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Flawed reasoning and junk science in ideology of climatechange denial

The prospect of writer Frank Gue (Climate-change skeptics responsible scientists, June 22) and his select group of "responsible climate-change skeptics" rolling the dice on Mother Earth is not a reassuring thought. He decries the term "climate change denier", but he presents as a devoted disciple of the denier industry. Gue states that, "No one has proven that this (global climate) change is man-made." I would suggest the correct statement is "No one has proven that climate change is not man-made." The deniers certainly have not proven it. In fact, the deniers never prove anything, because they cannot. They exhibit wilful blindness or, in scientific parlance, "observational selection." It is impossible to study even a small cross-section of the research available on global climate change by qualified and credible multidisciplinary researchers and organizations and then to honestly deny there is a serious problem looming on our very doorstep. It is flawed reasoning — some might say junk science — to point to the injection of higher levels of CO2 into greenhouses, so-called "CO2 fertilization", as proof that the global climate needs more CO2. Gue neglects to mention that in the controlled greenhouse microclimate, ideal air temperature for most food crops is in the range of 25C; over 30C is considered the danger range. How does a brave new world of global CO2 "enrichment" and resultant global warming deal with this inconvenient fact? Ironically, Gue mentions that, during the Renaissance, belief prevailed in a "flat earth", from which we were rescued by his heroic skeptical forebears. Does he not know that is a hoary myth? The spherical nature of the earth was known as early as the 6th century BC. The "flat earth" inquisitors who supposedly confronted Christopher Columbus were part of a fiction written by Washington Irving in 1828. It never happened. Does anyone imagine that Columbus would have been provided with buckets of cash to purchase boats and supplies just to have them sail over the edge of the earth? Several climate-change deniers first gained prominence, or notoriety, as tobacco industry "experts" who denied health problems from second-hand smoke. When that source of income dried up, they reinvented themselves as climate-change deniers to serve a new master — the oil industry. It is a good fit, because Big Oil uses the same tactics developed and refined by Big Tobacco. Their modus operandi is to sow doubt, confusion and fear among the public by defaming credible science. They rely on strident attacks, misinformation and downright lies to promote their anti-climate change message. They are especially inclined to take negative consequences and recast them as positives: Accelerated release of CO2 into the environment? Global temperature rise? Increased ocean acidity from CO2? Relax, it's all good. We need more of the same.

Research scientists excel at investigation, but they are not always effective at expressing their message to the public. Climate change deniers, while earning failing grades on science, are very good at public relations. They target the public and, when they make sufficient inroads, legislators in the provincial/state and federal governments are more receptive to the overtures of lobbyists for the resource extraction industries. When scientists present their findings to the public, they frequently append the comment, "More research is needed." This is not a make-work pitch for scientists; it is part of the scientific mindset that there always is more to be learned. Deniers capitalize on this by presenting their propaganda as unequivocal — black and white; no shades of grey. This resonates with many ordinary citizens who prefer to hear certainty from perceived "voices of authority". A forceful message presented with great conviction by someone bearing the honorific "Doctor" or "Professor" receives greater uncritical public acceptance than less media savvy scientists who comment that more questions remain to be answered. Gue urges us to search the Internet using phrases such as "climate change fraud (hoax)". Well, if you search "ideology of climate-change deniers" you will get a lot more hits, and from a wider variety of sources. The effects of elevated levels of CO2 have been studied in key field crops that feed 75 per cent of the world population either directly, or indirectly as meat: wheat, rice, corn and soybeans. The subject is extremely complex but, in the most general terms, rice and soybeans saw some increase in yields, but wheat and corn did not. In the case of wheat, the increase in yield (3 per cent) was offset by the increased temperature. Corn uses a different type of photosynthesis that is much less sensitive to increased CO2. Not surprisingly, more research is needed. Monsanto, a prominent agricultural biotechnology multinational, has invested heavily in developing corn and soybean strains that can tolerate higher temperatures. I wonder what Monsanto knows that climate change deniers cannot grasp? Bob Gaunt is a retired mechanical engineer. He lives in Hagersville. Related Stories: