Moving Heaven and Earth to expose climate charlatan

Jim Hoggan chairs the David Suzuki Foundation in Canada. Here is an excellent piece he penned for the Vancouver Sun on the hoary old saw about environmentalism being some kind of ‘new religion’. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my ongoing efforts to draw attention to the infiltration into this debate by climate skeptics. Ian Plimer is a grade A charlatan, whose sophistry is well dissected below by Hoggan:

“There is a strange conviction, in certain circles, that the world’s environmental community has grown superhumanly strong — an idea that, with the cock of an eyebrow or the curl of a lip, any leading environmentalist can strike fear into the hearts of academics, politicians and businesspeople around the globe.

As the chair of the David Suzuki Foundation, the leading environmental organization in Canada, I wish that it were so. To borrow the fiery rhetoric of Vancouver Sun columnist Jonathon Manthorpe, I would be delighted, if only for a day, to be one of the “ayatollahs of puritan environmentalism” or the “Torquemadas of the doctrine of global warming.”

Maybe then, I could use the power of religious fundamentalism and the threat of a Spanish-style inquisition to encourage the making climate change policy that was based on actual science rather than on overcharged emotion and obvious self-interest.

Apparently, however, that time has not yet come. Certainly not if we have to contend with the “reality” Manthorpe defined in his July 28, 2009 Sun column, “Global warming is the new religion of First World urban elites.”

Manthorpe rests his entire argument on the work of the Australian climate skeptic Ian Plimer and especially on Plimer’s latest book, Heaven and Earth — Global Warming; The Missing Science.

Plimer, a mining geologist, dismisses the concern about climate change as irrelevant, a view Manthorpe endorses by adding, “It is, of course, not new to have a highly qualified scientist saying that global warming is an entirely natural phenomenon with many precedents in history.”

If that were true, Manthorpe was honour bound to offer examples of these scientific leaders — even one example. Because the record shows that the “highly qualified” scientists — the ones who are actually doing research in the field and publishing their work in reputable journals rather than in populist books — are virtually unanimous that climate change is an urgent concern.

In addition to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the science academies in every major country in the world have endorsed the fundamental science of climate change and urged international action. Check the website of the Royal Society of Canada if you have any doubts.

Certainly, there are contrarian “scientists.” These (like Plimer) tend to be experts in other fields (like geology) and (like Plimer) they are frequently associated with energy industry advocacy groups (like the Natural Resources Stewardship Project) that exist not to further the work of science but to confuse the public conversation.

If Manthorpe were truly interested in climate science, there are dozens of good books and thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers from which he might have gained reliable information. Instead, he read Plimer, whose book is riddled with errors (Google “Deltoid” and Ian Plimer for an entertaining list).

For example, Manthorpe writes: “(Plimer) says atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at the lowest levels it has been for 500 million years.”

Well, Plimer may say so, but it is verifiably not true. There is reliable and widely reported research showing that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is currently higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years — at least.

Again, Google “Lonnie Thompson” and “Antarctic ice cores” if you want confirmation.

Climate change is a serious issue — and one that should be taken seriously, especially by journalists who have a soap box and a good reputation. In an age when reliable, peer-reviewed scientific reports are readily available to anyone with an internet connection, we all should reject arguments that are based on epithets and ad hominem attacks and that gloss over the actual details of this unprecedented scientific and environmental crisis.

But don’t take my word for it. You should search out your own good sources.

And the next time someone tells you that Canadian environmentalists are more influential than, say, the most profitable (energy) companies in the history of profit, pause and reflect. The next time someone argues that selfish (and by implication, dishonest) scientists created the threat of global warming because they want to fatten their research budget, imagine how much easier it would be to get research from government funding agencies or from the private-sector interests devoted to big oil if only your research showed that climate change was, in Manthorpe’s words, “a harbinger of good things to come.”

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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