Friday, May 6, 2011

Pushing Back Against the Climate Change Deniers in the Media, Government

This is a copy of an unpublished letter to the editor of the Sudbury Star, submitted on April 21st in response to an article written by Sun Media's Monte Sonnenberg ("May's Green Party on the fringe for a reason", Sudbury Star, April 21 2011).

I note that the Sudbury Star did publish an excellent letter to the editor rebuking Sonnenberg's article, "Writer ignored facts on the environment", from Greater Sudbury resident Cody Walter, whom I don't know, and who may be a non-partisan.

I'm publishing this letter on my blog today, now that the election is over, and it is increasingly becoming apparent that those of us who thought the debate was over around the science of climate change will need to think again, given what has been reported about the large contingent of climate change deniers recently elected to Canada's parliament.

At least Elizabeth May will be present in parliament to present the facts about climate change to our MP's, and to people like Sonnenberg, who must be dismayed that May and the Greens won't be silenced again, in the same way that we were by the national media during the recent election campaign.


On the eve of Greater Sudbury’s Earth Week celebrations, a very unfortunate article by Monte Sonnenberg appeared in the April 21st edition of the Sudbury Star (“May’s Green Party on the fringe for a reason”). This article was an insult to the intelligence of Star readers for several reasons.

As the CEO of the Sudbury Federal Green Party Association, I’m clearly partisan when it comes to politics. But I’m not writing this letter today to quibble with Sonnenberg’s assertion that it was appropriate to silence the leader of a national political party by excluding her from participating in the televised leaders debates. What is more important to me is that Sonnenberg continues to perpetuate the myth that human-made climate change isn’t happening.

In his article, Sonnenberg refers to “alleged” human-made causes of global warming. He even goes so far as to question whether greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, really do trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. I’m not sure where Sonnenberg is getting his facts from, but I can know that I learned about the “greenhouse effect” in primary school back in the early 1980s.

The science behind human-made global warming is no longer in dispute, except perhaps in the media, and amongst those with vested economic interests in denying climate change. I, along with a majority of Canadians, prefer to look towards our scientific institutions for guidance and understanding.

Back in 2007, in its Nobel Prize-winning 4th Assessment Report, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that human actions were very likely the cause of global warming, with 90% certainty. This percentage of certainty continues to rise with each additional year of climate data collected. Climate data shows that the year 2010 was tied with 2005 for the warmest year on record, ever since records have been kept starting in 1880. The next warmest years? 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007.

Sonnenberg must be a gambler if he’s willing to bet against the odds on climate change. Perhaps he really and truly is confused between the concepts of weather and climate, as he suggests in his article with his quip about this spring’s cold weather showing that global warming isn’t happening.

In contrast, I know a sure thing when I see it. I see that thousands of committed and hard working scientists have been gathering evidence and providing analysis over decades, leading them to the conclusion that the planet is warming and that human industrial processes are responsible. Without addressing our climate crisis by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this warming trend will continue to transform our planet.

Canadians overwhelmingly understand the reality of climate change. A recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Forum (February 2011) indicates that 80% of Canadians believe that there is sound evidence of global warming. 91% of that group believe that it is a serious problem. As the Green Party could only ever dream of polling numbers that high, clearly climate change isn’t a partisan issue.

Good public policy is based on real evidence and facts. When our governments and institutions make decisions based on incorrect information, those decisions invariably cause more harm than good.

Sonnenberg wants you to question people like me who assert that the science of climate change has been resolved. I would like for you to understand that people like Sonnenberg, who deny the sound scientific evidence that humanity is causing global warming, are a threat to our economy and to the future health of our selves and our families.

(Opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and should not be construed as being consistent with those of the Green Party of Canada)

1 comment:

Dave S said...

I think that people use the science part of it to justify why they really don't care or want to do anything about it. By have that excuse, it allows people to feel better about maintaining status quo. Interesting article published in the G&M noting some of the same issues around GW and some harder details for May to deal with

BTW I really do enjoy reading your blogs Steve. I can tell that great thought and detail went into this work. GJ!