David Suzuki: Science delivers repeated blows to deluded climate change deniers

It must be difficult, if not downright embarrassing, to be a climate change denier these days.

After all, the scientists they’ve attacked have been exonerated, London’s Sunday Times newspaper ran a retraction and apology for an article deniers were using to discredit climate change science, and more and more denier “experts” are being exposed as shills for industry or just disingenuous clowns. (Naomi Oreskes’s excellent book Merchants of Doubt offers insight into how the deniers operate.) Meanwhile, evidence that fossil fuel emissions contribute to dangerous climate change just keeps building.

We use the term deniers deliberately. People who deny overwhelming scientific evidence without providing any compelling evidence of their own and who remain steadfast in their beliefs even as every argument they propose gets shot down do not demonstrate the intellectual rigour to be called skeptics.

Meanwhile, evidence of the harm our fossil fuel addiction causes beyond climate change mounts every day, as oil spews into the Gulf of Mexico and as industry and governments spend huge sums of money to keep us hooked.

Let’s take a look at some recent events.

First, three independent investigations found that the unimaginatively named “climategate” was anything but the scandal or “nail in the coffin of anthropogenic global warming” that deniers claimed. Although the reports, the last of which was released in early July, found that East Anglia University climate scientists at the centre of the hacked emails brouhaha could have been more open about sharing data, their science was rigorous and sound.

And a review of criticisms of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s global assessment of climate change found that, despite “a very small number of near-trivial errors in about 500 pages,” the report contained “no errors that would undermine the main conclusions.” Yet another independent study supported Penn State University climatologist Michael Mann. Deniers have been attacking Prof. Mann’s research for years.

Another blow to the deniers’ arsenal came when London’s Sunday Times was forced in June to run a fulsome apology and retraction for an article it published in January questioning the findings of the IPCC report on rainfall changes in the Amazon. The Times admitted that it had misrepresented the views of climate researcher Simon Lewis and that, contrary to its article, the findings of the IPCC report were backed by peer-reviewed research.

As their arguments fall apart, deniers have stepped up their efforts, even going so far as to send hate mail and death threats to scientists who are working to ensure our survival in the face of the greatest danger we face.

And then we have the spectacle of the fossil fuel industry and petro-fuelled governments doing all they can to prolong our addiction to nonrenewable and polluting sources of energy as oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening bird, marine, and human life, as well as local economies.

Our federal government recently cancelled an 18-month investigation into tar sands pollution of water and destroyed all draft copies of the report. And Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach paid $55,800 to place a half-page ad in the Washington Post promoting tar sands oil and a pipeline to carry it to the U.S.—after the newspaper refused to publish his arguments on its opinion pages. Meanwhile, Premier Stelmach has joined with Alberta and federal government officials and oil industry representatives to promote tar sands oil in the U.S. and to water down any U.S. regulations that might reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Of course, the deniers will ignore the evidence. Nothing would please us more than if they were right. Life really would be easier if fossil fuels like oil and coal did not cause environmental damage or pose risks to life on our small planet. But this is the real world, with real scientific evidence pointing to the urgent need to make changes in the way we live and get energy.

We have many ways to confront the threat of catastrophic climate change, from individual efforts to conserve energy and pollute less to government initiatives to encourage research and development into clean energy technology.

It’s time to listen to the people who continue to look at the facts in the face of baseless accusations, break-ins, and threats. We need to listen to those are trying to do something about our predicament rather than wishing it away.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.




Jul 13, 2010 at 7:09pm

Whenever I see a comment by Suzuki, I shudder. Not because what he says is true, but because of the ego and one-sided opinion of this man. Don't believe me? Try and speak your differing opinion with this man in the room. See what happens.

Bill Bennett "eco fascists."

Jul 13, 2010 at 7:33pm

A B.C. Liberal cabinet minister who was forced to resign because of an impolitic email is in hot water again over another email calling some environmentalists "eco fascists."

The latest email was sent to constituents from B.C. Energy Minister Bill Bennett, urging that they push the federal government to reject a call to turn part of the Flathead Valley in southeastern B.C. into a national park.

The email referred to proponents of the park as, "urban-based enviros and eco-fascists."

In February 2007, Bennett sent a profanity-laced email to a constituent who had complained about the government.



Jul 13, 2010 at 10:48pm

Adibese - I am curious as to what you feel is worthy of debate. Do you feel the planet can handle far more GHG's than what scientists are saying? Do you believe the temperatures, if raised by even 2 degrees are insufficient to cause ecological collapse in many regions, given the stress burden they are under now?
Could it be that David Suzuki has for years been very patiently explaining things to people like yourself (who either don't get it or refuse to), and has simply decided enough is enough? Take some life science courses and stop wasting everyone's time. The situation is very urgent now, so do research on your own time.

BC or BP?

Jul 14, 2010 at 11:20am

"BP explores B.C. coal methane reserves
Demonstration planned for Fernie to protest tests"

Unfettered bu the B.C. Liberals, BP has set up its first test well in B.C. to explore the possibility of extracting methane from coal in the Rocky Mountains of the province's southeast.


Francis King

Jul 14, 2010 at 11:42am

"Don't believe me? Try and speak your differing opinion with this man in the room."

Well, I'll give it a bash.

"...as oil spews into the Gulf of Mexico..."

