The sun is out again in London, after an unusually cool spring. It’s been a cold winter across much of Europe and North America, too. But the year is turning now, as it always does eventually.
Cooler weather will come and go. Floods, droughts, disasters, snowstorms and heatwaves, too. That is the nature of living on the Earth. You’ll see reporters referring unusual weather events to climate change, but that’s largely misleading, and it’s misinformed as well.
So let’s not get confused. That is only weather, and it’s not the same as climate. Reports like those just serve to confuse the public.
The urgently pressing fact is that climate change is real. And it’s happening.
There’s a clear scientific consensus here, except amongst a tiny minority of scientists who are funded by the very worst elements of the fossil fuel industry. This 2004 article explains the point.
The truth is that just a few vested interests have supported an entirely misguided public belief that real scientists are divided on the issues.
So let me tell you now – they are not.
This delusion of differing scientific opinions is peddled enthusiastically by a small number of isolated but vociferous so-called ‘researchers’, many of them funded by big oil. The tragic legacy of this cynical manipulation of public opinion began with the systematic undermining during the late 1980s and 1990s of the global negotiations leading up to Rio and Kyoto (for details, I recommend the dramatic account within Jeremy Leggett’s book The Carbon War).
Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth did much to draw worldwide attention to the critical role of manmade carbon emissions in driving recent climate change. But the involvement of a political figure is in some respects distracting, since this is a debate which we simply can’t afford to politicise.
And whilst the science is straightforward, Gore is guilty of some simplifications. We need to appreciate that global temperature variations reflect the superimposed effects of both anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions (increasing, and accelerating) and a lower amplitude natural cyclicity in solar insolation (currently entering a relative low).
The solar effects are presently counteracting the influence of rising carbon dioxide, but that is only a temporary reprieve, and it’s not really a reprieve at all.
There’s an excellently-framed analysis here: Climate change in the public debate. A basic appreciation of the science along these lines clearly refutes the oft-cited red herring that global warming stopped in 1998.
That’s a view you’ll hear from the climate change sceptics. They’re good at propaganda, since they’re well funded and well versed in the manipulation of public opinion. But that inference isn’t just misleading – it’s tragically inaccurate.
The point is that inside a decade, the insolation budget will fall again, and carbon dioxide levels will have risen even further, with dangerous effect.
So let me reprise Monbiot, just for a moment. He has four simple questions for anyone who might be inclined to a sceptical view of global warming.
1. Does the atmosphere contain carbon dioxide?
2. Does atmospheric carbon dioxide raise the average global temperature?
3. Will this influence be enhanced by the addition of more carbon dioxide?
4. Have human activities led to a net emission of carbon dioxide?
Monbiot continues, “If you can answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, you should put yourself forward for a Nobel Prize. You’ll have turned science on its head.”
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