While working on my PhD, a professor gave me advice about academics and research that I’ve kept to this day: “The moment you think you know everything, you’re done.”
It’s something that researchers, opposition MPs and the media should keep in mind amid their vocal criticisms of Stephen Harper and his appointment of two well-qualified men to federal science boards that distribute research funds.
Dr. Mark Mullins, an economist who heads the Fraser Institute, and Dr. John Weissenberger, a geologist with Husky Energy in Alberta and former Harper aide, have the academic and professional qualifications. But they’ve made public statements suggesting that they don’t think the global warming science debate is fully settled—and that’s a problem.
The statements, dutifully uncovered by NDP researchers and sent to the media, immediately raised questions about their ability to carry out their duties. Some researchers, who are likely more frustrated by budget cuts than these appointments, joined with politicians to once again vilify the Harper government for declaring a war on modern science.
Their message is clear: global warming critics belong to the flat-earth society and have no place on boards that might fund real climate change science.
This rush to judgment is concerning, and reminiscent of the gotcha journalism that suggested Gary Goodyear, Canada’s minister of science and technology, wasn’t fit for political leadership in science because he believed in God and might even believe in creationism. When specifically asked about his view on evolution, Goodyear drew a line down the middle, stating he wasn’t convinced that we know everything.
With that, Goodyear placed himself alongside the majority of Canadians. A 2007 Canadian Press-Decima survey found that 26 per cent of Canadians believe in creationism, 29 per cent in evolution and 34 per cent in some combination of forces. So is Goodyear a Luddite just because he believes in God and is open to new discoveries? Hardly.
It should be noted that Dr. Francis Collins, the scientist who led the worldwide Human Genome Project—probably the only government project to ever come in under budget and ahead of time, is also a devout Christian.
Similarly, Mullins and Weissenberger aren’t alone in their view that global warming science isn’t settled. In fact, skepticism is growing among both scientists and the public.
An April Rasmussen poll found that 33 per cent of Americans blame humans for climate change, while 48 per cent believe that long-term planetary trends are responsible. That’s an abrupt twist from a year ago when the same poll revealed that 47 per cent of Americans blamed humans and only 34 per cent pointed to long-term planetary trends as the main cause.
There’s no consensus among scientists either. A 2008 survey of 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68 per cent disagreed with the claim that global warming science is settled. Some 31,000 American scientists have signed various petitions saying there is “no convincing scientific evidence” of a “catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere.” And more than 700 scientists have endorsed a U. S. Senate minority report that directly challenges the claims that human emissions of carbon dioxide are causing unprecedented and dangerous global warming.
A major analysis released just last month by the climate scientists at the U. S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (are they also members of the flat-earth society?) found that North America’s warming and drying trend is due to natural shifts in ocean currents—not man-made factors. It doesn’t deny that man’s use of fossil fuels may also influence warming, but suggests that at least half would be caused by Mother Nature herself.
Climate change is a lot more complicated than most believe. There’s a lot we still don’t know—and that is how most climate change skeptics view this issue. They don’t necessarily deny that our planet has undergone temperature increases (but not since about 2000), but they aren’t convinced we know enough about its causes and consequences to make major conclusions and policy decisions.
Given the above, it’s rather ironic that just as some are raising fears about having global warming skeptics on federal boards, it seems we should be even more concerned that these boards are/ have been primarily stacked with global warming proponents.
If anything, the frightened reaction to the possibility of having to face contrary opinions reveals the truth underlying the adage that climate science is little more than political science.