Why, you might ask, when the verdict is in, the scientists overwhelmingly agree, and the evidence is incontrovertible, are they still at it?
This pie chart sums it up pretty nicely. Of the 2,258 peer-reviewed papers that have been published on the subject of climate change between November 2012 and December 2013, representing the positions of 9,136 authors, exactly one of those, written by a single Russian scientist, rejected the idea that climate change is caused by human activity.
This summation was published in a review paper authored by geochemist James Lawrence Powell. Powell, who is a past president of Franklin & Marshall, Reed and Oberlin colleges, has posted a database listing every one of the articles online, and he invites anyone to examine the list. It would be interesting to see if they can draw a different conclusion from it other than overwhelming consensus.
The one outlier, written by S.V. Avakyan, attributes the changes to our climate, which would include the fact that 13 of the hottest years on record occurred this century, to changes in the sun’s output. Numerous other reports have studied the same phenomenon and drawn different conclusions.
At a meeting last week in Japan, a group of 60 scientists representing a subgroup of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gathered to assess the expected impacts from global warming. The group is expected to issue a report soon.
Based on interviews and comments by authors, the key message will be that the risks and impacts of climate change are far more immediate and local than scientists once thought. There is far more at stake than melting ice, threatened animals and endangered plants. Climate disruptions will increasingly exacerbate the human problems of hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war.
“Climate change really is a challenge in managing risks,” says the report’s chief author, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science in California. “It’s very clear that we are not prepared for the kind of events we’re seeing.”
The effects of global warming are already “widespread and consequential,” says the report, noting that science has compiled more evidence and done much more research since the last report in 2007.
Last week also saw a report issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The wording came as close as a scientific institution can to screaming an alarm. “As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do. But human-caused climate risks abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes.”
But none of this has stopped or even slowed down the professional skeptics. In fact the Heartland Institute just announced the 9th International Conference on Climate Change at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The event is being billed as an “International Gathering of Scientists Skeptical of Man-Caused Global Warming.”
The announcement claims that “hundreds of the world’s most prominent ‘skeptics’ will converge” at the event. Apparently not many of these skeptics have been publishing peer-reviewed papers. No word yet on whether Mr. Avakyan will attend. Among the expert speakers giving lectures will be a medical officer from a Texas sheriff’s office and an architecture professor.
Climate skeptic blogger Willis Eschenbach, whose credentials include a massage therapy certificate and a B.A. in Psychology will also be speaking. Another speaker, Chistopher Monckton is a non-scientist who claims that global warming is a non-problem. Also speaking will be Marc Morano, a former staffer for Sen. James Inhofe, and Fred Singer, who has been called the “granddaddy of fake science.” After being wrong about both the safety of cigarette smoking and the significance of the hole in the ozone layer, he is now apparently going for a hat trick. Both Morano and Singer were profiled in Rolling Stone as one of 17 “climate killers.”
Of course, it matters little who will be speaking or what they’ll be saying since the audience will be self-selected as a group consisting in the main of those who do not listen, cannot read and are either incapable of, or uninterested in, critical thinking.
Previous versions of this conference have been heavily funded by ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and the conservative Scaife Foundation, receiving as much as $67 million from these groups. This year’s event is likely to be little different.
Which, of course gets us to the point of circle-jerk events like this one. It’s big oil behind the scenes, keeping that steady drumbeat of doubt going. Doubt and inaction go hand in hand. It’s the one thing that juries can’t convict a criminal with even the shadow of. And for the millions of people who don’t read the actual science because they lack the education or the interest, this echoing of doubt through the hills, repeated and amplified by Fox News will serve as a proxy for understanding — when understanding is nowhere to be found. This will allow the legions of Fox-watching red state voters to slumber on, undisturbed by any qualms that carrying on with business-as-usual should be any more of a concern for them than it was for their grandparents — allowing them to pull the lever in November for Status Quo, and Big Oil will see record profits once again.
Nick Cohen at the Guardian claims that the deniers have already won. Perhaps the fact that we are even having this conversation in 2014 supports his assertion. Of course, the part that they won’t figure out until it’s too late is that if they win, we all lose.
The fact that by doing all they can to suppress effective action on greenhouse gas emissions means, of course, that they are gambling with the future of the planet, in hopes that the one guy out of 9,136 was right. What better place to do that than Las Vegas?
Image credit: Moyan Brenn: Flickr Creative Commons
RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He writes for numerous publications including Justmeans, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, and Energy Viewpoints. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining romp that is currently being adapted for the big screen. Now available on Kindle.
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