I recently attended a fascinating and informative talk by Tom Harris, director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), delivered at a branch of the Ottawa Public Library. The lecture was, in part, framed as a response to a presentation held the week before by Dave Rhynas, an Al Gore-trained speaker, who followed the warmist party line faithfully. As Harris wrote afterward about it in a circulating email, “The talk was very ‘canned,’ no significant new material from what we are all used to hearing from Gore, so it would have been very easy to take it apart scientifically” — which is precisely what Harris proceeded to do during his subsequent presentation.
Harris is a genial and soft-spoken man, carrying the heft of his encyclopedic knowledge of climate science with effortless good humor and a reluctance to traffic in mere polemics. He weighed both sides of the argument with scrupulous fairness and conceded that many of those on the other shore of the climate divide approach the subject with undoubted moral concern, though not, regrettably, with scientifically valid objectivity. Harris is always willing to give the benefit of the doubt respecting the ethical character of his opponents, even when it is not entirely warranted. His adversary, I’m sorry to say, who sat in the audience two chairs down the row from me, was the polar opposite: dour, grim, portentously solemn in his demeanor, patently disapproving, interrupting more than once, listening as if he were painfully unwilling to listen and taking copious notes as if he were stockpiling ammunition. The body language and general comportment of the two men spoke volumes; one, accommodating and engaging, the other, stiff and piliated, as if underscoring the difference in their philosophies.
Harris’s main point is that the science is far from settled and that if we were honest with ourselves and wished to approach the subject with scientific rigor and impartiality, we would have to modestly agree, in his own words, that “the more we learn, the more we realize that we just do not know. Climate change and extreme weather have always happened and always will, no matter what we do. Perhaps instead of trying to stop it from occurring, we need to adapt and promote a sensible approach to a range of energy and environmental topics.” We plainly need “to learn more about the vast uncertainties in the field of climate change and discuss sensible policy actions.”
Uncertainty, however, is not synonymous with confusion or ignorance. We do not know everything or even enough, but we still know a fair amount about climate realities, as Harris’s discourse made clear. We know the long history of climatological variations, the many different factors that impinge upon and largely account for vast fluctuations in weather over the centuries and millennia, and the response of the scientific community, often, it must be said, disingenuous and repressive, to the data at its disposal.
We know, via proxies like ice core samples, fossil remains, marine specimens, temperature-dependent remanence measurements, as well as historical documents, etc., that there were periods in history when the earth was significantly warmer than it is today, though human beings were not pumping CO2 into the atmosphere — CO2 levels during the Ordovician Age 440 million years ago were ten times higher than they are at present and happened to coincide with an ice age; closer to home, during the Medieval Warm Period the Scandinavians farmed Greenland and in the Roman Warm Period olive groves flourished in Germany. We know that the Northwest Passage was open during the early part of the 20th century and that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, as recounted in his The North West Passage, navigated the strait between 1903 and 1906. (Its “gates” have been “forced…ajar,” he writes, and “traced from end to end by one ship’s keel” — his own.)
We know that solar activity is a primary driver of climate change. We know that temperatures have stabilized since 1998 and may possibly have declined by a fraction of a degree, and that we are currently in what is defined as an “interglacial” — and in fact, temperatures recorded at the American base at the south pole show it to be colder today than when the base was established over 50 years ago. We know, as Harris explained, that there is no “hotspot” in the troposphere, indicating that an increased greenhouse effect cannot be a cause of global warming.
We know, too, that Michael Mann’s celebrated “hockey stick” graphs depicting an abrupt spike in temperatures in the recent era are fraudulent and are in process of being retired; that computer models are notoriously unreliable and are unable even to retrodict the past; that temperature reading stations are both too few and egregiously misplaced, often in urban areas and near man-made structures that capture or produce heat, thus recording misleading data; and that the media contention that the majority of the world’s scientists are firm adherents of the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) thesis is simply false.
No mention is made in mainstream media reports of the more than 31,000 scientists who added their signatures to the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine “petition project” in 2008, repudiating the 600 or so scientists who have signed on to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warming consensus. Further, it seems, as the petition states, “that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth,” a subject Harris also touched on but one studiously avoided by the warmists.
We know that a number of major players in the climate game, such as Canada’s David Suzuki, Rajendra Pachauri who heads the IPCC, and Al Gore, have all grown obscenely wealthy huckstering the global warming canard. Suzuki, as Ezra Levant of Sun News Network has shown, profits handsomely from various multi-national organizations that finance his campaigns, including Canada’s Power Corp that operates in totalitarian China, one of the world’s leading carbon emitters. Suzuki has been intensely busy franchising himself.