Masking Ignorance as Opinion

In a piece by Vancouver Province newspaper columnist Alan Ferguson, on March 21, 2006, we have another instance in the worrying trend of ideologically driven opinion writers straying into flat statements of (incorrect) fact - much to the disservice of their readers.

In a blissfully fact-free assault on the Kyoto protocol, Ferguson says this:

“Well, I'm no scientist I confess, but I can read, and I'm sorry to have to disabuse all those prophets of doom who claim to have evidence that mankind is responsible for its imminent demise in a deadly soup of man-made pollution, with polar bears flopping off melting ice floes.

“It is true, and nobody disputes it, that throughout the 20th century – hardly a blink of an eye in eternal time – the temperature in the northern hemisphere rose. By about 0.6 degrees Centigrade. Big deal.

“But there is absolutely no proof it was due to human activity.” (My emphasis.)

Mr. Ferguson's assertion that he is no scientist is self-evident. His insistence that he can read is, how shall we say, uproven – at least to the degree that boasting an ability to read implies that he has actually surveyed the literature. But it's his willingness to pronounce boldly, baldly and incorrectly on scientific fact that is most grating.

” … absolutely no proof”? This would come as a suprise to the Royal Society of Canada, the U.S. National Academy of Science, the Science Council of Japan, the Russian Academy of Science, the French, Academie des Science, the Indian National Science Academy, the Chinese Academy of Sciences … it's quite a long list. And all of these august bodies, full as they are of people who really are scientists, are all satisfied that there is, indeed, proof that climate change is anthropogenic (which, for Mr. Ferguson's benefit, means that it is caused by human activity).

The question for Mr. Ferguson is this: “What would you accept as proof? Will the meanderings of a fiction writer (Michael Crichton) or the dissemblings of ExxonMobile-sponsored 'scientists' always trump a consensus of the best scientific minds in the world?”

The question for Province Editorial Page Editor Jon Ferry is this: “Has the newspaper no responsibility to check facts. Do writers have carte blanche to present any position they please in absolute terms just because their writings appear on an 'opinion' page?”

For the record, Ferry says that's an unfair question and insists there is still “a lot of controversy” about this topic. It's a disappointing cop-out and one that a little serious research would soon resolve.

For more on the who's who of the climate denial industry, check out our comprehensive climate deniers research database.