That's not climate change, though. It is the failure of regulators to understand that technology is in one of three stages.

1 - Sorry, we don't know how to do that
2 - Yes, we know how to do that. What do you mean, "What happens if it goes wrong?"
3 - We know how to make it work, and how to fix it if it goes wrong.

Oil production in deep waters, with a column of water a mile high above their heads, and each m3 weighing a tonne definitely comes under stage 2. If they had fitted a secondary mechanical valve closer to the surface to shut off the oil, instead of relying on just one anti-blowout valve on the seabed, the oil leak would not have happened. Stage 2 is where the arrogance is to be most often found.

"found that East Anglia University climate scientists at the centre of the hacked emails brouhaha could have been more open about sharing data, their science was rigorous and sound."

The scientists are still relying too heavily on computer models. I am a transport planner. Transport, like the climate, is a complex thing. Some of of the commercially available transport models are either wrong (so you have to work around things) or are simplistic. These are commercial models, not climate change one-offs which will have more errors and more simplifications, and fewer people checking their code. I am exceptionally sceptical of scientists who program computers rather than getting out in the fresh air - and who then preach the truth that their computer told them about.

Forget climate catastrophe. I want an explanation that stacks up for ALL of the temperature changes that are observed. Once we have this, then we can make an informed decision on what to do next. This cannot be done by programming complex computer models, but rather by old-fashioned statistical analysis. I want to know how all of the climate inputs affect the temperature without someone declaring that this or that particular input is irrelevant. Sun spots is a good example of this.

"to ensure our survival in the face of the greatest danger we face."

People are dying of things like malaria right now. Or car 'accidents'. Or breaches of health and safety regulations at work. These are real and present dangers. We know why they happen, and what to do about it - and very little concern is evident in most quarters. By contrast, climate science is in a very early stage of development, and to claim, therefore, that it is the greatest danger that we face is a claim that takes a bit more evidence to substantiate, particularly in view of the very real dangers that we already face. The general public knows little of climate change, or transport planning either, but they have a good idea of whether what they are being told is true or not, and a lot of people don't buy the theories of climate change that they are being sold. That should give the scientists pause for thought.

Tom Harris

Jul 14, 2010 at 12:10pm

I only read as far as "more and more denier “experts” are being exposed as shills for industry or just disingenuous clowns."

Are all the following just non-experts who are just "shills for industry or just disingenuous clowns"? I don't see a fruit fly geneticist among them - they all professionally study the causes of climate change:


This letter to the editor concerning the one time I tried to discuss science with DS should interest readers: http://tinyurl.com/10yc
Tom Harris
Executive Director
International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)
P.O. Box 23013
Ottawa, Ontario
K2A 4E2


Jeff M

Jul 14, 2010 at 1:13pm

It isn't very hard to understand that yes, indeed a rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration does indeed have an effect on the temperature. Pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 stood at roughly 280 parts per million. That has today risen to over 390 parts per million. Kirchoff's Law of Thermal Radiation states that ever object of non-zero temperature emits radiation. Earth, being a black body, absorbs all radiation that strikes it. When a greenhouse gas absorbs radiation half of what is absorbed is released back towards the surface of the Earth where it is again re-absorbed and the process continues. With a steady source of radiation, the Sun, in addition to an increased downward radiation, see Kaicun Wang 'Global atmospheric downward longwave radiation over land surface under all-sky conditions from 1973 to 2008' 2009, the surface of the planet has to heat up. To ignore this is to ignore basic laws of physics and heat transfer.

It is estimated from various surveys and the study of academic journals that over 90%, probably closer to 98%, of active climatologists know that an increased absorption and emission of infrared radiation as a result of an increase in greenhouse gases will increase the heat content of the troposphere. Mr Harris's links above, looking past the external links to sites people like Anthony Watts, the failed meteorologist/television weather man, has a list of core principals that have largely been debunked already yet they continue to show themselves.

Albert Jacobs

Jul 14, 2010 at 1:18pm

The first thing Suzuki has to learn is to stop throwing ad hominem descriptions around. I know many sceptics in the climate field, but I do not know any that would "deny climate change". The label is wrong, inappropriate and insulting.
Second, none of the three UK panels/committees etc to investigate ClimateGate did actually look at the science, only behaviour of the CRU club members.
Third, Suzuki avoids discussing the various controversies in Climate Science. He talks about impacts based on sets of computer predictions of simulations of worst case scenarios. The input parameters of the scenarios are unproven assumptions, which includes the relationship between CO2 and Temperature.
He asks his opponents to prove their case. The IPCC has never proven its own, which is based on an 1896 paper by Arrhenius (who discounted his own earlier conclusions ten years later).
Why do we insist in spending untold billions of dollars worldwide to counteract a trace gas, which helps vegetation growth, but has not proven to affect temperature in any material way?
More than 80% of our atmosphere's Greenhouse is water vapour. It is our planet's thermostat.

Arnold does not buy it

Jul 14, 2010 at 1:19pm

"More cold water on BC’s bid to sell IPP ”˜renewable’ energy to California"

Gordon Campbel's B.C. Liberals sell off of our rivers to private run of river power producers is not considered "green" by the state of California and therefor will not be purchased.

So we are stuck paying exorbitant prices via our tax dollars to private run of river power producers while at the same time destroying our rivers.