Saturday, December 19, 2009

Climate denial: what is the truth?

How is anyone supposed to take seriously Eddie Smith’s letter (‘Any damage done to our climate was done long ago’, Post, December 8)? In attempting to debunk human- caused climate change he is of the view that the world’s climate scientists either don’t understand or have forgotten Archimedes Principle for goodness sake! Its not hard to find many such examples* - the nature and enormity of the problem is causing many people to search around for reasons not to believe it and to wait for someone else to act rather than take their share of personal responsibility. We see angry outright denial, scapegoat seeking, deliberate boasts about wastefulness, projection of anxiety onto something more manageable, or most common of all – people shutting out all information and just not thinking about the problem.

People are being helped to find reasons not to believe by very poor leadership from politicians who for decades have talked a lot, done nothing and now failed in Copenhagen. They’ve also been helped by the poor state of communication between scientists, politicians and the public. However, none of this changes the basic bio-physical facts. Climate change is an inconvenient truth – and we all have to face up to it. We’ve gone beyond the stage of fundamental dispute about the core science and entered a phase of finding out what it takes for us all to accept both the truth of climate change and most of all - its implications.

*Eddie also: mixes up toxic smogs with climate change – they have features in common but are distinct issues; talks of a warm period in the middle ages as if the whole globe was involved – it wasn’t, medieval warming was only regional; says the temperature has not risen for ten years – but the last decade has been the warmest in human history according to organisations like the Met Office and NASA and its trends over time that are correct climate science; compares the scientific reports on climate change to the Iraq ‘dodgy dossier’ – the scientific reports are peer reviewed, are many and varied, have appeared over many years, featuring stronger and stronger evidence as time has passed.

The picture above is taken from a You Tube clip that features David Attenborough and Prof Peter Cox on natural vs human-caused climate change. The red line shows the measured temperature trend, the green line the model prediction using only natural factors and the yellow line the model prediction using human and natural factors. You can see the clip in less than 3 minutes here: