Letter: Climate change history lesson

In his latest column, Tom Fletcher labelled the science of climate change as “religious dogma”

In his latest column, Tom Fletcher labelled the science of climate change as “religious dogma” and suggested we study “actual history” instead of “fashionable climate theories.”

Here’s some actual history:

– 1896: Nobel Laureate Svante Arrhenius predicted that doubling CO2 over pre-industrial levels will increase global temperature by 5 degrees (120 years later the consensus is 2-4C; pre-industrial = 280ppm, current = 410ppm).

– 1981: Atmospheric physicist James Hansen: “Potential effects on climate in the 21st century include the creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia as part of a shifting of climatic zones, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.” — Consistent with intense wildfires in B.C., massive drought in California, receding glaciers here and in central Asia, a Delaware-sized iceberg breaking off Antarctica last year and, yes, the opening of the Northwest Passage.

– 1988: There was too much climate science for governments to digest. So, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created to review all the climate theories and provide a middle-of-the-road analysis that governments could use to set policy.

– May 2018: David Schwietert, VP of federal government relations at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers: “Automakers remain committed to increasing fuel efficiency requirements, which yield everyday fuel savings for consumers while also reducing emissions — because climate change is real and we have a continuing role in reducing greenhouse gases and improving fuel efficiency”

It’s amazing those climate theories are still fashionable after so many years.

Tom Fletcher is offended that “debate is not tolerated” and that climate change dismissives are told that the “science is settled”. I am not sure that he understands how science works. Science is never settled and there is a great deal of ongoing, productive debate.

Some things that climate scientists are NOT debating are:

– That humans are generating lots of CO2. We put 2.3 kg (or a little over a cubic meter) of CO2 in the atmosphere per litre of gas we burn. That’s grade school chemistry and math.

– That the amount we generate is enough to significantly increase global concentrations. Again, just basic math, but also confirmed by decades of CO2 measurements made all over the world.

– That this increase in CO2 will alter our climate. Hard evidence may not come in for decades, but we understand the chemistry well enough now and there is plenty of evidence that our climate is changing.

What they ARE debating is exactly what the effects of climate change will be, how severe they will be and how soon they will occur. The science is complex and there are models which provide wide-ranging results. As Tom said, new evidence continues to come in. That is why the IPCC exists: summarize ALL those results into a kind of average that governments can use to set policy.

What I am saying, is that climate scientists just aren’t debating Tom Fletcher. Maybe they heard what George Carlin said about arguing. Or maybe its that Tom Fletcher simply hasn’t stated a clear position that is worth debating. Phrases like “the arrogance of university climate experts” and “the pile of failed forecasts” come from an ideology, not an informed opinion.

If Tom’s column swayed your opinion, please remember that. Remember it just in case, one day, something makes you believe the scientific consensus on climate change. Maybe it will be a few more years of terrible, unseasonal forest fires, or maybe Florida being partially submerged, or maybe your snorkelling vacation featuring nothing but jellyfish over a dead reef. Who knows. Just remember that its Tom Fletcher’s fault that you chose to dismiss climate change for so long.

Danny Kermode

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