Sun, Sep 18, 2011 - Page 8

Trusting ‘green’ science

Jason Lamantia’s recent letter (Letter, Sept. 13, page 8) suggests that the Environmental

Protection Administration (EPA) wants to replace Mid-Autumn Festival barbecues with other activities such as gambling. However, the article he references indicates that it is not the EPA, but rather local governments proposing these activities (“Alternatives to barbecue reduce carbon footprint,” Sept. 12, page 2). Moreover, the agency acknowledges that “the carbon dioxide we will cut is relatively small.”

As for the alternatives suggested by local governments, it is particularly ironic that Kinmen is giving away a cow, in the stated belief that “cattle will not create as much carbon emissions.” Cows do not produce much carbon, but they produce a lot of methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, a cow is equivalent to about 50 percent of a car. A better prize would be to slaughter a cow, thus giving the winner a freezer full of meat, while simultaneously removing a potent source of greenhouse gases.

However, my greatest concern about the letter is reserved for Lamantia’s assertion that “the climate has always changed and so-called global warming is an elaborate hoax whose scientific credentials are nothing short of what used to be called quack science.”

First, the evidence for global warming is overwhelming. Among active climate -scientists, a recent survey found that 97.5 percent agreed that “human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.”

These are the people who understand the climate the best — if they say climate change is real, then we ignore such warnings at our peril. The Academies of Science from 19 countries, including Canada, the US, Germany and Japan, endorse this consensus, as do such scientific organizations as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, The American Geophysical Union, the European Geosciences Union, and the Royal Meteorological Society.

The credentials of these scientists and these organizations are unimpeachable. This is not an elaborate hoax. This is not quack science.

As for historical climate change, yes, the climate has changed in the past. However, the fact that the climate change has naturally occurred is not to say that humans can not exert an influence on the direction of that change, any more than saying that because fires naturally occurred before the appearance of humans, fires can not be caused by humans. The climate changes when it is forced to and it has little regard for whether the origins of such impetus are natural or manmade. Humans have dumped a huge amount of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere over the past 150 years, so we should not be surprised when the climate reacts to it, as it is now doing.

Global warming is real, and it’s manmade. The only question is how we are going to deal with it. Giving away a cow and gambling is not an answer, but then neither is sticking one’s head in the sand.



Apparently eschewing any sort of scientific evidence, Jason Lamantia cites the results of a fatuous exercise in quote-mining to support his claim that “global warming is an elaborate hoax.”

Using an unsourced quote from Paul Watson, a founder of Greenpeace, he claims that Watson “was very blunt when speaking on the issue of climate change.”

In fact, Watson was not talking about climate change at all: The quote comes from a November 1991 Forbes article, which makes no mention of the climate. Rather, it addressed: “The mythic image ... of a band of young daredevils hanging off a refinery smokestack or thrusting themselves in the path of the whaler’s harpoon.”

This is contrasted with the reality, which is that Greenpeace is “a skillfully managed business, mastering the tools of direct mail and image manipulation” with multimillion-dollar revenues. The article also explores the role of a successor to Watson in the creation of this media image, which Lamantia would have realized, had he even bothered to find and read the article for himself.

Meanwhile, the report from which Lamantia quotes, by the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research, Warm Words: How Are We Telling the Climate Story and Can We Tell It Better?, merely examined the discourse surrounding climate change. As it says in the preface, this approach was adopted because: “Putting in place effective policies to achieve [climate-friendly behavior] is clearly essential, but so too is the use of effective communications.”

The report also makes clear that “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind this century ... we are emitting greenhouse gases that are warming the planet and changing our climate.”

On the other hand, the facts of climate change, to which human activity has certainly been a contributing factor, are not based on the activity of quote-mining, but have been painstakingly established by experts in the field, as a result of scientific research conducted over the last 35 years or so, the accumulation of which now form a rather weighty body of evidence published in peer-reviewed, authoritative, journals.

No evidence to the contrary has withstood closer scrutiny, and the overall picture thus suggests serious climatic problems in the short to medium-term as a result.

Personally, I prefer to believe the scientific evidence rather than unsubstantiated, even farcical, claims that climate change is a hoax.