Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
We have no hard evidence of a crisis. Only expert opinion and best estimates.
Governments are currently fighting climate change to the tune of billions. For this to make sense, each idea in the following chain of reasoning needs to be bulletproof:
#1 – scientists know there’s a climate crisis
#2 – scientists know it’s humanity’s fault
#3 – scientists know we can alleviate the crisis by changing our behaviour
But each of these amounts to a leap of faith. Let’s start with the conviction that something unusual is going on. This planet is more than 4 billion years old. The climate was marching to its own drummer long before humans appeared. It has changed numerous times – sometimes gradually, sometimes violently. Twenty thousand years ago, much of North America was covered by ice.
Because humans weren’t recording and analyzing those billions of years of climatic history, today’s scientists have no way of knowing if anything unusual is going on now.
They can surmise. They can speculate. They can extrapolate. But they have no smoking gun. I’ve written two books about the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That organization says it’s “extremely likely that more than half” of the global warming between 1951 and 2010 was caused by human activity. It talks about its “best estimate.”
Please note the startling imprecision here: Extremely likely. More than half. Best estimate. These aren’t facts. They’re educated guesses. They’re opinion. It’s absolutely crucial that we grasp this point: the IPCC has no hard evidence of a crisis. It has no math that can be examined and verified. It has only expert opinion. Estimates.
If you choose to take this leap of faith, you’re immediately invited to take another – to embrace the notion that the alleged climate crisis was triggered by human activity. As I’ve just outlined, the IPCC can’t prove this. It merely believes humans caused more than half of the warming over a 60-year period. That’s a long way from demonstrating clear human responsibility for imminent catastrophe.
On these two decisive questions – is there really a climate problem, and are humans really to blame – the IPCC has nothing definitive to contribute. Governments have, nevertheless, taken these leaps of faith.
Everyone seems to have forgotten that scientists are fallible. Like the rest of us, they know a great deal about their own field, but can be surprisingly misinformed about broader trends. Like the rest of us, they are susceptible to groupthink. Many IPCC personnel subscribe to a belief system that regards human activities as unnatural and therefore automatically threatening to the natural world. But belief systems are not proof.
Leap of faith #3 – the idea that humanity can fix whatever is currently going on with the climate – is equally dubious. Even if something alarming is happening, even if it is our fault, that doesn’t mean it lies within our power to influence, interrupt, or steer the powerful natural forces that have already been set in motion. It certainly doesn’t mean there’s only one sure-fire, anointed fix – slashing greenhouse gas emissions.
Governments are obsessed with greenhouse gases because they signed a UN treaty back in 1992. Long before the IPCC had produced its multi-thousand-page reports the cart was put before the horse. The UN – a political body – decreed that human-generated emissions were a problem that governments should do something about. The IPCC has struggled ever since to build a scientific case in support of that position.
No one actually knows whether reducing emissions will work. No one knows how long it might take to ‘stabilize’ the climate via this means. Yet governments are piling on the carbon taxes. Year after year, they divert billions away from healthcare and education to fight climate change with ever-expanding emissions reduction policies.
In 1992, the UK was led by John Major, Germany was led by Helmut Kohl, America was led by George H.W. Bush, and France was led by Francois Mitterrand. The Internet barely existed in 1992, the founding of Google was still years away.
That treaty belongs to a different era. There is no shame in walking away from outdated, 30-year-old thinking.
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