Debate needed on climate

Hmm. Where have I heard that name before? Now I remember: according to sourcewatch.org, the ICSC was known for receiving huge gobs of cash from the Heartland Institute, a group so thoroughly devoid of ethics that it launched a billboard campaign associating climate science with terrorism. And when the public revulsion started to flow in (and corporate donors fled the scene), it stuck to its guns, stating “…the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

“…Stephen Harper could order open public hearings about the science of climate change, inviting the country’s leading experts on both sides of the debate to testify.”

— Tom Harris, executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition

Hmm. Where have I heard that name before? Now I remember: according to sourcewatch.org, the ICSC was known for receiving huge gobs of cash from the Heartland Institute, a group so thoroughly devoid of ethics that it launched a billboard campaign associating climate science with terrorism. And when the public revulsion started to flow in (and corporate donors fled the scene), it stuck to its guns, stating “…the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

And what did Harris do? He continued to write articles for them, the most recent being on Dec. 5.

But I digress. Harris has stated that he would like to see the nation’s top climate scientists debate the issue. The problem is, he might have a problem finding such scientists who are on his side of the issue. But there are a few.

I know this because I searched the Internet, using the term “Canadian climate scientists.” And I found a site by Jim Prall (a senior systems programmer for the University of Toronto Press) that lists all 259 of them. Of that total, 223 of them have PhDs, and most of the rest have more letters behind their names than you or I. Prall has done an astonishing amount of research, finding out when each of them received their degree, from where, and in what field. He has also listed how many scientific papers they’re written on climate change, and how many citations they’ve had from other scientists in other papers.

But perhaps the most interesting category that Prall has amassed is the one showing which letters and petitions to which prime ministers these scientists have signed. Some of them have signed letters urging swift action on climate change, and others have signed letters urging little or no action on climate change.

Two things immediately stand out when looking at the list of 259 scientists. One is that a significant majority of them (64 per cent) have signed letters urging government action on climate change, whereas only 18 per cent of them have signed letters urging head-in-the-sand policies.

But that’s only part of the story.

When you look at which scientists have written the most scientific papers on climate, it is the 64 per cent that has really been studying the issue.

Most of them have published at least 45 papers on the subject, with Andrew Weaver from the University of Victoria having published an astounding 571.

Compare that to the head-in-the-sand crowd. Most of them have published less than five papers on the subject, with 13 of them having each published exactly zero papers.

So why are they even on the list?

I guess because they’re scientists and they figure that one more signature on a letter to Stephen Harper can somehow make up for the fact that they seem to have barely a clue about the subject in question.

Now I grant you that some members of the group that I have just disparaged have indeed done a lot of studying and writing on the matter. Vaclav Smil from the University of Manitoba, for example (an author who I respect and have on my bookshelf) has published 69 papers on the subject. But he is in the very tiny minority.

And as yet, he hasn’t won any Nobel Prizes for overturning 189 years of climate science. And he probably never will, since he had long ago stated the rather inconvenient “…increased concentrations of greenhouse gases will most likely increase surface temperature.”

So even though he and Andrew Weaver wound up on opposite sides of the letter campaigns, they both have one important thing in common: an honest interest in science.

Oh, and they have one more thing in common. Unlike Harris, neither of them has ever waded into the vile nonsense that is ironically known as the Heartland Institute.

Evan Bedford is a local environmentalist. Direct comments, questions and suggestions to wyddfa23@telus.net. Visit the Energy and Ecology website at www.evanbedford.com.

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