Climate change deniers: Killing off science

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This figure shows the history of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations as directly measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. This curve is known as the Keeling curve, and is an essential piece of evidence of the man-made increases in greenhouse gases that are believed to be the cause of global warming. - Graphic: Wikipedia

We need to stop talking about the science, and start implementing solutions, says Sonia Randhawa.

The planet is too hot. The Arctic has been on fire. Siberia has been on fire. Greenland’s ice sheet melted so much it raised the world’s oceans measurably in just one day. Yet, some people still deny that this carnage is happening.

And there are a number of reasons why – but none of them have anything to do with science.

The latest review of the science shows 99% of climate scientists – in their published, peer-reviewed papers – believe that people are causing climate crisis.

This latest paper follows other reviews of the science published in peer-reviewed papers showing between 97-100% support for the idea among climate scientists – that is, among those who know.

So why, why do some people seem to think the science is unresolved? It is not a mistake. It is deliberate. People are trying to deceive you, me, all of us.

And for decades this deception has been working. It works first because the science behind anthropogenic (human-caused) climate crisis is complex, multi-faceted and hard to understand. It also works because of how science works.

A good scientist is someone who points out what the flaws in the work might be, tries to take into account other possible theories for change, and points out directions for future work (same as any good academic, to be fair). They actively give people the weapons with which to beat them.

So the very first papers on climate change proposed a variety of causes beyond carbon emissions – variations in the sun, volcanic activity.

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Let me emphasise this – every single quack theory you’ve heard about climate change was originally proposed by the very people who first showed that the globe was warming.

Unlike the critics, they then went away to look further at the evidence. They asked how we can tell the difference between the climate changing because of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases and, say, volcanic activity. What they came up with were fingerprints for anthropogenic climate change.

What we see in the world today is consistent with only one of the theories proposed for climate crisis – that humanity is to blame.

None of the other theses make sense when you look at what is happening, say, for ocean temperature, ground-level temperature and temperature in the upper atmosphere. Not one.

Those who drive climate doubt – some of them are scientists, some of them prestigious ones at that, even if their careers as scientists ended last century – are in some cases the very same people who drove doubt on the link between cancer, heart disease and early death. They denied that nuclear weapons could cause nuclear winter. And they denied that persistent organic pesticides, like DDT, were harmful to people.

The problem isn’t the science. The problem is the politics. In each case, climate change deniers were concerned that taking action on the problem would lead to socialism. Really. Rather than admit that regulation is sometimes needed in any market-based system of allocation, they believed stopping people from poisoning others would be an attack on the ideal of liberty. They believed that only freedom-hating communists believe in telling the truth about cigarettes being cancer sticks.

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In response to my last article, a reader mentioned Al Gore’s mentor Roger Revelle, an extraordinary climate scientist who was among the first to study the climate crisis. Throughout his career, he studied the climate crisis and warned of the impact of inaction.

After he died, a non-peer reviewed, non-academic paper was published with Roger Revelle named as a co-author. We don’t know for certain what Revelle thought of the paper because Revelle died before it was published, and he had been ill for a few years prior to its publication. What we do know is that his closest colleague, Justin Lancaster, was and remains unhappy at how the issue was handled by Fred Singer, the lead author.

We have the scientific consensus. The case for action was made decades ago. We are seeing the results of our inaction today.

The real quibble we should have with scientists is that they didn’t predict just how fast our world would change. The permafrost is melting 70 times faster than they predicted. Greenland is melting 100 times faster.

Nobody knows how bad things are in the Antarctic time-bomb, but new research shows things there are bad. That’s a potential 58m of sea-level rise bad.

We need to stop talking about the science, and start implementing solutions. We need to stop emitting carbon as soon as possible, and we need to prepare for what happens to our country as the climate crisis worsens.

Further reading:

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Sonia Randhawa
Sonia recently completed a PhD on Malaysian media history and works on deepening democratic participation, working with the UK-based Sortition Foundation and the Australia-based Coalition of Everyone. She is a director of the Centre for Independent Journalism in Malaysia and has been active in Malaysian civil society for over two decades
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