I am not a scientist, but then neither are most of the media commentators and ersatz gurus like Lord Monckton. Here in one place I am giving you prophylaxis against climate change denialism** — which has been rampant the nearer we get to actually doing something about it.
The Ultimate Climate Change Denial Refutation Site
… a complete listing of the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by:
- Stages of Denial,
- Scientific Topics,
- Types of Argument, and
- Levels of Sophistication.
** There is an alternate Q&A at Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says.
The top two books you should read
1. Bob Henson, The Rough Guide to Climate Change (2nd edition 2008)
2. Gabrielle Walker and Sir David King, The Hot Topic (2008).
Some traditional greens will be a bit shocked by some of what Sir David says.
Response of an American reader:
See also New Scientist: Review: The Hot Topic by Gabrielle Walker and David King.
IN THE debate over global warming, many have claimed to have found a middle ground and charted a third way between the extremes of denialism on the one hand and utter despair on the other.
Consider a few recent examples. For the Danish environmental apostate BjØrn Lomborg, the middle ground means coping with moderate climate change while striving to help the world’s poor – but Lomborg ignores or downplays worst-case climate scenarios, which hopelessly undermines his argument. Meanwhile, US environmental renegades Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus have claimed that a third way can be charted if we de-emphasise mandatory emissions caps, and instead stress immediate and heavy investment in new energy technologies – but of course we really need both approaches to escape from the current mess.
So you can imagine my scepticism at the claim by science writer and New Scientist consultant Gabrielle Walker and the UK government’s former science adviser David King that their book, The Hot Topic, will at last navigate us carefully between the extreme views on global warming and offer a compromise. Haven’t we heard this promise before?
By the end, though, Walker and King have not only lived up to their promise, but vastly exceeded it. Their overview of the science and policy of climate change is a model of clarity, comprehensiveness and, above all, sanity. It truly does find a middle ground in the climate debate – and in the process, probably counts as the single most important book on the subject to read between now and December 2009, when the world will, we must hope, negotiate the successor to the Kyoto protocol.
It is ironic that, at least in the US, King has been depicted as some kind of climate radical. Sceptics have pounced on King’s undeniably impolitic claim that global warming poses a greater risk to the world than international terrorism and used it to frame him as an unhinged extremist.
The Hot Topic demonstrates otherwise. Walker and King mount a reasoned defence of several environmental heresies, such as the need to rely upon nuclear power in the future and the idea that some people and some parts of the world will surely benefit from having a different climate. They also don’t shrink from discussing the importance of efforts to adapt to climate change – another potential heresy, in that many environmentalists believe that highlighting adaptation distracts from efforts to ratchet down emissions. In the hands of Walker and King, though, adaptation becomes an essential part of the climate policy story.
With exemplary even-handedness, Walker and King debunk scientific misinformation from both sides with grace and concision. If the book has a weakness, it is in dismissing the notion of geoengineering as too radical. Geoengineering – purposely modifying the atmosphere to help mitigate the damage we have done – is an option many scientists have begun to discuss as a possible part of the solution. It’s a tool in the toolbox, and can’t be treated as taboo any longer. We’re past that luxury.
Ultimately, The Hot Topic reads as a primer for the next two years of climate-related political battles, which will culminate, it now seems certain, at the UN’s Copenhagen meeting in late 2009. The book examines the specific political situations of the top dozen or so polluting nations and discusses how to get them all to cooperate. In this, it is just as useful to a policy-maker as to an average citizen.
- There is a useful FAQ on C02 at the US Department of Energy.
Here’s a rare beast indeed: a politician who in fact was also a scientist:
…Mr President, the environmental challenge which confronts the whole world demands an equivalent response from the whole world. Every country will be affected and no one can opt out.
We should work through this great organisation and its agencies to secure world-wide agreements on ways to cope with the effects of climate change, the thinning of the Ozone Layer, and the loss of precious species.
We need a realistic programme of action and an equally realistic timetable.
Each country has to contribute, and those countries who are industrialised must contribute more to help those who are not.
The work ahead will be long and exacting. We should embark on it hopeful of success, not fearful of failure.
I began with Charles Darwin and his work on the theory of evolution and the origin of species. Darwin’s voyages were among the high-points of scientific discovery.
They were undertaken at a time when men and women felt growing confidence that we could not only understand the natural world but we could master it, too.
Today, we have learned rather more humility and respect for the balance of nature.
But another of the beliefs of Darwin’s era should help to see us through—the belief in reason and the scientific method. Reason is humanity’s special gift. It allows us to understand the structure of the nucleus. It enables us to explore the heavens. It helps us to conquer disease. Now we must use our reason to find a way in which we can live with nature, and not dominate nature.
At the end of a book which has helped many young people to shape their own sense of stewardship for our planet, its American author quotes one of our greatest English poems, Milton’s "Paradise Lost".
When Adam in that poem asks about the movements of the heavens, Raphael the Archangel refuses to answer. "Let it speak", he says,
"The Maker’s high magnificence, who built
So spacious, and his line stretcht out so far,
That Man may know he dwells not in his own; An edifice too large for him to fill,
Lodg’d in a small partition, and the rest
Ordain’d for uses to his Lord best known."
We need our reason to teach us today that we are not, that we must not try to be, the lords of all we survey.
We are not the lords, we are the Lord’s creatures, the trustees of this planet, charged today with preserving life itself—preserving life with all its mystery and all its wonder. May we all be equal to that task.
Thank you Mr President.
Didn’t like her social philosophy much, but three cheers to Margaret Thatcher for those prescient words from 9 November 1989: "Speech to United Nations General Assembly (Global Environment)".
- If either the Oregon Petition or the documentary The Great Global Warming Scandal is cited, go to my post Open Letter from U.S. Scientists on the IPCC and read the comments through. Also read Complaint regarding “The Global Warming Swindle” (PDF): “details of the most comprehensive of the complaints to the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) regarding Channel 4’s film The Great Global Warming Swindle. The complaint was submitted to Ofcom on June 11, 2007.”
** I have added the word "change" as Kevin from Louisiana deduced, ignoring the rest of the post, that without "change" I might be seen to be in an absurd position. No-one else has pointed this out, or even noticed, but I have taken Kevin’s point nonetheless.
Some more resources
- Climate Literacy Booklet — download from their site
- Greenpeace are so 70s in many ways, I admit. I don’t admire everything they do. However, this little dossier is for my money a much more likely conspiracy scenario than the nasty-UN-IPCC-OneWorldGovernment one run by the denial industry. dealing-in-doubt — less than 1 MB. Opens in same window.
“FoxNews, WattsUpWithThat push falsehood-filled Daily Mail article on global cooling that utterly misquotes, misrepresents work of Mojib Latif and NSIDC”
Additional resource from the Australian Institute of Physics
Added 9 April 2009.