Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
To be a climate skeptic in 2011 is to be a member of a minority. Those in power – the establishment – all insist that the debate is over and that the science is settled. Politicians, media conglomerates, business leaders, and international organizations have been banging that drum for years (see note in italics at the bottom of this post).
But science is never settled. As new information becomes available, our ideas evolve. For those who think science is something that gets decided, once and for all, I have one word for you: Pluto.
When I was a child the establishment view was that it was a planet. In grade school and high school I was taught that this was the case. Had I taken science courses in university, during the 1980s, I’d have heard the same thing.
But in 2006, when I was in my early forties, the experts announced that they’d made a mistake. Revoking Pluto’s official planet status, they said it didn’t meet all the necessary criteria.
Compared to the climate debate whether or not a heavenly orb qualifies as a planet is a straightforward matter. And yet the answer was not written in stone. Over time, the view of the experts changed.
In the history of science it has often happened that the majority was wrong and refused to listen to a minority that later turned out to be right.
Minority views have a long track record of challenging established authority well beyond the scientific realm. The anti-slavery campaign began as a minority position. A hundred years ago the belief that women should be able to vote was still a minority view.
These days, when we think of minorities, groups such as gays and lesbians, Muslims, and the disabled spring to mind.
Which brings me to Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This gentleman is the head of a UN body. The UN is supposed to be a champion of diversity. It is supposed to defend the rights of minorities to participate as equal members in society.
And yet this past week, at a conference in California, Pachauri ‘joked’ that the world would be better off without climate skeptics. In his view we should be assigned seats on Richard Branson’s private spaceship. According to a published account:
“Perhaps it could be a one-way ticket,” Pachauri said, smiling, “though I’m not sure space deserves them.”
No one appears to have distanced themselves from these remarks. Apparently everyone else in attendance thought this was funny.
So I have a question for California governor Jerry Brown, Richard Branson, and the 200 or so others who participated in that event:
Which other minorities should also be disposed of?
How funny would it have been had Pachauri said that gays should be given a one-way ticket to outer space? Or Muslims?
Really, I want to know.
Hear Al Gore and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger both declare that ‘the debate is over’ in this 8-minute YouTube video. In 2009 a UN official proclaimed that it is irresponsible, reckless, and immoral to question climate change dogma (see the top of page 2).