From the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal:
By Graham Thomson, The Edmonton Journal May 25, 2010
Have you noticed something new in the air over climate change? And not just increasing amounts of greenhouse gases.
It's a crackle of electricity. A new resolve. It's coming from climate scientists who are finally speaking out forcefully against those who deny or distort the science of human-induced climate change.
It's about time. For too long, scientists had detached themselves from the public debate to concentrate on their academic work or to avoid vicious attacks by the deniers throwing up red herrings such as the Climategate scandal (a scandal that has been debunked by two British investigations that concluded "the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly").
Whether sequestered in an ivory tower or locked in a bunker mentality, scientists were too often absent. Now, they are reclaiming their place in the debate by defending themselves and their work, and urging action.
Recently, the journal Science published a letter from more than 250 members of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences which included 11 Nobel Prize laureates to condemn "the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular."
To skeptics who maintain the spurious argument that there is no scientific consensus, the scientists wrote: "There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action."
In Canada, scientists are publishing calls to arm in professional journals such as the Bulletin for the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, where author Geoff Strong -- an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta -- points out climate-change skeptics do not perform any original scientific research but "promote an ideology" and he argues the "failure of the scientific community to effectively counteract this ideology through the same public media has unintentionally contributed to the skeptics' cause."
In Alberta, we're seeing the province speak out more forcefully on the need to deal with climate change -- well, as forcefully as the Conservative government ever speaks out on environmental issues dealing with fossil fuels.
"The issue of climate change and greenhouse gases is of fundamental importance to Albertans," Premier Ed Stelmach said in Calgary recently. "Sticking one's head in the sand and refusing to take action and blaming scientific scandals as an excuse for moving backward is not leadership."
In a letter to the editor this spring, Wildrose Alliance MLA Rob Anderson used the name of one of Canada's leading climate experts at the University of Victoria to claim that "Dr. Andrew Weaver and hundreds of other climate scientists . . . say that although man is likely affecting the climate, the extent of that effect has been exaggerated."
There was a time Weaver might have ignored the misuse of his name or a twisting of facts. Not now.
"I find the statement that I and 'and hundreds of other climate scientists' believe man's effect on climate is 'exaggerated' to be very odd indeed," responded Weaver. "I think a better statement would be directly taken from page 28 of my book Keeping our Cool: Canada in a Warming World . . . 'As I have said to my friends and colleagues many times before: People have simply no idea how serious this issue is.' To put it bluntly, I think if anything, hundreds of other climate scientists would agree with me that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report of 2007 was likely overly conservative in its assessment."
In other words, Weaver and hundreds of other climate scientists think the problem is much worse than they initially thought.
"Society has two choices," say the 250 letter-writing scientists with the National Academies of Sciences. "We can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option."
By speaking out more forcefully and clearly, scientists are helping refocus the debate from "is man-made climate change real?" to "what can we do about it?" They're performing an invaluable service -- they're helping clear the air.
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This Blog is designed to be a Diary of Events illustrating Global Climate Change, and where it will lead.
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