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Climate of fear stifles debate

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The remains of a carp litter a dried-out lake bed in Texas during a 2011 drought blamed on global warming.


The remains of a carp litter a dried-out lake bed in Texas during a 2011 drought blamed on global warming.

We hear it over and over: Climate change is real. Only industry-funded deniers disagree.

This is ridiculous.

No scientist denies climate changes. Geology professor Tim Patterson of Carleton University explains, "Climate is and always has been variable. The only constant about climate is change; it changes continually." Scientists like Patterson deny they deny climate change -- they are denial deniers.

If anyone could rationally be labelled climate-change deniers, it is those who hold the absurd view that our climate was relatively tranquil until the arrival of humans. They seem to not know that half of North America was under a vast ice sheet only 22,000 years ago. And, as Patterson has written, "Ten thousand years ago... temperatures rose as much as six degrees C in a decade -- 100 times faster than the past century's 0.6 degrees C warming."

The "deniers" label is an attempt to equate those who question political correctness on climate to Holocaust deniers. It is designed to frighten dissenters into silence. Besides having no place in civilized discourse, it is a fundamental error in reasoning, an ad hominem logical fallacy -- against the man instead of the idea.

Ad hominem attacks are only one of the fallacies poisoning the climate debate. Campaigners regularly use guilt by association, straw-man arguments and appeals to emotion, motive and authority to divert the public from considering the arguments of skeptics. Dr. Tim Ball, former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg, has even received death threats for his outspoken candor. Ball remarks, "I didn't choose to be a climate skeptic for my health."

So rather than become embroiled in such unpleasantness, many of the world's leading climate experts stay out of the public debate, a serious loss to societies grappling with this important issue.

Prof. Lennart Bengtsson, a leading Swedish climate scientist and research fellow at the University of Reading, is a case in point. After defecting from the climate-alarmist camp and two weeks ago joining the advisory council of Britain's Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank of climate-change skeptics, Bengtsson quickly decided to quit the group. In his resignation letter, he explained: "I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that it has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue, I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety."

The idea that there is a consensus among experts that we face a human-caused climate crisis is unfounded. There has never been a reputable worldwide poll of climate scientists that demonstrates a majority of them believe our carbon dioxide emissions cause dangerous climate change. Australia-based climate-data analyst John McLean has demonstrated that even among the thousands of scientists who worked on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports, only a few dozen of them actually commented on the issue, and some of those disagreed with the view that activists attribute to all of them.

Statements by national science academies are equally unsubstantiated.

Not a single national science body that officially supports the climate scare has demonstrated a majority of their scientist members actually agree with their academy's position. Their statements are simply the politically expedient opinions of the groups' executives or small committees appointed by the executives.

The lack of any known consensus is not surprising. Dr. Chris Essex, professor of applied mathematics at the University of Western Ontario explains: "Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved."

Not only are today's computerized climate models (the basis of the alarm) not known to represent climate properly, they cannot be programmed to do so, since we do not know the underlying science well enough to know what to program the computers to compute. Yet, on this basis, the developed world is revamping its entire energy infrastructure.

The most comprehensive reports about the current state of climate science are those of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). Citing thousands of peer-reviewed scientific references published in the world's leading science journals, NIPCC reports show clearly that today's climate is not unusual and the evidence for future climate calamity is weak. Yet, fearing angry backlash from climate campaigners, governments worldwide ignore the NIPCC, choosing instead to base policy only on the IPCC.

Our leaders must seek input from all reputable experts, regardless of their scientific opinion. Considering what's at stake -- a human-induced eco-collapse if alarmists are correct, or, if skeptics are right, a waste of trillions of dollars and a loss of millions of jobs, no other approach is acceptable.

Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 20, 2014 A11

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