Photo: Guest Post: Luke Doucet shares his thoughts on climate change

Musician Luke Doucet believes trusting science is essential for any climate change discussion (Credit: EVIL Patrick)


Luke Doucet is a Hamilton-based singer-songwriter-guitar player who has recently been touring with his band, the White Falcon, for the release of the band's latest album, Steel City Trawler. He has also played guitar for Sarah McLachlan and other well-known Canadian musicians and was bandleader of the "experimental post-surf-rock indie" band Veal.

He believes that being an artist carries with it a responsibility to communicate to audiences about socio-political issues.

"As a singer-songwriter, my thoughts on various socio-political themes tend to inform my work, so it only makes sense that I would consider those themes carefully," he said in an email interview. "Having an audience does carry with it a responsibility to communicate as thoughtfully as possible, especially if the content of your work is at times topical."

Being on tour also has him thinking about the environment. "As musicians, we do consider environmental choices in our daily lives, although as the recording industry continues to wane, the touring component of what we do has taken centre stage, and touring—especially in Canada—is environmentally challenged."

But it's not just being a musician that compels him to speak out about the "misguided mistrust of science and rationalism ... encouraged by the mainstream media in the U.S., in particular". "As a father, I think we owe it to our children to make an effort to leave this place as we found it... or better," he said.

In between gigs, Luke Doucet took the time to write his thoughts about climate change to share in this David Suzuki Foundation guest blog.

By Luke Doucet

The New Year is upon us. The Cancun Climate Conference came and went. Targets have been altered, ignored, contested; backs got slapped, platitudes exchanged. Canada's obstructionist policies have been derided by progressive realists far and wide as we again deferred to our conservative neighbours to the south by hitching our wagon to their far more cumbersome and ideologically driven horse. With the house of representatives now firmly in GOP control, we can only expect the policies we have committed to hiding behind to be more regressive and denier-friendly than they were in the past few years—to say nothing of the past decade.

Since our current government has chosen not to exercise our national autonomy and sovereignty by honouring the Kyoto protocol (or at least providing a true alternative (i.e., "made in Canada" solution) but instead to linger in the shadow of U.S. policy, we need to examine why that policy appears so reluctant to recognize the catastrophe that climate change almost certainly is. In the wake of the so-called "climategate" scandal, we have seen the wholesale character assassination of a community that ought to be valued as our strongest and most trustworthy when trying to decipher reality from the barrage of talking heads and 24-hour news cycle pundits, particularly when attempting to establish basic truths regarding science. The precedent that has been set—being that it is now generally acceptable to scoff at science and scientists as if they were just another group with a self serving vested interest—is terribly misguided and damaging.

The scientists at the heart of climategate have been cleared of any wrongdoing, and any serious person would have to recognize that we are (still) right back where we were pre-climategate: the Earth is warming and the vast majority of climate scientists agree that the cause is anthropogenic (human-caused). When scientists from the University of East Anglia were exonerated in summer 2010, that story was reported in the usual places. The Huffington Post, the Globe & Mail, the Guardian, and others ran stories, but the mainstream media in the U.S. largely ignored, or at least buried, this news event. If the population at large was bombarded with as much media surrounding the exoneration as they were surrounding the initial witch-hunt, public opinion would be very different and so then would be U.S. climate policy.

Even "progressives" in our midst are now prone to suggesting things like "Well, science isn't the holy grail. It constantly changes and one's faith in science is comparable to another's faith in religion," for example. I have been hearing such things with enough regularity that I can only conclude the PR campaign being waged by industries committed to the status quo (oil, gas, automotive, religion, etc.) is far more sinister and effective than we may be aware. What is needed is the restoration of dignity to the only institutions, people, and—most significantly—methodologies that are capable of separating what IS from what IS NOT in the arena of climate and the degree to which it may—or may not—be changing. And they are all, without exception, operating in the realm of science. The emphasis on findings and interpretations by actual experts has never been so essential. We live in a time when every one of us can find what appears to be solid evidence for whichever position we choose to take. Two minutes with a search engine will yield mountains of "evidence" for everything from ESP to religious miracles to conspiracies of all kinds. While this can be seen to have a democratizing effect on the exchange of ideas, it only makes pseudo science that much more dangerous and attractive to us, the lay people.

