Climate change: Arguments for and no many against (Ian Butler)

The debate over global warming is over and every scientist, and even Sammy Wilson, accept that as a concrete reality. The debate about global warming being fought now in the arena of the cause of the temperature rises. The majority of scientists now agree that the greenhouse efect is a man made phenomenon, and that unless we attempt to reverse the effects, all of us including Sammy are in a lot of trouble.

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, which since 1990 has worked to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us, the scientific evidence is compelling: “To gain an understanding of the level of scientific consensus on climate change, a recent study examined every article on climate change published in peer reviewed scientific journals over a 10-year period. Of the 928 articles on climate change the authors found, not one of them disagreed with the consensus position that climate change is happening or is human-induced.”

These findings contrast dramatically with the popular media’s reporting of climate change. One recent study analysed coverage of climate change in four influential American newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and the Wall Street Journal) over a 14-year period. It found that more than half of the articles discussing climate change gave equal weight to the scientifically discredited views of the sceptics.

This discrepancy is largely due to the media’s drive for balance in reporting. Journalists are trained to identify one position on any issue, and then seek out a conflicting position, providing both sides with roughly equal attention. Unfortunately, the “balance” of the different views within the media does not always correspond with the actual prevalence of each view within society, and can result in unintended bias. This has been the case with reporting on climate change, and as a result, many people believe that climate change is still being debated by scientists when in fact it is not.

This is clearly not Sammy Wilson’s view. On the Politics Show 9/2/2009, he claimed that 43% of climate change scientists agreed with his view. Where this study was published he did not say, and he again used that figure on Channel Four News later that day. I have looked for this report on the internet for weeks and cannot find it. However, most climate change sceptics will point to the most well know theory of non man made climate change is that of “solar forcing”, and it appears through his two appearances on the TV that Sammy Wilson supports that view.

Of the climate change sceptics not funded by the oil lobby, the most reputable are Knud Lassen of the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen and his colleague Eigil Friis-Christensen. They did some research in 1991, and found a strong correlation between the length of the solar cycle and temperature changes throughout the northern hemisphere. Initially, the used sunspot and temperature measurements from 1861 to 1989, but later found that climate records dating back four centuries supported their finding. This relationship appeared to account for nearly 80% of the measured temperature changes over this period. Two other scientists, Damon and Laut from the US, however, showed that when the graphs are corrected for filtering errors, the sensational agreement with recent global warming which drew worldwide attention, has totally disappeared. Despite this, the well funded sceptic propaganda is still using this discredited data.

So the reality of the debate that is happening within the worldwide scientific community is that there are no credible theories to support the view that the increase in temperature change since 1980 is anything other than a man made phenomenon. Any attempt to do so is intellectually bogus and needs to be backed up by referral to scientific papers that informed that view (quite difficult as there are none which have not been systematically refuted).

For most people this lead on to a larger question. What would induce the Environment Minister to back a thoroughly discredited view? The answer lies in politics rather than science.

Politics for the Alliance Party is about telling the truth, and trying to persuade people to change. Politics for Sammy Wilson is about getting his name in the paper. The DUP gutlessly stood behind him when the Environment Committee and the Executive wanted to call him to account, hiding behind tribalism. That was a disgrace and it shows the failings in a non-accountable system.

However, I believe that we must keep this pressure on and continue to expose the fallacy of the arguments that climate change deniers continually spout. Not for political gain but so our future generations can look us in the eye without scorn or shame.

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