Climate Change Science Hinder Solutions

By David Suzuki.

Starting in late September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its Fifth Assessment Report in three chapters and a summary. Not to be outdone, contrarians have unleashed a barrage of attacks designed to discredit the science before it’s released. Expect more to come.

Many news outlets are complicit in efforts to undermine the scientific evidence. Contrarian opinion articles have run in publications in Canada and around the world, from the Financial Post and Washington Post to the Australian and the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday.

In the Guardian, scientists Dana Nuccitelli and John Abraham point out that attacks cover five stages of climate denial: deny the problem exists, deny we’re the cause, deny it’s a problem, deny we can solve it and claim it’s too late to do anything.

One attack that’s grabbing media attention is the so-called International Climate Science Coalition’s report “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science.” It’s written by Fred Singer, a well-known tobacco industry apologist and climate change denier, with Bob Carter and Craig Idso, also known for their dismissals of legitimate climate change science, and published by the Heartland Institute, a U.S. non-profit known for defending tobacco and fossil fuel industry interests. Heartland made headlines last year for comparing people who accept the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change with terrorists and criminals such as Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski!

Read Singer’s report if you want. But it’s full of long-discredited claims, including that carbon dioxide emissions are good because they stimulate life. It’s not the goal of deniers and contrarians to contribute to our understanding of climate change; they want to promote fossil fuel companies and other industrial interests, a point explicitly stated in the Heartland-ICSC news release.

It claims the Singer report, which isn’t peer-reviewed, provides governments with “the scientific evidence they need to justify ending the expansion of ineffective alternative energy sources and other expensive and futile strategies to control climate. Then they can focus on supporting our most powerful energy sources – coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro-power – in order to end the scourge of energy poverty that afflicts over one billion people across the world.”

In other words, don’t worry about climate change, let alone health-damaging pollution or the fact that fossil fuels will become increasingly difficult to extract and eventually run out altogether. And even though mountains of solid evidence from around the world show climate change is and will continue to be most devastating for the world’s poorest people, the report feigns concern for those suffering from “energy poverty”.

Overall, the attacks on legitimate climate science are coming from people whose arguments have been debunked many times and who often have ties to the fossil fuel industry. Some, including Roy Spencer and Ross McKitrick, have signed the Cornwall Declaration, which states: “We believe Earth and its ecosystems – created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence – are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.”

The declaration also states that “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming” and that renewable energy should not be used to replace fossil fuels. Their world view can’t accept the reality of climate change or its solutions no matter how much evidence is provided – something that offends many people of faith who believe we have a responsibility to care for the Earth.

The IPCC report, on the other hand, is a review of all the available science on climate change, conducted by hundreds of experts from around the world. It confirms climate change is happening, burning fossil fuels is a major cause and it will get worse if we fail to act. It also examines what appears to be a slight slowing of global warming – but certainly not a halt, as deniers claim – and offers scientific explanations for it. Upcoming chapters will also propose solutions.

Resolving the problem of climate change will cost, but it will be much more expensive to follow the defeatist advice of industry shills, whose greed and lack of care for humanity will condemn our children and grandchildren to an uncertain future.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

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Previous Comments

Look it up… Magical Thinking is a term.

This smacks of finding a scape goat and trying to place all the blame on him.  Who does that?  Who in history has made an effort to find a scape goat for all their problems?  Who?

Anyone tuning into the climate change debate this late in the game may wonder what the fuss is all about.  It comes from the leaked copies of IPCCs AR5 report (Ch1-Introduction_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch01_All_Final).  This report has been hyped by a man with only a high school diploma to his name, Anthony Watts, who clearly hasn't read the report.

Page 39, Figure 1.4 is the graph most pointed at;

Read section 1.3.1;
Even though the projections from the models were never intended to be predictions over such a short time scale, the observations through 2010 generally fall well within the projections made in all of the past assessments.

There are several additional points to consider about Figure 1.4: (1) the model projections account for different emissions scenarios but do not fully account for natural variability; (2) the AR4 results for 1990–2000 account for the Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption, while the earlier assessments do not; (3) the TAR and AR4 results are based on MAGICC, a simple climate model that attempts to represent the results from more complex models, rather than the actual results from the full three-dimensional climate models; and (4) the bars on the side represent the range of results for the scenarios at the end of the time period and are not error bars.


Analyses by Rahmstorf et al. show that accounting for ENSO events and solar cycle changes would enhance the comparison with the AR4 and earlier projections.

The models do not include ENSO weather events like La Nina and El Nino.

In summary, the globally-averaged surface temperatures are well within the uncertainty range of all previous IPCC projections, and generally are in the middle of the scenario ranges. However, natural variability is likely the dominating effect in evaluating these early times in the scenario evaluations as noted by Hawkins and Sutton (2009).

In short, Global Warming is going on just fine.

Quite disgusted to see a Youtube edit-massacre of David Suzuki's q/a presentation on Australian TV, purporting to make him look as if he is unfamiliar with the commonly cited surface temperature datasets. I guess these are the kinds of strategy we can expect, much like Stephane Dion was taken down by a nasty bit of editing on some pre-interview questions in the 2006 CDN election.

But ultimately, it is best to treat all the media abuse and anti-science from the antagonists as “noise” which will eventually diminish to a mildly annoying bit of static. There are more important things to focus on.

Walrus, for what it's worth, I saw the whole interview and I have to admit Suzuki did not do well at all. He was not prepared well at all and was clearly ambushed by the Q&A staff with certain follow up questions to his non-answers. I would think his 'handlers' would have protected him from such an interview!

Chas, that's the dumbest thing I've heard in a long time.

Suzuki doesn't have handlers.  I've met him at a public QnA.  There were no handlers present.  (In Canada, only federal scientists have handlers.  To be clear those are Conservative handlers appointed by the Prime Minister's Office to control what they say.)

Watching this was a rehash of the usual garbage.

The first question was clearly asked by a person who has not read a lick of literature on the subject (like Chas).  He must be listening to Jo Nova or some other uneducated person like Anthony Watts.  At best, he just woke up from a nap, saw a graph, and said, “Oh! That looks important!”

Global warming has not ended, and this is exactly what IPCC AR5 is going to say. Here's one of the best papers on the subject.

Indeed, the current stand-still of the 5-year running mean global temperature may be largely a consequence of the fact that the first half of the past 10 years had predominately El Nino conditions, while the second half had predominately La Nina conditions (Nino index in Fig. 1). Comparing the global temperature at the time of the most recent three La Ninas (1999-2000, 2008, and 2011-2012), it is apparent that global temperature has continued to rise between recent years of comparable tropical temperature, indeed, at a rate of warming similar to that of the previous three decades.”

I would remind anyone not familiar with global warming (like Chas here) temperatures are strongly influenced ENSO La Nina (lowers temperatures), and El Nino (raises temperatures).  1998 had a strong El Nino followed by 2 strong La Nina's in the last decade.  Mathematically, that makes the trend look flat.  But that doesn't mean global warming has stopped.

So its very short sighted for anyone to look at short term trends and conclude something meaningful.  That is exactly the kind of magical thinking being employed by those opposed to the measured fact of global warming.


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By switching to renewable energy sources, the high costs associated with extracting and transporting coal and gas could be avoided, the reports, titled Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon...

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