By Tom Harris and Terry Dunleavy
Dr. Bob Ocio’s article, “They heard, but never listened” (Nov. 14), provided a good illustration of how difficult it has become to have a rational debate about the science of climate change and extreme weather. Yet, it is of utmost importance that the stage be set for meaningful dialog on this topic. After all, if Ocio is right, we face an environmental catastrophe of unparalleled proportions, while, if our group, the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), is right, we are wasting billions of dollars that could be spent on the many pressing issues that face humanity. Either outcome is so significant that we must strive to remove the poison from a debate on which our future hangs. It is in that light that we respond to Ocio’s criticisms of ICSC.
Rather than focusing on the science of the matter -- whether we are causing dangerous climate change or not -- Ocio attacked us for delivering a message he dislikes by making the assertion, “These guys from the ICSC and Mr. Harris serve their own interests.” He is apparently implying that we, and the climate scientists we work with, disagree with him for unspecified nefarious reasons.
Perhaps, Ocio thinks we take the position we do because we stand to benefit financially, as suggested later in his article when he incorrectly implies that we are “lobbyists of the destructive coal, oil and gas industries.” While it is true that we “support reliable energy sources such as coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and hydro-power, to ensure that we have plenty of energy to heat and cool our dwellings as needed,” as stated in Tom Harris’ letter to the editor, we lobby for no one. Anyone can see this by simply checking the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada Web site since ICSC is headquartered in Canada.
Perhaps, Ocio thinks that we have some philosophical or political agenda other than simply protecting the environment and society. A quick look at ICSC’s list of our advisors disproves that idea since our experts come from across the political spectrum.
Even if the charges Ocio leveled at us were correct (and they are not), none of this would have any relevance to the debate. All that matters is whether or not carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human activities are currently causing, or are likely to cause, dangerous global warming and other climate problems.
It certainly has not happened yet, since any appreciable global warming stopped 17 years ago and warming during the 20th century was very modest, only about 0.7 deg C. The number of tropical cyclones making landfall in the Philippines has not changed in over a century, and globally, we are near a 30-year low in worldwide Accumulated Cyclone Energy, a measure of total cyclone activity.
Will a continued rise in CO2 cause dangerous climate change in the future? No one knows, since we do not yet understand the science well enough to know how to program the computer models that are the basis of the climate scare. All we can do at present is guess the future and see what guesses make correct predictions.
In the meantime, we know with absolute certainty that climate change, whatever its causes, affects people, the poor being the most vulnerable. Yet 94% of the world’s $1 billion (USD) a day funding for “climate finance” goes to the possibility of “stopping global warming” that might happen decades from now. Only 6% goes to helping people who are suffering and dying right now due to climate change. Valuing the lives of people yet to be born more than those suffering today is the real “climate change madness,” that Dr. Ocio mentioned.
Besides a “listening heart” that he references, Ocio must agree that humans also have the intellect to rationally weigh the facts before coming to important conclusions. Unthinkingly yielding to passion led to Europe’s cruel witchcraft trials in the 1500s when thousands of innocent women were burned at the stake for “weather cooking,” working with Satan to create the disastrous weather of that era. It was not until centuries later that it was recognized that these events were almost certainly the result of the unusually cold conditions that enveloped much of the world at the time.
Of course, we at the ICSC have “empathy about the fate of the victims in the Philippines,” a sentiment Ocio blamed ICSC for not expressing. That is precisely why we advocate helping people prepare for and adapt to inevitable climate change and extreme weather instead of wasting vast sums trying to stop natural events over which we have little or no control. Not learning from the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan and properly preparing for the next such event would be the real “insult to the many families in the Philippines mourning their dead.”
Before leaving the field after years of abuse from aggressive and irrational environmental extremists, then Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics solar-climate expert Dr. Sallie Baliunas said in a presentation before The Independent Institute:
“Science is the only successful means we know of to explain nature...But science needs special societal protection, and without that protection, science will just be dialed out and, in its place will be substituted the myths that humans love to create, myths like weather cooking.”
Our question to Dr. Ocio is simple: will you work with us to help provide the societal protection that science and open inquiry needs in order to discuss climate change without fear? The Filipino people and the environment deserve nothing less.
Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition (climatescienceinternational.org/). Terry Dunleavy, MBE, JP, of North Shore City, New Zealand, is ICSC’s Strategic Advisor and Founding Chairman.