Science left behind in Copenhagen Coverage

Comment: By thegreenpages contributing editor Fraser Los

After all the late-night hand-wringing by bleary-eyed world leaders, the Copenhagen climate conference ended with a dull thud.

But beyond the lackluster deal on the table, something more even more disturbing was on display leading up to the summit. Canadians were offered nothing but second-hand news on the science of climate change. Many media outlets overlooked the actual science that has informed this massive international meeting, choosing instead to focus on the “he said, she said” musings of political pundits.

The “Climategate” circus muddied the waters for many observers – especially conspiracy-minded bloggers – but in the midst of all the blogosphere outrage, not one government, not even Canada’s, challenged the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

Why? Because unlike the many columnists who offered knee-jerk reactions to isolated emails taken out of context, world governments were briefed in full. In other words, they were forced to read the alarming scientific reports on climate change. They know better than to challenge the strong scientific consensus that has solidified over the past couple of decades. (Not so incidentally, this is what makes Canada’s intransigence at Copenhagen even more shocking.)

No major world science organization denies anthropogenic global warming – not the World Meteorological Organization, not the Union of Concerned Scientists, Scientific American or NASA, and not the UK’s Met Office or Royal Society. It’s also important to recognize that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not a political entity. Its specific purpose is to assess climate science being done independently throughout the world, and to determine if a scientific consensus exists for climate change. It does, and the body has said so.

In the face of all this evidence, much of the public is still in the dark. Partly to blame is bad communication by scientists themselves – after all, science is not a PR exercise. But the larger problem is that many columnists – here’s an example from the Globe and Mail’s Rex Murphy – remain stubbornly unconvinced by the virtually unanimous agreement by the science community. Whether or not they’ve done their research before writing, the public gets a confused picture.

The best way to verify the reality of climate change is by taking a moment to visit the scientific sites above. Better yet, try to find a legitimate scientific organization that disputes the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

Sure, there is still plenty of uncertainty regarding the effects of a warming world. It’s unclear how it will play out on a planetary scale, mainly because it is complex and unprecedented. But no scientist disputes the physical reality of the greenhouse effect. It is a natural warming effect in our atmosphere that is caused by the presence of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide, and it is the basis to all of this.

Humanity has drastically increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution began, thereby enhancing the atmosphere’s heat-trapping capacity. Carbon dioxide concentration has increased from a relatively stable 260 parts per million a couple of centuries ago to about 387 parts per million today. Along with the evidence of melting glaciers and ice-free Arctic summers, this is the firm scientific reality that climate skeptics are up against.

Columnists can argue that environmental organizations are biased. But if they argue that all major scientific organizations are biased, then they’re not only engaging in the worst form of ideology, they simply sound ridiculous.


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