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On Climate Change, Please Address the Science, Not the Politics

The climate debate is one of the most important discussions in the world today. At stake are billions of dollars, millions of jobs, and -- if people like Canadian environmental activist Dr. David Suzuki are right -- the fate of the global environment. Consequently, we need all parties in the debate to behave responsibly.

Sadly, climate discussions are often poisoned by misrepresentations and errors in reasoning. Suzuki does this in “Climate science deniers’ credibility tested,” his March 1 article attacking those of us who question the science promoted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Published on the David Suzuki Foundation website and reproduced by media across Canada, Suzuki’s attack is typical of what independent thinkers about climate science experience on a regular basis. For that reason, his article is worth examining in detail.

Suzuki implies that the argument presented by Canadian ecologist Patrick Moore, that glaciers “are basically dead zones,” is somehow wrong. Similarly, Suzuki mocks as “anti-climate-science” the position I (Harris) promote: that “carbon dioxide is harmless plant food.” In neither case does Suzuki explain in his article what is mistaken with these statements. Perhaps this is because both are obviously true.

While he may not understand glaciers, one would assume that, as a biologist, Suzuki would comprehend that carbon dioxide is the stuff of life, an essential reactant in plant photosynthesis on which all life on Earth depends. That’s why commercial greenhouse operators routinely run their internal atmospheres at up to 1,500 parts per million (ppm) carbon dioxide concentration. Plants inside grow far more efficiently than at the 400 ppm in the outside atmosphere.

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts, a report from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, cites over 1,000 peer-reviewed studies that document rising productivity of forests and grasslands as carbon dioxide levels have increased, and not just in recent decades, but in past centuries.

Despite the excited proclamations of climate activists, increasing carbon dioxide levels poses no direct hazard to human health. Carbon dioxide concentrations in submarines can reach levels well above 10,000 ppm, 25 times current atmospheric levels, with no harmful effects on the crew.

Aside from these two issues, and his false claim that I doubt “the existence of human-caused climate change altogether,” Suzuki says nothing about the science we present.

He complains about “personal attacks” from those of us who do not agree with his position on climate change, but then does a similar thing himself: he implies that we have “suspect motives.” He says “[s]kepticism and rational debate are healthy,” but then condemns our skepticism as “logical fallacies, misinformation and outright lies designed to support destructive industries by duping the gullible and muddying the waters,” an approach he labels “unconscionable.”

Over the years, Suzuki has often made these sorts of charges -- they are in effect ad hominem attacks, directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining. This is common in the climate change debate. It often occurs when people don’t really understand the subject under discussion or see that they are losing the argument. But such an approach merely serves to underscore the weakness in their position and demonstrates that Suzuki, like so many others who support the IPCC position, does not really understand Thomas Huxley’s observation:

The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.

The term denier is more problematic and troubling, of course, because of the Holocaust connotation. Making an analogy, even indirectly, between denial of the Holocaust and questioning the causes of climate change is irrational and offensive to Holocaust survivors and their families. The former was a horrific event that is part of established history, while the latter concerns arguably the most complex science ever tackled.

No scientist on either side of the issue denies that climate changes. Indeed, they know that the only constant about climate is change. It is merely the causes and extent of those changes that are being questioned, very sensible issues to be carefully examined considering what is at stake.

Suzuki’s attack piece was apparently triggered by the February 13, 2018 British Columbia Supreme Court ruling that I (Ball) did not defame Dr. Andrew Weaver in my article “Corruption of Climate Science Has Created 30 Lost Years,” published on the Canada Free Press website on January 10, 2011 (since removed). The point I was making in my article and later in court was the inappropriateness of Weaver using climate science to achieve a political agenda. Weaver said that point was defamatory, but the presiding judge, the Honourable Mr. Justice Skolrood, agreed with my point in his ruling.

Mr. Skolrood opened the trial by saying his court would not be used to determine the global warming issue. This is similar to U.S. Justice Antonin Scalia's comment when ruling on the Environmental Protection Agency carbon dioxide issue. This is the standard legal argument: that the courts are not qualified to make science judgments because they are not scientists.

Yet later in the trial, likely as a sop to Weaver, who appeared in court as leader of the Green party and elected member of the BC Legislature, Mr. Skolrood violated his opening statement by asserting that the article in question was poorly written and therefore not persuasive to a reader.

How could he know this? It is probable that Mr. Skolrood, like the majority of the public, doesn’t understand that the issue is not whether climate change occurs, it is whether humans are the principle cause and if “anthropogenic” global warming is in any way a threat.

In November 2013, Suzuki announced in MacLean’s magazine that “Environmentalism has Failed.” What he doesn’t appear to realize is that only his misuse and misrepresentation of environmentalism has failed.

Like Weaver, he appeared to use the moral high ground of the necessary new paradigm of environmentalism for a political agenda. It doesn’t make sense to soil your own nest, of course. But Suzuki essentially claimed that only he and his followers cared about the environment, and that no other point of view should be tolerated. That is the real anti-science in the climate debate.

In court, Weaver did not present any witnesses or empirical evidence in support of dangerous human-caused global warming. He couldn’t. The only “evidence” is output from IPCC computer models, and they were wrong about every prediction they have made since 1990.

It is simple: if your predictions are wrong, the science is wrong. And even if the science behind the computer models was correct, Bjorn Lomborg, President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, estimates:

“The climate impact of … every nation fulfilling every [Paris Agreement] promise by 2030, the total temperature reduction will be 0.048°C (0.086°F) by 2100.” (His emphasis)

This means there is only massive cost and damage with no tangible climatic benefit. The objective is therefore clearly political -- precisely the point I made in my original Canada Free Press article.