In his recent column in the Calgary Herald, Prof. David Mayne Reid marched out a squad of seven straw men to explain why "so many" people do not "accept climate change data." Among the reasons the professor suggested were fear of unpleasant truths; a genetic incompetence at managing slow-motion disasters; short-term economic thinking; selfishness; ignorance; excessive humility about the ability of humanity to affect the climate; and misinformation campaigns that buy people off.
Reid offers no evidence in imputing such base motivations to those who disagree with him, dismissing the need to back up his claims with hauteur worthy of Marie Antoinette when he says "I am not going to bother refuting such silliness." Naturally, with the profound egotism of the ivory-tower academician, he does not allow for any possibility that people might disagree with him for perfectly valid reasons, and that they could be both honest and sincere in holding a different interpretation of climate data.
With all due respect for the professor, I'd like to offer up five reasons that people might not accept the catastrophic modelling exercises and horror stories that he seems to have confused with actual climate change data.
First, people instinctively and rightly doubt others who spin end-of-the world stories, demand a "wrenching transformation" of society, and who clearly have a radical social agenda independent of (and predating) their climate concerns. People know from experience that, as H. L. Mencken observed, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." People have seen other eco-scares rise and get debunked over and over again.
As for Rachel Carson, whom Professor Reid lionizes, I'm sure that the tens of millions of people who have died of malaria since Silent Spring would have wished that the world ignored her crusade against pesticides such as DDT for quite a lot longer.
Second, people have the good sense to realize that the only hard evidence we have about climate change is not only geographically spotty, it covers barely an eyeblink in geologic history. Until very recently, temperature recordings were taken with inaccurate thermometers, using unscientific methods, biased by urbanization, technological changes, and weather stations moving about and going into and out of existence due to economics, politics and other factors.
Satellites and weather balloons provide far higher quality data (if shorter in duration), but they show very little evidence of man-made global warming. In short, people understand, as Carl Sagan pointed out, that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," and that climate alarmists don't have extraordinary evidence. They don't even have much ordinary evidence.
Third, people understand that correlation is not evidence of causality.
Yes, some warming (and the side-effects of that warming such as early onset spring) has correlated with greenhouse gas emissions. But then, so has an increase in the height of the average human being, the number of people getting high school and college diplomas, the number of women in the workforce, the percentage of the world population that speaks English, the number of countries embracing democracy, the number of people saying "can you hear me now" into a cellphone and a few hundred other trends that may or may not be causally related to each other.
Fourth, people instinctively (and rightly) doubt those who claim to be able to predict the future.
Climate models are not "data," they are mathematical constructs subject to the garbage-in-garbage-out problem inherent in all such models. Anyone who missed the fact that economic models (which are modelling something considerably less complex than the climate) failed to predict the implosion of the world's economy recently must be living in a cave. The same is true for those who have missed the fact that the last 10 years have failed to warm despite increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, and that satellites have failed to detect the signature "hot-spot" in the tropical troposphere that climate theory predicts.
Fifth, people recognize politics when they see it.
They see China, the world's largest emitter, refusing to cap its emissions, and demanding massive amounts of transferred wealth. They see India doing the same thing, and neither country taking responsibility for building Paul Ehrlich's "population bomb," which will inflict vastly greater environmental harm over the next 100 years than the developed world has inflicted to date or will ever inflict in the future. People have watched as Europe's ecotaxes and emission trading system have inflicted economic damage without environmental benefit, and they've watched once-glorious California sacrifice its massive economy on the altar of environmental correctness.
In summary, contrary to Reid's assumption that anyone who might disagree with him about climate change is either genetically, mentally, economically, or morally defective, there are ample reasons to doubt the claims of climate alarmists such as Al Gore, James Hansen or the good professor himself.
Kenneth P. Green Serves On The Advisory Board Of The Frontier Centre For Public Policy ( Www.fcpp.org)And Was An Expert Reviewer Of The 2001 Ipcc Report On The Science Of Climate Change