Let us suppose that the scientists from the University of East Anglia had truly fudged numbers and willfully deceived people, rather than simply use language that, when taken out of context, had the appearance of deception. Would that constitute a game-changing indictment of the findings of the overwhelming majority of the global climate science community and therefore relegate the findings of the IPCC to the annals of junk science? No. For one, we are talking about a tiny group of scientists among thousands. The National Academies of Science in virtually all of the world's developed countries agree that climate change is happening and is anthropogenic. For two, what would have been evident if accusations of number fudging were founded at all would simply be that humans are fallible. We get politicized and fired up, and sometimes we are partisan before impartial. If there were legitimacy behind "climategate", all we would know is that climate scientists are as prone to manipulating data as those on the payrolls of multinational corporations, who pay them huge sums of money to "find" evidence that business as usual is fine and we need not act in haste to clean up our mess.

Those on the right side of the political/environmental divide have presented the following as a motive for scientists to lie en mass about climate change: They are all part of a massive conspiracy of burying the truth so as to continue pursuing and collecting government grants.

I find this especially baffling as I cannot see what the incentive might be for governments to desire an alarmist global warming conclusion. Why would governments award grants to those who find evidence for anthropogenic climate change? We now find ourselves in the most vulnerable economic time since the 1920s. What could our government possibly stand to gain by adding billions of dollars worth of environmental regulations and conditions to our already embattled manufacturing and resource industries? It is plain that elected officials would be far more interested in finding that everything is okay; we don't need to revamp our auto sector; we don't need to replace coal power stations with expensive alternative energy sources; we needn't bother building bike lanes in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, or Calgary because cars and cities and futures are just fine as they are. Surely in the worst economic times in a century, "business as usual" would be the most desirable conclusion the world's democratic governments could reach.

Science has not yielded bullet-proof findings in all disciplines because scientists are human, fallible, imperfect, and constantly learning and changing conclusions as data and evidence reveal new realities. Certain elements of climate science are inconclusive because the issue is massively complex, and data, while not difficult to collect (temperature records, ice cores, etc.) may be challenging to understand. We are on an endless path of scientific inquiry: People once accepted the world to be flat, then round, now asymmetrically spherical, or slightly pear shaped. We will learn many things in the future that seem unlikely to us now, but it is not a flaw in science itself that will be to blame for our ignorance. Rather, it is to the credit of science that we learn the things we once thought were inconceivable. We must revere not the scientists or their current findings but rather the methodology that, by definition, requires discoveries and theories to be reviewed by peers and reproduced in tightly controlled environments whenever possible.

Science is without question the only method we have to determine what IS in the physical world. Religion can't do it. The "free market" has the potential to encourage curiosity but corporate charters often dictate that the bottom line takes precedent over all other considerations and therefore often provides a clear motive to play fast and loose with the truth. Comparing science with other disciplines when trying to determine what qualifies as physical reality is to deny both the legacy that science continues to leave (endless cures and inventions, etc.) and also to deny its most carefully wrought definition: "the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence."

Science is not one of many choices one has to consider when trying to decide what is credible in the physical world. Science is the very definition of that inquiry. We must restore dignity and respect to this institution. We must not allow the mainstream U.S. media to lump science in with the supernatural, the political, or the economic as if we had a number of equally plausible choices when trying to wade through the shallow sea of competing ideologies and special interests that may all be affected by the denouement of the climate change discussion. We do not. There is but one method to employ. It is the scientific method and no conclusion has any credibility without employing it.

January 25, 2011

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Oct 25, 2011
3:18 PM

Hey Luke, great article. Very relevant to whats happening today and some great insights. Have you ever considered starting a blog? I'd love to see more of your thoughts.

I just discovered your music on thesixtyone and I am blown away, you and Melissa performing killing time is murder on Canada AM has been my song of the week for over a month now!

I have one request for you guys, please come and tour out west!!

Mar 06, 2011
11:21 PM

An excellent post by Mr.Doucet. He makes the very salient point that regardless of political, economic or religious affiliation, it is absolute lunancy to willfully disregard scientific and empirical evidence of climate change.

Feb 03, 2011
1:48 PM

Absolute, Luke. While it’s true that research reveals new information every day, and no theory should be considered 100% absolute (maybe 99.9999%), I cannot understand how science is being viewed as just one school of thought. What’s the alternative to an evidence-based approach? Magic? In the absence of an explanation (read: climate change naysayers, peddlers of tinctures), I think I’m too often seeing exploitation.

Feb 02, 2011
12:25 PM

Excellent article Luke, and thank you for standing head and shoulders above other artists/public figures who fear that their stance on issues could alienate their audience.

Jan 25, 2011
9:58 PM

almost forgot…Happy Birthday Mr Suzuki! thanks for your work. Luke.

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