Keeping House: Climate change and the skeptics: Part 1

"As a rule, we can say that climate change skeptics are a minority."

As a rule, we can say that climate change skeptics are a minority, at least those with academic credentials in atmospheric physics, climatology, meteorology or related scientific disciplines.

One scientific body that reviews climate change literature is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC is composed of over 2,000 atmospheric scientists from every major country.  IPCC members are volunteers appointed by the United Nations to review scientific literature regarding global climatic change.  As scientists, they are by nature, very conservative in their conclusions.

By 1995, the IPCC concluded there was strong scientific evidence that human activities were affecting global climate, a position affirmed more strongly in subsequent IPCC reports.  In 2001, the panel stated unequivocally that human activities are having detectable effects on Earth’s climate, on the atmosphere and the Earth’s water.  It said that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse-gas concentrations.

The fifth IPCC report, released earlier this year, was even more forceful in concluding that human activities and specifically the emission of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, are causing a rise in atmospheric temperature, a rise in ocean temperature, and a rise in ocean activity.

In 2001, the US National Academy of Sciences confirmed, “greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.

The IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to this increase in greenhouse-gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue.”

There was another climate change skeptic, Naomi Oreskes, a University of California scientist.  She examined a major database maintained by the Institute for Scientific Information which indexes scientific articles published globally in more than 8,500 scientific journals.  She found that between 1993 and 2003 there were 928 articles on global climatic change published by scientists with academic credentials in atmospheric physics, climatology, meteorology or related disciplines.

None of the articles disagreed with the existence of global climate change, nor its cause being an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels.  In scientific circles, there is no debate on the reality of global climate change.  Needless to say, she is no longer a skeptic.

The economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, was commissioned by the British Prime Minister to review the scientific literature on global climatic change and consider its economic consequences.  His findings were published in 2006.

He too supported the IPCC and every other scientific body that studies atmospheric physics, climatology and meteorology.  Stern warned of the consequences to human health, the risk to human life, property and the environment, if we do not act to minimize the effects of global climatic change.

In light of the urgency, it is extremely disappointing to see that Prime Minister Harper chose not to attend the Summit on Climate Change that took place in September in New York.

It would seem to me that Canada should be engaged at every possible level to combat the effects of climate change.  The fact that our Prime Minister was not among the 125 world leaders present at the Summit sends a message that Canada is not really interested in this issue.

Of course, this begs the question, could it be that the Prime Minister really is a Climate Change skeptic?

Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior

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