Brian Gordon is a Canadian Green Party member and candidate trained by Al Gore to present An Inconvenient Truth.
Take your pick, say the sceptics. I was once and still am a sceptic, though I like to think I’m an honest one: somebody makes a claim, I want to check it out. That’s what I did several years ago when I finally woke up to all the noise around this global warming ’emergency.’
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I read blogs and newspaper articles on both sides of the issue, and both sounded very plausible. The only way to determine the truth was to go back to the science. So, every time I read a claim either for or against, I tracked it back to its scientific source.
The result was that I go educated, and I got madder than hell. Because, whatever way you look at global warming, it’s a big deal. Either:
- some group is trying to impose their worldview on the planet, in which case there’s great danger to human freedom, or
- it’s real, in which case those denying it better have a damn good reason because there’s great danger to human civilisation and ultimately, our children’s lives
So what did I find?
- Those denying it have many different reasons for doing so. Some can be dismissed out-of-hand, because they don’t bear on the science at all. For example, the argument that the economy would be wrecked; even if true, this has nothing to do with whether global warming is happening. (And I soon found this to be a red herring anyway; making electric cars instead of gas-powered ones will change the economy, not wreck it. During any economic shift, some industries will have to adapt or suffer the consequences.)
- After that, there were a whole host of reasons, and I found that worrisome. It means there are not really two sides to this debate, but many.
- On one side are literally thousands of scientists from universities around the world and from organizations like NASA, and the national science academies, and reputable publications like Scientific American.
- On the other sides are people holding all kinds of different views. Some say global warming is real, but natural. Others say the earth is in a cooling period. Others say the science is not clear. Others say that the scientists have been wrong before, and on and on.
Had I noticed this right at the start, I probably would have saved myself a lot of time and just come down on the side of the scientists immediately. However, I discovered this as I investigated. I would read an article claiming the earth was in a cooling period, for example. Then, I would track back the source of the claim. In many cases where someone was denying global warming, I found that the person was part of a ‘think tank’ that was funded by oil and coal companies, but I investigated the claim anyway. After all, it was possible that the person was honest regardless of the source of his funds – though I found that, in general, those denying global warming also denied that scientists at universities could be objective.
But never mind, I checked the claim. And I started to get angry. The more I dug, the angrier I got, because I discovered that a lot of people are making crap up – and it wasn’t the scientists. Their data checked out. They published their findings in journals open to all. In fact, the science market is perhaps one of the freest markets we have: every idea, every finding, every conclusion is thrown open to the world for validation, modification, or rejection.
The deniers, on the other hand, fell into two camps: Dupes and liars. I was a dupe when I started out. I believed all the “hocum” I had been fed: there is no consensus, the market will solve any problems, scientists have been wrong before, etc., etc., etc. What I found was that there are some professional liars who are deliberately muddying the waters in order to stall action. In fact, some of the same crew had worked for the tobacco companies doing the same thing. The result in that case was that millions died while the tobacco companies stalled to get a few more years of profit.
And the reason I got so angry – and still am – is not simply that these corrupt individuals are pushing an agenda that suits certain vested interests. That’s bad enough. What makes it unforgivable is the consequences. The more I studied, the more obvious it became that we are in real trouble, and if anything, the scientists are being far too conservative.
And the idea that global warming is some sort of worldwide scientific conspiracy to impose a global socialist government? I found this to be so ludicrous that it amazes and depresses me that there are people who believe it. Think about it:
- Thousands of scientists, in dozens of countries, at hundreds of institutions from universities to NASA; all these people are somehow coordinating their efforts in a socialist conspiracy?
- The science goes back over forty years; scientists have been fudging their numbers and twisting their conclusions for forty years?
- All this twisted science is published for all to read – and no science movement has arisen to counter it? Because there’s no money in being against global warming? Come on. The oil and coal companies are happy to pour millions into the American Enterprise Institute to make up nonsense about global warming, I’m sure they’d be happy to do the same for a university or two.
In the end, by the time I saw Al Gore’s movie there was nothing new in it for me. He was repeating what I had already found by checking the science. Because I feel a responsibility to leave my children a better world, I shook off my cynicism about politics, and I got myself trained to deliver Gore’s Inconvenient Truth presentation. And I decided that wasn’t enough, so I looked into the Canadian political parties and picked the Green Party. So for those deniers who think I hold my views on global warming because I’m a Gore fan or a Green Party candidate – you’ve got it exactly backwards. It happened the other way around.
And for those of you who are hard-headed sceptics like me, you can’t just read stuff that agrees with your views. If you want to be an honest sceptic, you are going to have to put aside what you want to believe and start digging. Here a source to get started: I listed several places that list the common arguments against global warming, why they’re not true – and explain why, with scientific references.
Be sceptical, but be honest about it.