It’s deja vu all over again!
The UN climate summit began in Copenhagen this morning, at a time when the global public has begun (again) to doubt that climate change exists and that we’re the cause.
A couple of years ago it seemed debate had finally been put to rest by the vast majority of the world’s scientists, who insisted quite convincingly that the warming was unequivocal. But it’s funny how quickly we forget.
Public belief in global warming had already been slipping even before hackers stole thousands of embarrassing emails from one of the world’s foremost climate research centers. In the most damning exchanges, scientists talked about suppressing evidence that didn’t support the warming theory and manipulating the peer review process. The scandal, which struck like a high-magnitude earthquake in November, has shaken out aftershocks ever since.
The New York Times has just filed this curtainraiser from Copenhagen detailing the damage to diplomatic efforts getting underway today. Many had hoped the talks would lead to an international political agreement on fighting global warming but the prospects have been complicated by a new wave of climate change denial, set off (to continue the metaphor) like a tsunami by the stolen email scandal.
Italian climate scientist Antonio Navarra, who was not caught up in the scandal but knows the scientists involved, defended his colleagues at GreenAccord a couple of weeks ago by basically saying people are people. In private emails, like private conversations, people may use strong words but that doesn’t make it criminal, said Navarro, who is director the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Climate Change and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
He went on to say that proof that the climate is changing is so convincing because it does not come from a single source or institution but from many sources and research centers.
“There is no single proof that is proving climate change,” he said. “We have an enormous number of contingency facts that are creating a picture that in itself is very convincing.”
A top Obama official quoted in today’s NY Times story makes much the same case:
“There will remain after the dust settles in this controversy a very strong scientific consensus on key characteristics of the problem,” John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, told a Congressional hearing last week. “Global climate is changing in highly unusual ways compared to long experienced and expected natural variations.”
Where does that leave us this week? Trapped in deja vu all over again?
Every now and then, I notice climate deniers using my book, Green, Inc., to justify their views that climate change is “a hoax.”
Just because I question the lavish modus operandi of some of the world’s largest conservation groups and call them out for helping polluting corporations greenwash their image that hardly makes me a member of the deniers’ club. Finding passages from my book quoted on Internet sites devoted to attacking Al Gore and deriding efforts to address climate change is more than a little dismaying.
As a writer, of course, it’s always nice to known people are reading your book. But these bloggers willfully misrepresent my findings. Far from suggesting we don’t have environmental problems, my conclusion, among other things, is that we need our environmental groups today more than ever. If groups such as The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International continue acting like enablers to the world’s largest polluters – industries such as oil & gas, mining and agribusiness – they risk losing all credibility.
It’s particularly peeving to be used by a bunch of climate deniers at a time when environmentalists are losing the PR battle over global warming. A new Harris Interactive poll, reports that Americans increasingly have doubts about global warming, despite mounting evidence – not only that climate change exists – but that our chances are slipping away to head off the worst of it. According to Harris, only 51 percent of Americans agree climate change is real today, compared to 71 percent in 2007, and 75 percent in 2001.
Why do you think people are growing skeptical about climate change? Somehow, I don’t think it’s the Al Gore-hating sites that have the biggest impact on public views.