Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Climes They Are A-Changin'

Norm Kelly, living in denial
credit: Steve Russell/Toronto Star

Does anyone think it would be a good idea to hire Todd Akin as the head of Planned Parenthood? Or Ernst Zundel to run a chapter of B'Nai Brith? Completely absurd notions, aren't they? And yet, here in Toronto, we have a climate change denier as the chair of the Parks and Environment committee for City Council. Norm Kelly, Ward 40 (Scarborough-Agincourt) councillor, met last week with several environmental experts regarding how climate change will affect Toronto's aging infrastructure, listened to each of them speak in turn, and then told reporters that there's "information coming along the academic pipeline" that will, in some way, "prove" that climate change is a myth. Kelly is not nearly as radical as the men I cited in my earlier analogy—and to his credit seems to be allowing for some debate (which he will likely just ignore at the end of the day)—but he's symbolic of a pretty big problem in this country: people in positions of authority who are not under-qualified but "anti-qualified" to be in charge of hugely important portfolios.

They had to add a colour to the weather maps in Australia
Global warming is a thing. Period. We are living through it; the easily-obtainable evidence is all around us. The mere fact that so many people—too many of whom have access to a large platform from which to dispense their irresponsible nonsense—can completely ignore their own experiences in favour of an indefensible position of denial absolutely flummoxes me. Worse than that: it's downright frightening. This is not something ethereal that needs a tremendous amount of research to even understand, it's something we are witnessing personally every single day of our lives. If humans can convince themselves that the opposite of their personal, verifiable experience is true then what hope do we really have to solve the tougher, vaguer, more difficult to quantify or personalize issues of the world? The day after Councillor Kelly's meeting, Lawrence Solomon, erstwhile columnist for the National Post, ran a seven-paragraph "comment piece" loaded with misleading information and outright lies, sans rebuttal of any kind. The Post (who, ever-helpful, added a photo of a sunbather to the piece with the caption, "warmer temperatures would also mean more time to sun ourselves by the lake") calls Solomon "one of Canada's leading environmentalists", very troubling words indeed. His most recent "contribution" to the environmental discussion is his book The Deniers, a tome so outrageous that even many of the people he quotes in it to "back up" his denial theories have publicly denounced the publication and gone to great lengths to distance themselves from it.

Graph from The Met Office showing how eight of the
warmest years in history occurred in the past decade
One of the "sources" Solomon cited to lend his flow of misinformation more credibility was the Met Office in the UK; unfortunately, the data actually came from an already debunked article by one David Rose in the Daily Mail last October. The Met Office sent a letter to Rose—and not for the first time—flatly denying that they said or wrote anything he stated that they had regarding the cessation of global warming sixteen years ago. In a post entitled, "Debunking the Denial:'16 Years of No Global Warming'", the online site Slate does the virtual equivalent of a face palm and tears down that particular claim brick by brick. Of course, these bits of information never found their way into Solomon's article; the mark of a dedicated conspiracy theorist is to never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Solomon also leaned heavily on the Russian scientist Habibullo Abdussamatov, who is predicting a "mini ice age" will hit the earth in 2014 and forecasts a continual decrease in temperatures for the subsequent forty years, with a prolonged deep freeze for the forty following. Because of his position of prominence with respect to the International Space Station, his denial stance is a bit more troubling than those of Kelly and Solomon.

Well, of course it is
But Councillor Kelly is sticking to his guns. Yesterday, in a tweet he sent out which rekindled a conversation from over a week ago (proving that he's also not so clear on the functionality of Twitter), Kelly said "Are you aware of the position taken by Russian scientists?" This particular turn of phrase immediately took on meme-like attributes, as you may imagine; more to the point, though, Russian scientists—despite the existence of Abdussamatov and one or two disciples of his—are almost universally deeply concerned about the effects of climate change. Again, information readily available but completely ignored by the cabal of deniers who are making the most noise. On top of all of that information, perhaps the most salient statement was issued seven years ago, entitled "Joint Science Academies’ Statement: Global Response to Climate Change". Over seven years opinions can change, facts may be uncovered, experience can teach us many things; however, not one of the global academic societies that signed that statement have moved a scintilla away from their position on climate change—not even the one based here, in Canada, despite the anti-intelligence, anti-science destructive moves by the neo-Cons currently in power.

You know I'm a skeptic; I've written about it at great length more than once. But there's skepticism and then there's pig-headed refusal to see the world as it unfolds all around you in your daily life. Climate change is a thing. Global warming is a thing. They may well be irreversible by this stage of our existence on this planet, but we had damned well better start preparing ourselves accordingly.

Maybe, if we're lucky, the deniers will all move to the coasts and we won't have to worry about them for much longer.


  1. Norm was my History teacher in Gr. 9 and 10. Not too impressive back then: even less so now!

    1. Oh, man. He's such a dullard—how did you ever get through those two years?


I've kept my comments open and moderation-free for many years, but I've been forced to now review them before they post due to the actions of one member of my family. I apologize for having to take this stance, but that's the way the world is headed, sad to say. Thank you for your understanding.

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