June 9, 2008

Global warming hotly debated?

Recently the Edmonton Journal ran a number of letters under the banner “Global warming still hotly debated” (The Journal, May 29). Two of the letter writers dismissed the assessment reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Allan Lariviere from Fox Creek claimed that the panel “has been debunked by high profile climatologists around the world,” but failed to name any. And Peter Milot from Edmonton citing no one in particular claimed that the reports are one sided and that many former IPCC lead authors are now in the denier camp.

To brush the IPCC off as dismissively as Lariviere and Milot have done takes a lot of temerity. In my estimation what the IPCC says about global warming and climate change commands lot of weight in the scientific community. Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is perhaps the most respected peer-reviewed scientific journal in the world. In February 2007 the AAAS board of directors issued a statement on climate change: “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” In their concluding statement the AAAS says “the conclusions in this statement reflect the scientific consensus represented by, for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change...” (1)

On matters of science it would be very difficult to find an organization more authoritative than the AAAS. If Lariviere and Milot -- and for that matter Lorne Gunter and Don Martin, the two Canwest columnists that triggered this discussion -- believe that the question of whether global warming is occurring or not is still being debated then I challenge them to support their claim by citing a scientific organization as authoritative as the AAAS.

In support of his claim that the debate about global warming is still raging, another writer to The Journal, Robert Sakovich of Whitecourt, cited the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. Readers interested in finding out more about the this conference should take a look at “What if you held a conference, and no (real ) scientists came?” posted 30 January 2008 at realclimate.org. There they’ll discover that the conference, sponsored by the Heartland Institute (a “front group for the fossil fuel industry sponsoring the conference,” according to RealClimate) was intended, as they said in their invitation letter, “to generate media attention to the fact that many scientists believe [global warming is] not supported by sound science.” In other words the emphasis at the conference was about media and not science. (2)

To further support his claim Sakovich cited the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Petition Project “. . . 31,000 signatories so far. That is 31,000 scientists – 9,000 of them with doctorates,” says Sakovich. But some people don’t share Sakovich’s enthusiasm. “‘Perry S. Mason’ (the fictitious lawyer?), ‘Michael J. Fox’ (the actor?), ‘Robert C. Byrd’ (the senator?), ‘John C. Grisham’ (the lawyer-author?). And then there's the Spice Girl, a k a. Geraldine Halliwell: The petition listed ‘Dr. Geri Halliwell’ and ‘Dr. Halliwell.’” (3) Real Climate had something to say about the Petition Project as well, and the title of their posting sums it up quite nicely. “The Oregon Institute of Science and Malarkey.” (4)

Who’s RealClimate? One of the top 10 environment web sites according to the Guardian. (5) At Time.com Eric Roston writes, “An assembly of climate researchers gives readers what’s lacking virtually everywhere else – straightforward presentation of the physical evidence for global warming, discussed with patience, precision and rigor.” (6)

In closing, global warming may be hotly debated in the Opinion and Letters pages of The Edmonton Journal, but in the scientific community the debate has as much life as a duck that’s landed on a tar sands tailings pond.

1. AAAS Board Statement on Climate Change. http://www.aaas.org/news/press_room/climate_change/mtg_200702/aaas_climate_statement.pdf

2. Realclimate.org, January 30, 2008. What if you held a conference , and no (real) scientists came?http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/01/what-if-you-held-a-conference-and-no-real-scientists-came/

3. H. Joseph Hebert, May 1, 1998. Jokers Add Fake Names To Warming Petition. The Seattle Times. http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19980501&slug=2748308

4. Realclimate.org, October 10, 2007. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/oregon-institute-of-science-and-malarkey/

5. Hillary Osborne, August 9, 2007. Top 10 green websites. Guardian.co.uk. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/aug/09/environment

6. Eric Roston. Green Websites. Time.com. http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1730759_1731034_1732032,00.html

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