The Third Side of the Debate

We know about the majority of scientists  who have stated that 1) the Earth has been warming since post-industrial times, 2) the driving force is human activity, 3) it’s going to have major consequences for human civilization, and 4) action is necessary as soon as possible to fix it.

We also know about the minority group that gets a disproportional amount of air time and, at least in part, appear to be actively trying to disprove every conclusion the scientists come to. This minority group has been able to publish little to no peer-reviewed science supporting their theories. Their ideas have not been accepted in the scientific community, so they spend their time in the media instead.

But there are also some people, with more noble motives, who simply know “climate change is a problem and we need to fix it” and don’t really know much about the science behind it. That much is fine. But then they go around telling people oversimplified or totally wrong pieces of data that they make up on the spot. That CO2 levels are now around 600 ppm. That the warming will lead us into another ice age. That the world will end.

Or then there’s the Al Gore phenomenon, where their scientific explanation, even if largely correct, is so grossly oversimplified that they are shot down by the first critic and the observers go back to disregarding the problem. (Keep your eyes open for a post all about the Al Gore phenomenon – I’m just waiting until I can find a copy of An Inconvenient Truth.)

I admire the cause of these lobbyists. But, as they are calling for action just like the scientific community is, the weakness of their scientific arguements ends up hurting their cause.

We can’t afford any more confusion on this topic. We can’t afford public distrust towards the organizations at the top of the credibility spectrum.

Leave the science to the scientists. As citizens and voters, let’s use our efforts to look at action and risk management instead, which you don’t need a PhD to understand.

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9 thoughts on “The Third Side of the Debate

  1. I read this post. I think 600ppm amount of CO2 is huge and had its valuable effect on planet’s climate. The only and simplest version of its solution is to check deforesatation and next is automatic.

    • Hi Bruce,

      Thanks for your comment. We’re currently at ~385 ppm of CO2. In the IPCC’s third report (2001) they predict we’ll hit 600 ppm in the second half of the 21st century. Check it out here: http://www.ipcc-data.org/ddc_co2.html

      I tried to find a more recent version of the graph, updated for their fourth report (2007) but eventually gave up – the darn report is so long!

      Reducing deforestation will be an important way to reduce our emissions, as well as preserving the ecological and economic value of forests.

      Hope you’ll keep coming back.

  2. Deforestation is actually a malaise unrecognized and underreported. I do have a number of Links to Environmental News sites listed which include those interested in Rainforests. Besides the Amazon being overcut for years, Chinese demand has devastated forests in Asia. They are drying up and dying.
    Australia’s phenomenal drought won’t help its east coast.
    On the east coast of the United States are vast growths of a single tree with many names : hackmatack / tamarack / larch. It is being killed at an incredible rate according to a report a read from Appalchia. In the west Spruce Budworm, Dutch Elm disease…and Eurasian Milfoil in the ponds and lakes aren’t bad enough. Pine has been attacked so badly by a boring beetle that lumber companies are cutting them first so as to salvage the wood.
    Oddly enough, I have read thoughts that climate change is real, a natural process that has happened before, devastating, and recurring. That adds a further variant idea then that we have affected things relatively little, and that all we have done has accelerated things to a breaking point coming anyway which will be past our power to affect.
    Unhappily, in science, majority means nothing. I rather thought it significant when the curator of the Smithsonian quit a few years back because of government spinning scientific consensus into a report minimizing the results !
    Nepmal2000 is in my Friends sidebar. He had some ideas on this as well ; being a science writer and not a SF fan who had bookwormitis he might like a note.
    To recap : I have a ton of reference material to mine open to all. I follow JanforGore on Current TV ( the link is listed ) and participate on the news board there and at Care 2.
    It’s no fun to blog alone !

    • Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there is no known natural mechanism to explain the current climate change. Let me know if you find something peer-reivewed that states otherwise, I’ve yet to hear it. In a way, however, it’s sort of good if it’s anthropogenic, because it means we have a chance to stop it.

      No matter how much agreement there is on a scientific issue, nobody is infallible. There’s always a chance that the majority is completely wrong. However, when there is as much agreement as we currently have on anthropogenic climate change, from the most reputable scientific organizations in the world, you can bet that they have some pretty good evidence.

      I’ve been doing some study into forestry in the past year and find it a fascinating subject. Tamarack is a beautiful and unique tree in that it’s both coniferous and deciduous, not to mention the totally unique “spur” structure of its needles.

      Invasive species are a growing problem everywhere, the spread of the mountain pine beetle is an especially scary possible consequence of warming temperatures. An ecosystem under extreme threat from climate change is the boreal forest, which covers a great deal of land here in Canada. Warming could cause the southern regions to disappear, but the forest will not be able to extend further north into the tundra because the soils there are too poor. Check out BOREAS, a project of NASA which examines how the boreal forest could respond to climate change.

      Luckily, here in Canada, we have very good forest management. Almost all of our forests are publicly owned, so the logging companies have to comply with the government, who is especially tough on sustainable forest managment. Over 98% of our forests are certified by an independent third-party, and the pains the logging companies take to preserve the ecological integrity are tremendous. Pre-harvest surveys, site-specific prescriptions, annual allowable cuts….I feel very lucky to live in a country that takes forest managment seriously. I’m sure it’s much worse in other parts of the world.

      Of course, it helps that the boreal forest is shade-intolerant and has evolved from frequent forest fires, and so regenerates the best when it is clear-cut. Easier on the logging companies that way :)

      Thanks for dropping by. I really hope you’ll keep coming back.

      • Running in and out of lumberyards in Alberta hauling loads of lumber hasn’t given me as quick an overview as you just did. Mostly I either respond to updates on a comment thread or a tipoff from an RSS feed that a post has been made. I check back from time to time, of course, but have a blogger’s usual problem. Most days it’s like talking down an empty well.

  3. Hi ClimateSight,

    Nice post. I agree that the focus should be less on the science and more on risk management and policy response. Arguing that we don’t know enough was a fantastically effective stalling strategy over the last decade. This decade we need to focus on equally effective policy and mobilisation strategies. And that is a very different battle than fighting over climate models of PPM.

    • Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll keep coming back. Have you seen the Manpollo videos? I think you’d enjoy them, they have a lot to do with risk management. There is also a book coming out in the next few months based on them.

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