Photo: Deniers are all over the map; climate realists all over the world

Polls and marches, demonstrations and citizen initiatives show that people want action. (Credit: Chris Yakimov via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

A little over a year ago, I wrote about a Heartland Institute conference in Las Vegas where climate change deniers engaged in a failed attempt to poke holes in the massive body of scientific evidence for human-caused climate change. I quoted Bloomberg News: "Heartland's strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck."

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A recent study came to a similar conclusion about contrarian "scientific" efforts to do the same. "Learning from mistakes in climate research," published in Theoretical and Applied Climatology, examined some of the tiny percentage of scientific papers that reject anthropogenic climate change, attempting to replicate their results.

In a Guardian article, co-author Dana Nuccitelli said their study found "no cohesive, consistent alternative theory to human-caused global warming." Instead, "Some blame global warming on the sun, others on orbital cycles of other planets, others on ocean cycles, and so on."

Nuccitelli and fellow researchers Rasmus Benestad, Stephan Lewandowsky, Katharine Hayhoe, Hans Olav Hygen, Rob van Dorland and John Cook note that about 97 per cent of experts worldwide agree on a cohesive, science-based theory of global warming, but those who don't "are all over the map, even contradicting each other. The one thing they seem to have in common is methodological flaws like cherry picking, curve fitting, ignoring inconvenient data, and disregarding known physics."

It's astounding and tragic that, with all the evidence — from volumes of scientific research to the very real effects we are experiencing everywhere — some people stubbornly refuse to believe there's a problem worth addressing. Sadder still: Many of them are political leaders.

Part of the problem is that fossil fuel interests spend enormous amounts of money to sow doubt and confusion, often by funding or setting up organizations like the Heartland Institute in the U.S., the Global Warming Policy Foundation in the U.K., Ethical Oil and Friends of Science in Canada and the International Climate Science Coalition, based in this country but affiliated with similar organizations in Australia and New Zealand and with close ties to Heartland. A number of industry-funded websites also promote fossil fuels at the expense of human life, including Climate Depot and Watts Up With That?

These secretive organizations rarely reveal funding sources, prey on the uninformed and ignorant, and blanket the media with opinion articles, letters to editors and comments, often referring to misleading charts and graphs and bogus "studies" from organizations with names that imply they're scientific when they're anything but. They're assisted by a compliant news media and politicians who also receive fossil fuel industry funding. It's likely the people behind these organizations know they're lying but care more about making money and preserving the lopsided benefits of a polluting sunset industry than finding ways to contribute to human health, well-being and survival.

Those who argue that seven billion people pumping massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere aren't having a serious negative impact are out to lunch.

Fortunately, most thinking people don't buy the lies. People from all sectors and walks of life — religious, academic, business, political, activist, social justice and citizenry — are calling for an urgent response to the greatest threat humanity faces. From Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama to Islamic scholars and Hindu, Sikh and Jewish leaders; from Volvo, Ikea and Apple to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Health Organization; from every legitimate scientific academy and institution to enlightened political leaders — all have warned about the serious nature of global warming and the urgent need to do something about it.

Polls and marches, demonstrations and citizen initiatives show that people want action. Yet, despite this tremendous recognition of the reality of our situation, governments have failed to come up with a legally binding, ambitious and universal climate agreement, thanks in part to efforts by countries like Canada, Japan and Australia to stall or water down agreements at economic summits and UN climate conferences.

As world leaders prepare for the December UN climate meeting in Paris, Canadians must impress upon all those who hope to govern us after October 19 the importance of making a positive contribution. As voters, we have the power to make a difference in this critical conversation. Let's exercise it.
September 3, 2015

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Sep 12, 2015
11:39 AM

I am not a scientist or a big time environmentalist, but just a regular guy with some thoughts. I don’t deny that mans use of carbon fuels probably contribute to global warming or climate change to some extent, but I have to wonder if it is as bad as some make it out to be. Firstly, I find it interesting that everyone who says the world is warming due to mans activity always conveniently forget to talk about the “Dirty Thirties.” A large portion of North America and elsewhere became a dust bowl due to extreme drought and high temperatures. Now this occurred at a time when the world population was much smaller and there was a only a small percentage of automobiles and factories in existence as compared to today. What was the cause of that? Was that global warming caused by man? I doubt it. What about all the volcanoes in the world that man has no control over? How many tons of pollution and greenhouse gas do they pump into the atmosphere in a day, let alone a year? What about all the forest fires, some of which are caused by man but the greatest proportion of which are caused by lightning? How much carbon pollution is produced by them as thousands and thousands of acres are burned in spite of mans efforts to fight them? What about all the rotting vegetation in the jungles and forests around the world? How much methane does that produce? Ever hear about swamp gas? Also, what about all the greenhouse gas that every living creature produces merely by existing? We all produce carbon dioxide when we breathe and don’t forget, we all pass wind whether we like it or not (including David Suzuki et al) , and that is once again-methane. I am sure that 7 billion plus people and billions and billions of cattle, horses and all other animals in the world produce a huge volume of gas. What are we supposed to do about that to stop hurting the environment? Commit mass suicide? Finally, the earth naturally goes through cycles of warming up and cooling down, and there is nothing we can do about that. The earth enters an ice age when certain conditions come together (re.The Milankovitch Astronomical Theory} and warms up when those conditions change. I have read that the amount of energy that man has used or created since the Industrial Revolution is like a stick of dynamite compared to a nuclear bomb in comparison to the amount of energy Mother Nature expends in just a just a day or two around the world. That I am inclined to believe. As I said before, I don’t deny that man is contributing to climate change to a small degree, but I don’t think it is on the catastrophic scale that some are making it out to be. We, in the western countries are being constantly bombarded that we have to cut down on our carbon use and are paying exorbitant prices for electricity foisted upon us in the governments plan to switch more and more to unreliable solar and wind power, but what good is it doing the worlds environment when the worlds largest polluters of the atmosphere like China and India don’t do their part and are in fact using more and more coal all the time?

Sep 04, 2015
8:07 PM

I find it very interesting that the title uses the word Deniers. I am an environmentalist and I do believe in climate change, but why is the focus always on fossil fuel when factory farming causes so much environmental harm. Why do I almost never see any mention of the benefits of a plant based diet in regards to the environment, and sustainability when it comes to food security for everyone. I see all sorts of compassion for wildlife but not so much towards the animals you put in your mouth. If you consume animal products you are not environmentally conscious nor are you compassionate towards animals who suffer a terrible hell for your taste buds. It is time to see this addressed by those who purport to be environmentalists. Deniers all over the world

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