Tom Fletcher’s recent column Making Sense of Climate Policy (Terrace Standard, May 31, 2018) appears to be another ill-informed attempt to continue the “doubt is our product” strategy of delaying public action toward ameliorating the accumulating effects of climate change.
With unsupported certainties reminiscent of the style of Donald Trump, Fletcher refers to “the arrogance of university climate experts,” who (he suggests) aren’t right even “once in a while.” Of course, sitting in Victoria’s legislative press gallery is a much more reliable route to understanding the complexities of geoclimatic dynamics than actually gathering climate data from all over the planet and spending your life studying it, modelling it, and interpreting what kinds of hazards the data suggest. Arrogance?
Without reference to any source, Fletcher claims that “a dwindling minority” are convinced that human influence on the climate (through CO2 emissions) is “settled.” That must be why corporations and national decision-makers around the world are moving rapidly into renewables. Wal-Mart has begun a long-term plan to power all its stores by renewable energy. Major automobile manufacturers are scrambling to improve battery technology to solve electric vehicle range issues. Volkswagen just invested $40 billion to electrify their product line between now and 2022. Volvo will build only electric and hybrid electric vehicles beginning in 2019. And China is moving faster than any other nation (except perhaps Norway) into the electrification of its vehicle fleet. (These are merely some of the dimwits of the dwindling minority.)
Fletcher’s contempt for science would be a bad joke if it weren’t so appalling. While everyone has the right to an opinion, no one has the right to be wrong about the facts. Unfortunately, the facts indicate that very dangerous things are going on with Earth’s geoclimatic system.
NASA scientists (yes, those “arrogant” ignoramuses who managed to take humans to the moon and back) also study climate. They’ve found that:
• Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been in 400,000 years, and they’re steadily rising.
• Global average temperatures in 2017 were 1.62 degrees F warmer than the global average mean between 1950 and 1980. (According to their web-site, NASA’s analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations.)
• Every month after February 1985, the average global temperature has been warmer than normal — 400 months in a row.
• Warming melted 303 gigatons (303 billion tons) of ice from the Greenland Ice Sheet in 2014 alone, enough to fill a swimming pool 6 billion meters long (the distance to the moon and back 16 times). How will this water contribute to sea level rise, one might ask?
Average citizens may have a limited understanding of planetary geochemistry, but ignorance of climate change mechanisms does not mean there is no threat any more than the ignorance of quantum mechanics means that atomic theory is a fraud. The appearance of a flat horizon does not mean the Earth is flat, either.
While forecasting the future in detail is problematic, interpreting trends as to the threat of their likely outcomes is a responsible and critical task. Even Fletcher has the grace to acknowledge that “two years is not a trend.” Perhaps he’d also be willing to examine in detail some of the longer-term changes that have climate scientists so alarmed.