Anti science, climate humbuggery rises on release of IPCC Climate Report
Climate change denialists standing on thinning ice email@example.com http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-climate-change-denialists-standing-on-thinning-ice/story-fnihsr9v-1226730180853 1 Oct 13
IMAGINE the fury of a category five cyclone bearing down on north Queensland. The storm is still a couple of hundred kilometres offshore and tracking slowly west, although meteorologists are unsure where and when exactly it will cross the coast and what sort of a punch it will be packing when it does make landfall. Forecasting the precise movements of such a powerful and destructive weather system is not, after all, an exact science.
On the logic of climate change deniers, who argue the world needs to take no action to combat global warming yet because “the science isn’t settled”, in this scenario the good burghers of coastal towns should take no precautions against the looming tempest because there is no absolute guarantee they’ll experience anything more inclement than a spot of rain.
Indeed, perhaps those people in the possible path of the cyclone should turn off their televisions lest they inadvertently catch a weather bulletin – after all, what you don’t know can’t hurt you, right? All together now, put your hands over your ears and start chanting “na-na-na-na-naaah” and watch on quietly while we abolish the Climate Commission.
The deniers contend that “only” about 97 per cent of the world’s scientific community accept the human influence on possibly catastrophic global warming, thus the jury is out. On this basis then the science on evolution is not yet settled either and news media and indeed our schools should be giving equal weight to the views of intelligent design theorists. Actually, while we are being biblical for a moment, one could view Noah’s ark as the first recorded attempt at Direct Action in the face of climate change, although attempts at a similar solution today may run foul of the Stop the Boats humbuggery.
Seriously though, climate humbuggery is in plentiful supply right now with the release of the long-awaited report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The report was immediately attacked by Right-wing commentators, who almost universally lack any formal qualifications in climate science, as “United Nations scaremongering”.
The claque of deniers have been warning us for years that climate change is variously a “warmist conspiracy” and a “hoax” invented by scientists to secure more research funding. It must be a bloody sophisticated conspiracy given the latest IPCC report was the work of more than 2000 scientists worldwide, involved thousands of scientific papers and more than 130,000 comments. In short, scientists are 95 per cent confident that humans are major contributors to global warming which, if left unchecked, will have potentially catastrophic consequences. This is up from a 66 per cent confidence level in the 2001 report.
“It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together,’’ the report says.
Climate deniers have leapt on data showing the pace of surface temperature increase in the past 15 years has slowed as proof global warming itself has either slowed or stopped.
This is bunk, as a plateau does not preclude a rise or alter longer-term trends, and IPCC scientists believe much of the excess heat in recent years is being absorbed by the planet’s oceans. And nor is that any cause for celebration.
As NASA pointed out this year, the nine hottest years on record have all occurred since 2000. And if you want to focus on the pace of change, then consider that the IPCC concludes that “the rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia”.
But, say the deniers, what of the better Arctic ice sheets this year?
Context is a useful commodity here. Arctic sea ice sheet levels in 2012’s northern summer were the lowest in recorded history (about 18 per cent lower than the previous record in 2007).
Deniers then claimed a “rebound” in ice levels in 2013 as further evidence of no climate change, with London’s Daily Mail even proclaiming that “And now it’s global COOLING!”
What they didn’t tell you was that while the levels were not as low as the previous summer, they were still the sixth lowest on record or, as climate scientist Julienne Stroeve describes it, “bumps and wiggles along the long-term declining trend”.
But when facts become inconvenient and hard to ignore, what better solution than to make your own science?
This is what gives birth to the likes of the grandly (and deceptively) titled “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change” (NIPCC), which is funded by the libertarian think tank the Heartland Institute.
Heartland – which made headlines last year for running a billboard campaign comparing climate change believers to “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski – has also cut its teeth in campaigns refuting the dangers of second-hand cigarette smoke and right now is waging pitched battle against health care reform in the US.
Why believe the research of highly regarded research bodies such as CSIRO or NASA when you can channel the likes of Heartland?
Unless, of course, all you are seeking is subjective reinforcement of an entrenched position that has more to do with blinkered ideology and fear of change than any grounding in accepted science.
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