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article imageOp-Ed: The slippery slope of climate change science

By Karl Gotthardt     Apr 18, 2013 in Environment
New York - The main argument for stopping development of the Alberta oilsands is based on increased green house gases emissions. Canada's Natural Resources Minister John Oliver came under fire for apparently casting doubt on climate change science. Is he wrong?
With an impending decision on the XL Keystone pipeline by US President Obama and an increased emphasis on the reduction of carbon emissions, Canada's Natural Resources Minister John Oliver made controversial comments in an interview with La Presse, where he stated people aren't as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees.
Scientists have recently told us that our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated,
In the interview, Oliver also said he was unaware of a recent warning from the International Energy Agency, a partnership of governments including Canada, that two-thirds of the existing known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground to prevent average global warming of more than 2 C above pre-industrial levels.
The two-degree threshold is considered to be a dangerous tipping point of irreversible damage to the planet's ecosystems and economy.
Oliver's comments were immediately jumped on by the opposition party New Democrats, who have made the environment and climate change a centerpiece of their platform. Natural resources critic, Peter Julian asked Oliver to retract the controversial comments and said that the Conservative government is a bit of a laughing stock internationally because of its refusal to take climate change seriously. He said that the Keystone project is in jeopardy because of that.
"What he was trying to do was insinuate that somehow (climate change) is not urgent and that it's exaggerated and that Canadians aren't concerned about this," Julian said. "Canadians are very concerned about the impacts of climate change."
Danielle Smith, leader of Alberta's Wildrose Party, questioned climate science by commenting that the science was not conclusive. This comment, in part, lost her the Alberta election last year.
Question climate change science and you're doomed
To question climate change as a politician is the certain way to engineer your demise. Environmentalists have been successful in having their voice heard and are for the most part resonating with the public. Former US Vice President Al Gore has made climate change a career and has padded his bank account as a result of it. Nevertheless he is a powerful ally of environmentalists.
According to a report on Mail on Line
, while global warming was prevalent from 1980 to 1996, the globe stopped warming during the period 1997 to 2012. The data was compiled in a report by the UK Met Office.
The new data, compiled from more than 3,000 measuring points on land and sea, was issued quietly on the Internet, without any media fanfare, and, until today, it has not been reported. This stands in sharp contrast to the release of the previous figures six months ago, which went only to the end of 2010 – a very warm year. Ending the data then means it is possible to show a slight warming trend since 1997, but 2011 and the first eight months of 2012 were much cooler, and thus this trend is erased.
While this report was issued on October 2012, it gained little traction. On April 16, Reuters published a report "Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown," and is perhaps the first credible news agency to tackle the issue. According to the report, scientists are struggling to explain a slowdown in climate change that has exposed gaps in their understanding and defies a rise in global greenhouse gas emissions.
Often focused on century-long trends, most climate models failed to predict that the temperature rise would slow, starting around 2000. Scientists are now intent on figuring out the causes and determining whether the respite will be brief or a more lasting phenomenon.
Getting this right is essential for the short and long-term planning of governments and businesses ranging from energy to construction, from agriculture to insurance. Many scientists say they expect a revival of warming in coming years.
Despite international efforts like the Kyoto agreement carbon emissions have actually risen by 75 percent since 1970. Much of the rise is due to emerging economies like China and India, according to UN data. Governments have been reluctant to make a rapid shift from fossil fuels and invest the billions of dollars required to make that shift, but almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a plan by 2015 to combat global warming.
While politicians get chastised for questioning climate change science, some climate change experts are questioning its validity.
"My own confidence in the data has gone down in the past five years," said Richard Tol, an expert in climate change and professor of economics at the University of Sussex in England.
Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first showed in the 1890s how man-made carbon dioxide, from coal for instance, traps heat in the atmosphere. Many of the exact effects are still unknown.
While governments should play an active role in reducing green house gases, it appears that the science is not conclusive. Current data only covers a couple of centuries and the warming and cooling of the planet may well be part of a natural process. Scientist are intent on figuring out the causes and determining whether the respite will be brief or a more lasting phenomenon.
The way to tackle this problem is to have an honest debate, with all the available data and to take the emotion out of the debate. The media plays a major role in this debate. Kudos to Reuters for tackling this issue.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Environment, climate change science, Canada, John oliver, Greenhouse gases
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