Who’s still cool on global warming?

A good article in the Toronto Star profiling the climate change denial industry. Funny how they want conclusive proof of harms caused by human-induced global warming, but seem to have no problem proffering dubious evidence themselves. It is also curious how these “free thinkers” come up with the exact same positions and arguments. Like an old African proverb: you cannot wake a man who is pretending to be asleep.

Who’s still cool on global warming? TheStar.com – News – Who’s still cool on global warming?

January 28, 2007

Bruised but unbowed, dismayed but undaunted – Canada’s climate-change skeptics seek glimmers of light in what, for them, is a dark time.

… The deniers proselytize through websites, articles in newspapers such as the National Post, dozens of speeches to small groups across the country, and lobby campaigns.This spring, they aim to attract media attention at an April conference in Ottawa being organized by Harper’s friend and former University of Calgary colleague Barry Cooper.

The skeptics continue to believe they can sow enough doubt to derail action, even though public and political opinion appears firmly against them. And so they continue to denigrate the growing body of research – and growing number of researchers – warning of the drastic changes being wrought by emissions from burning oil, coal and gas.

“This latest period has seen many political developments which overshadow any sane debate on climate science,” the Calgary-based group Friends of Science, with which Cooper is closely affiliated, complains in its current newsletter. Particularly “worrisome” is the United States, where pro-action Democrats have taken control of Congress.

But the Friends of Science also see reasons to take heart, including the reluctance of China and India to embrace the Kyoto Protocol, and problems in Europe’s emissions trading system. Even more promising, the newsletter notes: “The increasingly strident tone” of Kyoto advocates “may be linked to an emerging welcome trend in the mainstream media to question” whether the science is actually settled.

Particularly comforting for the deniers is their belief that the prime minister isn’t seriously committed to tough measures. …

On the surface, the skeptics seem a ragtag crew with limited resources. Friends of Science says it has several hundred members – mainly engineers and geologists, many retired. It operates on about $100,000 a year and depends on volunteers, notes Leahy. The Stewardship Project is a little more well-heeled: “If we got to half a million (dollars), I’d be thrilled,” Harris says.

Although they have no formal connection to each other, the two groups share a number of advisers. Tim Ball, chair of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, is a consultant to the Friends.

Meanwhile, Cooper, a political science professor and erstwhile mentor to Harper, has enough resources to offer travel and hotel costs, and $1,000 each, to the 13 people he invited to speak at the April conference in Ottawa, which he is mounting with the help of Friends of Science.

… The non-profit, pro-action Vancouver-based website DeSmogBlog has been analyzing the list of signatories. The site, which is devoted to combatting what it calls “a well-funded and highly organized public relations campaign” that’s “poisoning” the climate change debate, was established in December 2005 by Jim Hoggan, president of the public relations firm James Hoggan & Associates and a board member of the David Suzuki Foundation.DeSmogBlog says the 18 people with signatures on the letter whom it has checked out so far have published relatively few peer-reviewed research articles – a common standard for scientific competence – related to global warming. Some on the list have been paid directly by the oil and coal industries to conduct scientific research, and many more are affiliated with fossil fuel industry-sponsored think-tanks, lobby groups and phony grassroots coalitions – dubbed Astroturf groups by critics. Another has withdrawn, saying he misunderstood what the letter was about.

That tactic was similar to a 1998 anti-Kyoto petition signed by about 17,000 global scientists, most of whom turned out to have industry backing, weak credentials or both.

… The Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists says in a recent report that between 1998 and 2005, Exxon Mobil gave nearly $16 million (U.S.) to 43 advocacy organizations “that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.”The chemical, tobacco and asbestos industries have all previously employed the same tactic to forestall regulation of their activities and products.

… The Friends of Science get oil industry funding. It’s welcome, but “they’re not overly generous,” Leahy says. The industry contributes about one-third of the group’s annual budget, or some $35,000.The source of Cooper’s funding isn’t clear. He is, however, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, a right-wing think tank and lobby group, which got $120,000 in two instalments from Exxon Mobil. Cooper didn’t return phone calls from the Toronto Star.

Harris won’t reveal who funds the Stewardship Project, launched in October 2005: “I get donations … from Canadians all across the country.” Two were for $10,000 each. “Because of the tenor of the debate, the possibility of vicious attacks, (donors) don’t want us to make our names public … We don’t want them to get 3 a.m. phone calls.”

The project is no orphan, though. According to Harris, the idea behind the project came from Timothy Egan, President of the High Park Group, a Toronto-based lobby organization. Harris is the former head of its Ottawa office. The federal Lobbyists Registration System indicates that High Park’s clients include the Canadian Electricity Association and the Canadian Gas Association.

Harris argues that there’s nothing wrong with industry funding. For the most part, it doesn’t support research,” he adds, paying only for communications instead.

“All the companies want is to see information coming out about research that supports their side. They wouldn’t have to if all sides were covered (by the media).”

As in the U.S., the skeptics have good political most notably in Cooper, a former colleague and a fishing buddy of the Prime Minister. Harris, meanwhile, was legislative assistant to Bob Mills, who was the Conservatives’ anti-Kyoto environment critic when they were in opposition and now chairs the House of Commons environment committee. Harris is now at odds with his former boss, since Mills wouldn’t let skeptics appear at committee hearings last fall.

… One simple example: the skeptics say Earth has been cooling since 1998. Yet, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies reports the planet’s average temperature was 14.4C during the 1990s, and during the first six years of this decade averaged 14.62.

There is no “other side” to present and argue with, says Weaver. “It’s not debatable.”

“Science is not decided by debating points, but by hard facts of evidence,” contends Ian Rutherford, executive director of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, in Ottawa. And while the evidence “fits into a picture that says the climate is changing for many reasons,” the current warming of the atmosphere “is clearly linked to carbon dioxide (emissions).”

The main scientific discussion now, he says, is how much the results of warming – the melting of Arctic ice, the release of greenhouse gases as permafrost melts, and the atmosphere’s increasing capacity to hold water vapour, which has a powerful ability to trap the sun’s heat – will create feedback that speeds the whole process.

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