Rational thought needed in climate talk

"The only constant about climate is change. It is has been changing since the Earth formed and will continue to change..."

David Suzuki implied that I am a “climate-change denier” (We ignore scientists at our own peril, Trail Times June 20). I deny that. So I am a denial denier.

The only constant about climate is change. It is has been changing since the Earth formed and will continue to change until the planet is eventually enveloped by the Sun in the distant future. Thoughtful readers will likely conclude that Suzuki’s denier label is merely an attempt to discredit scientists who disagree with him about the causes of climate change instead of rationally debating the issue.

I also deny that climate science is settled. Climate experts know that the science is highly immature. We are in a period of “negative discovery,” in that the more we learn, the more we realize we do not know. Rather than “remove the doubt,” as Al Gore advocates, we must recognize the doubt in this, arguably the most complex science ever tackled.

The confidence expressed by Gore and Suzuki is due to a belief in what professors Chris Essex (University of Western Ontario) and Ross McKitrick (University of Guelph) call the “Doctrine of Certainty”. This doctrine is “a collection of now familiar assertions about climate that are to be accepted without question” (Taken by Storm, 2007).

Essex and McKitrick explain, “But the Doctrine is not true. Each assertion is either manifestly false or the claim to know is false. Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.”

Creating rational policy in the face of such uncertainty is challenging. So we need climate experts to speak freely without fear of retribution regardless of their points of view. Suzuki must help this come about by engaging in constructive behaviour, not further poisoning the debate.

Tom HarrisExecutive Director, International Climate Science CoalitionOttawa, Ont.