Counter-arguments for the existence of global warming
July 3, 2008 · Updated 10:50 PM
Congratulations to Alysha Crosina and Kelsey Hoyrup from the WLSS Earth Sciences class for expressing their concerns about greenhouse gas emissions on these pages. Its a good sign when young people get involved in important environmental issues. Im writing to support their view and to alert them to some of the arguments against their position.
One of these arguments against the threat of greenhouse gases (GHG) is that scientists cant predict the weather next week so they surely cant predict it 50 years in the future. A response to that is that weather and climate are very different. In many ways, it is easier to predict the climate than it is to predict the weather because climate averages out the fluctuations in the weather. A good analogy is that climate is like a party boat and weather is like the people on the boat. Its easier to predict where the boat is going than it is to predict the locations of all the people on the boat.
Another argument is that predictions of global temperature increases could be wrong. A response is that this isnt a debate about the accuracy of predictions. Its a debate about consequences and whether we should take actions to avoid them. It would be better to reduce GHG emissions and be wrong about temperature increases that it would be not to reduce GHG emissions and be right. Besides, the vast majority of climatologists around the world agree that predictions of GHG-related global temperature increases are right. Heres another analogy. You see someone throw a rock at you so you duck, even though the rock would not necessarily have hit you.
Another argument is that it would be too costly to radically reduce our fossil fuel consumption. There is both a carrot and a stick here. This cost argument ignores the lost opportunities for businesses to gain economic advantages in the marketplace and for politicians to go down in history as being good leaders. Pioneering business practices and legislation could help us avoid what would otherwise be painful involuntary changes later.
The sooner businesses and governments make changes, the more advantage they will have. The argument that change would be too costly also ignores the extreme economic losses that could occur due to climate change.
According to Sir Nicholas Stern, Heard of the British Government Economics Service, failure to seriously reduce our GHG emissions could cost five to 20 per cent of global GDP, permanently. In contrast, the costs of reducing GHG emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change could be limited to an annual cost of one per cent of global GDP.
I am encouraged to hear that environmental issues are becoming more important to Canadians but that could be because governments are doing so little.
I have noticed two relevant news items in December. The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell berated the Bush administration for turning its back on the Kyoto agreement and Brian Mulroney advised the Harper government to move more quickly on environmental issues. When an oil company executive and a former conservative prime minister talk like this, I know we have a problem. Good luck to Alysha and Kelsey. They have a lot of convincing to do!