“From Shell’s point of view, the debate (on climate change) is over. When 98 per cent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, ‘Let’s debate the science’?” — John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil
A few weeks ago, a brother-in-law on my sister’s side of the family mailed me a book called Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them. Luckily, he didn’t give it to me in person. And luckily, he doesn’t read the Advocate.
But I at least went through the index and looked for some actual science. The science was scarce, but there was an awful lot on the evils of big government and how Al Gore is a hypocrite for living in a big mansion.
Ho Hum. Tell me something I don’t know.
The only mention of science that I did find related to the infamous “hockey stick” issue that the climate change skeptics love to bring up.
It relates to the fact that it’s not terribly easy to figure out exactly how warm the world was 500 years ago (duh!).
We do have some proxy measurements, such as the thickness of tree rings in 1,000-year-old Bristlecone Pines. And there are the oxygen isotope ratios from air bubbles trapped in the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. But unfortunately, there weren’t any meteorologists taking accurate temperature notes when Columbus was stepping off the boat.
So, the reasoning goes, if 100 per cent of scientists can’t be 100 per cent sure that temperatures weren’t warmer than they are now, then maybe the planet gets warmer on a regular cycle.
And if the planet gets warmer on a regular cycle, then maybe the warming in the latter half of the 20th century has nothing to do with the billions of tons of CO2 and methane that 6.7 billion humans pump into the atmosphere each year. And if the current warming has nothing to do with us, then maybe we can keep on driving our Hummers half a block to pick up a few doughnuts and a coffee.
That’s an awful lot of if’s and maybe’s. I suspect that the people who are desperate enough to grab on to that story are the same people who don’t have a good grasp of the notion of insurance.
Luckily, there are a lot of other people who do.
The CIA and the FBI, for example. Along with 14 other U.S. intelligence agencies, they formed the National Intelligence Assessment (NIA), which warned that the negative economic and environmental effects associated with climate change would be likely to cause havoc in many nations.
Wars could then easily result, causing major disruptions in global trade. The Pentagon, in a separate report, talked about “ . . . a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment.” (i.e. say goodbye to a billion or so fellow humans).
Then there’s the business community. The U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) came out with a report called A Call to Action, which calls for government imposed carbon emission caps on their own industries. USCAP is made up of Shell, General Motors, General Electric, Alcoa, Dupont, Caterpillar, Pepsico, Deere & Company, and 17 other equally huge and well-known corporations.
And then there’s the scientific community. How much more ink do I have to waste detailing what the National Academy of Sciences (with about one in 10 of its members having won Nobel Prizes) thinks about climate change?
Or what about the thinking on the subject by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (with 144,000 members, being the largest scientific society in the world)?
But I guess if someone doesn’t have a good handle on science or economics or how insurance works, then they will desperately grab on to any red herring that is available.
So what to do?
In the case of my brother-in-law, I’ll be sending him a copy of Greg Craven’s book called What’s the Worst that Could Happen? (likely the best recent book on the subject).
And in case he has been filling my nieces’ and nephews’ heads with garbage, I’ll let them know about Craven’s videos on YouTube (last count: over seven million views).
Evan Bedford is a local environmentalist. Direct comments, questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.