Missing the Point!

The University of Toronto Alumni Magazine published an article Apocalypse How” that reflected on forces and events that could have a serious impact on this planet.

The article included observations about climate change.  Scott Munro, a retired geography professor at U of T Mississauga who specialized in climate and glaciers, described climate change as an “incremental apocalypse”.  According to Munro, what’s most troubling about this “incremental apocalypse,” is that we know it’s coming, but seem incapable of preventing it. And the longer we wait, the worse it gets (even if carbon emissions were stabilized now, the seas would continue to rise for some time). The solution is easy to state, stubbornly difficult to enact. We have a carbon-based economy, and we have to decarbonize it.  Our whole way of life has to change.

One reader wrote the magazine to disagree with the association of a changing climate with our carbon economy, stating:

“Is our climate changing? Almost certainly — though as to whether the earth is getting warmer or cooler, scientists are divided. Are humans the cause of climate change? It’s highly unlikely. Great changes in the earth’s climate took place in the distant past without our influence, so does it make sense to conclude we are the cause now?

Let’s not let our government be coerced by ill-informed climate change alarmists into adding carbon taxes to our already onerous tax burden.”

Obviously this gentleman does not like the onerous tax burden on him as a Canadian citizen.  Let’s leave that aside, as out real interest is in the issue of climate change.

With due respect to this gentleman, scientists recognize that climate change has previously occurred naturally without contribution by earth’s nearly 8 billion inhabitants, burning fossil fuels as a means to a more opulent lifestyle for many.  The circumstance that climate change has occurred naturally does not exclude the conclusion that this time it is a consequence of human activity (“anthropogenic climate change”).

The gentleman does not directly try to rebut the conclusions reached by scientists – “ill-informed climate change alarmists”- studying the earth’s climate over the last century plus.

He suggests that scientists are divided, which is one of the techniques used to shake confidence in the conclusion of anthropogenic climate change.  The extraordinary feature in this comment is the apparently serious suggestion that scientists are divided whether the earth is cooling or warming!

The article also referred to Richard Peltier, a University of Toronto climate scientist and a recent recipient of Canada’s top science and engineering prize, the Herzberg Gold Medal.  His remarks supported the Editorial Caption in the Article that read: Many of the world’s coastal cities face severe flooding – unless we stabilize our carbon emissions soon.  Professor Peltier referred to the findings in the 2007 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Another reader, this time a retired professor of Geology, had this to say about Professor Peltier’s observations:

“As an ex professor of geology I was drawn to the articles on the “apocalypse,” but I think your scientific sources let you down somewhat.
Prof. Peltier should have emphasized that the great rise in sea level is pure speculation — even to the point of fear mongering. For the past 150 years, sea level has been rising at about eight inches per century, and if anything has slowed down recently. To propose that it is going to rise 18 inches in the next 50 years without evidence of any kind is irresponsible.”

So from these examples we know there are university professors and graduates who miss the point.  Climate change is real, the consequences are serious, and we must act now to mitigate future destruction.

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