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While Rome burns

By Andrew Glikson
Created 25/03/2009 - 12:16


While Rome burns: The war against science
Andrew Glikson [0]
Earth and paleo-climate scientist
Australian National University


With carbon cap-and-trade legislation now on Washington’s agenda, companies and interest groups have been hiring lobbyists at a feverish pace. For every member of Congress, there are now four climate lobbyists [1], many of them hoping to derail or water down the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In doing so, such climate lobbyists ignore statements by the UK Hadley Met [2] that the consequences of 5.5°C warming by 2100, which are "likely" on our current emissions path, are “all but unimaginable [3]– mass extinction, devastating ocean acidification, brutal summer-long heat waves, rapidly rising sea levels, widespread desertification"

According to the UN Environmental Program's newly released 2009 Year Book and a separate World Bank report presented throughout Latin America (23 February, 2009), the planet is quickly approaching the tipping point for abrupt climate changes [4], perhaps within a few years. The UN agency warns that urgent action is needed to avoid catastrophic climate events, including major food and water shortages, shifts in weather patterns, and destabilization of "major ice sheets that could introduce unanticipated rates of sea level rise within the 21st century."

The biological consequences of runaway climate change [5] are only beginning to be understood (see here for more on “global weirding [6]”).

In the wake of decades of an ever-diminishing window of opportunity to mitigate the worse effects of global warming, the western world’s top science advisors, including John Holdren [7] and Penny Sackett [8], Australia’s chief science adviser, are not mincing words [9] regarding the global climate disruption [10]. On her return from the Copenhagen climate congress, Penny Sackett stated:

"The newest science is crucial because some elements of the global climate are now changing at a rate considerably faster than previously thought." and “If they do not act, if we do not act, and act quickly and decisively, the effects will be devastating [11]"

Which hardly discourage a well financed shadowy army of denialists [12] from continuing to try and saw doubts: (“ Doubt is our product [13]”) through the media and intensive lobbying. A plethora of websites [14]disseminates untruths, misconceptions, conspiracy theories [15] AND ad-hominem, repeating accusations of scientists as “alarmists” ad-infinitum and comparing environmentalists to “ Nazis [16]”.

Denialists use spurious arguments which betray ignorance of basic physics and chemistry. They misunderstand the difference between weather and the climate, and focus on individual cooling phases or annual climate variations rather than decade-scale climate changes.

Some claim climate change does not exist, or is caused by the sun (precise measurements of solar radiation disprove this theory), or by cosmic rays (which enhance clouding). Some invoke water vapor (a feedback effect). Some point to the lag of CO2 rises behind temperatures during glacial age terminations (which arises from the dominant warming role of ice melt to open water, absorbing solar radiation).Others claim warming occurs on other planets and is thus of extraterrestrial origin (no inter-planetary connection is known), or due to geothermal rise (the main connection with climate is through volcanic eruptions). Lately, based on the La Nina cooling phase since 2007, some claim global cooling (would have been nice). There are those who say climate has always changed, so why worry now (there were no humans then to generate, nor suffer from, the consequences).

Attempts have been made to penetrate and change on-line encyclopedias [17]. As in the film The Great Global Climate Swindle, in some cases the critical data are simply deleted [18]. It would appear the only ideology “climate skeptics” share is the promotion of the open ended use of the atmosphere as sewage for carbon gases.

Backed by powerful vested interests, publishing in politically friendly media, provides a golden opportunity to gain public exposure and air grudges against science and scientists. A hallmark of “climate change skeptics” is a reluctance to engage in direct public discussions with climate scientists [19].

There is little evidence the “climate change skeptics” worry too much their misunderstanding of climate science may lead to the death of billions and the likely demise of civilization [20] . The legal status of disinformation campaigns [21] aimed at the promotion of substances of proven fatal global consequences, such as ozone-destroying CFCs, or greenhouse gas levels pushed up to near-40% above their natural level, is unclear. The lack of suitable laws to prevent ecocide may yet prove to be the Achilles heel of global civilization.

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