People who deny the reality of human-caused global warming are wetting their pants over the illegal theft and release of emails from scientists at the East Anglia Climate Research Unit. In their desperation, the deniers claim the emails point to a global conspiracy by the world's scientists and government leaders to... Well, it's hard to say what they believe the conspiracy is about. A letter to a Vancouver newspaper some time ago indicates the way many of them think. The writer claimed that people working to address global warming "are ideological zealots pursuing a quasi-religious socialist agenda to command and control western economies".
It would be funny if it didn't echo the thinking of so many people — even some in influential positions in government and industry — and if the situation weren't so critical.
Sadly for the deniers and for all of us, the emails don't show that global warming is a grand hoax or conspiracy. They do nothing to diminish the decades of overwhelming scientific evidence that the Earth is not only warming largely because of emissions from burning fossil fuels but that it's worse than we thought. Recently, 26 scientists from Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, the U.S., and Australia released a report showing that the impacts of global warming are occurring faster and are more widespread than other reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had projected.
The report, titled The Copenhagen Diagnosis, summarized the most recent research from around the world, which shows that Arctic sea ice is melting faster than we thought, that both Greenland and Antarctica are losing more ice than predicted, and that sea levels are rising more quickly than anticipated. The scientists conclude that the Earth could reach several "tipping points" if we keep pumping emissions into the atmosphere at the same rate.
The report also quashes the myth of "global cooling" that has been "promoted by lobby groups and picked up in some media." The report's authors conclude that "even the highly 'cherry-picked' 11-year period starting with the warm 1998 and ending with the cold 2008 still shows a warming trend of 0.11 °C per decade."
It's astounding that those who deny that climate change exists or that it is human-caused, either out of self-interest or ignorance, are willing to see some grand conspiracy in a handful of stolen emails but are unwilling to see the undeniably clear evidence of the impacts of climate change already occurring around the world.
Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, world leaders are dragging their heels in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate summit this month. As University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver notes, in abandoning the idea of reaching a binding agreement in Copenhagen, world leaders are essentially saying that they don't believe they owe anything to our children and grandchildren.
Unfortunately, Canada has a poor record on climate change and international negotiations to address the problem. Our government argues that the economy takes precedence over the environment. It's incredibly short-sighted to think that a healthy economy can be maintained when the health of the planet is failing. And it's absurd to pin our economic hopes on extracting limited supplies of dirty fossil fuels in a world that is increasingly switching to cleaner forms of energy.
Our prime minister wasn't even planning to attend the Copenhagen summit until U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he was going. Canadians citizens can take some credit for the prime minster's about-face. He is said to have reconsidered in part because of a recent Angus Reid poll that indicated most Canadians want him to attend.
Beyond the poll, hundreds of thousands of Canadians have told the government that we must work toward an agreement that is fair, ambitious, and binding. And 3,000 scientists recently sent an open letter urging the government "to negotiate an outcome that will rapidly and adequately address climate change".
One of the strongest messages came from a coalition of representatives from the developing world, Commonwealth secretary-general Kamalesh Sharma, former U.K. international development secretary Clare Short, climate scientist Saleemul Huq, and British environment and development groups. They argue that Canada should be suspended from the Commonwealth for ignoring the impact of climate change on the world's poorest countries.
Our leaders have a historic opportunity in Copenhagen to address the most serious crisis that humanity has faced. As citizens, we have the responsibility to let them know that we expect them to act.