We refuse to feel guilty about something we didn’t cause

Paul MacRae, June 2, 2008

Good evening, and welcome to tonight’s meeting of Climate Change Deniers Anonymous. My name is Paul, and I am a Climate Change Denier.

This doesn’t mean I don’t believe climate change is occurring. Like most Deniers, I’m aware that global warming has been going on for the past 15,000 years, ever since the last Ice Age ended.

Fifteen thousand years ago, the oceans were more than 100 metres lower than they are now–that’s how the Siberians got to North America, walking across a land bridge at what is now the Bering Strait. Most of us learned that in Canadian history, didn’t we?

In other words, the oceans have been rising, a millimetre or two a year, for the past 15,000 years. Somehow, then, the Climate Change Affirmers’ fears that the oceans may rise even more doesn’t strike much fear in Climate Change Deniers’ hearts. Oceans slowly rise and fall as part of a natural planetary cycle.

What Climate Change Deniers also deny is that climate change is a human-driven phenomenon largely based on industrialization, and that we should therefore feel guilty about our comfortable lifestyles. Undoubtedly, human activity plays a part in climate change; we are creatures who change planets. But it seems far more likely that, since the Earth has a hundred-thousand-year warming and cooling cycle, other, much grander factors are in play.

There have been eight of these climatic cycles over the past 800,000 years or so, and we’re darned lucky to be in one of the warming phases. Global warming isn’t the thing to fear: what we should worry about is global cooling and another Ice Age, which is due in the next 10,000 years or so. In fact, at the moment, the planet’s default position isn’t global warmth, it’s Ice Age.

What caused the planet to begin warming 15,000 years ago? Human activity? Climate Deniers tend to ask these questions, and conclude that maybe human beings aren’t at fault and other, cosmic factors are, such as the fluctuating temperature of the sun due to sunspots or Earth’s elliptical orbit.

In other words, we refuse to feel guilty about something we didn’t cause.

We can deal with warming

Climate Deniers also tend to believe that, if there is a global-warming problem, we can deal with it. If the oceans are rising, for example, we can build dikes. The Dutch do that and it works for them.

Indeed, for the $7 billion or so that Canada has wasted so far pretending to comply with the Kyoto Accord (with, literally, no benefit at all and an actual increase in greenhouse gas emissions), we could have protected all of Canada’s coastal cities from rising oceans.

Speaking of which-has anyone noticed water levels rising in Victoria, B.C., where I live? This city is on the ocean, after all. In fact, it’s gone up a whole inch (3 cm) in the last 50 years (see table, taken from the BC’s governments Environmental Trends: 2007). Vancouver’s gone up less than an inch in 50 years; Tofino sea levels are down three inches because the land there is rising.

BC sea levels
Sea level changes in B.C.

An inch or two isn’t much compared to how much the seas have risen in the past, so us Deniers are not inclined to believe the Ocean-is-Rising Chicken Littles.

Below is a graph showing how sea-level increases and decreases around Victoria were much greater in the past–right now, we’re pretty much flatlined. How likely is it that we’re going to get a sudden increase in sea level rise beyond what is natural because of human CO2 emissions, which are less than 5 per cent of nature’s carbon dioxide emissions? Not very likely.

Sea levels Victoria

Deniers ask themselves a number of other inconvenient (to borrow a phrase from Al Gore’s climate-affirmer movie) questions. Like, if global warming is occurring, can we do anything to stop it?

Here’s an analogy for the chances human beings have of bringing global warming to a standstill: stopping an ocean liner with a rubber ducky. Nothing we do is going to prevent the planet doing what it does naturally, which is go from Ice Age to Interglacial to Ice Age.

But, the Affirmers say, the consensus of the scientific community is that global warming is caused by human activity, and several thousand scientists can’t be wrong. Of course, there are several thousand other scientists who don’t agree, but their voices are ignored.

And since when does science operate by consensus? If there’s evidence that humans are producing global warming, then why don’t the Affirmers just produce that evidence, as Darwin did with evolution? Show us the smoking scientific gun, and we’ll believe.

No ‘problem,’ no government grants

Ah, the Affirmers say, but the scientific Deniers are in the pay of the oil industry (hah! I wish I was–bring it on, Exxon!), while the Affirmer scientists are… well, in the pay of government grants.

Now, let me ask you: If you are a scientist and you tell the government, “Climate change isn’t a problem,” are you going to get grants? Of course not, because there’s no problem to study. Therefore, there is a huge incentive for scientists to say climate change is a human-caused problem because then they, as Affirmers, will get grants to “study” the problem. Maybe the Affirmer scientists aren’t as Simon Pure as they claim after all.

Of course, it makes sense to develop more efficient technologies and energy sources, but we’re doing this anyway. Industry has been getting more and more efficient for 200 years, pretty much all by itself with little government prompting. Industry will solve the problems associated with global warming, too, if we let it. Which is precisely what the Affirmers (like, alas, our new Liberal Leader, Stephane Dion) do not want to do.

If all our efforts do nothing, why are we bothering? For the same reason, I think, that people throughout the ages have sacrificed to the gods. Faced with forces beyond our control, we fall back on what are essentially religious rituals.

In other words, Kyoto and the whole global warming industry is the 21st century equivalent of the Rain Dance. Rather than face our fears, we hide those fears behind purposeless (and pointlessly expensive) activity.

The climate is changing. It’s always been changing. It always will change. And we’re not at fault, so there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

That’s not a very popular position right now, which is why some of we Deniers prefer to stay Anonymous. Still, we’re not that hard to find: just look for the place where people are still using their minds and senses, rather than buying into the climate-change “consensus” that humans are the cause of climate change.

Back to home page