Climate science deniers are becoming desperate as their numbers diminish in the face of incontrovertible evidence that human-caused global warming is putting our future at risk. Although most people with basic education, common sense and a lack of financial interest in the fossil fuel industry accept what scientists worldwide have proven through decades of research, some media outlets continue to publish inconsistent, incoherent opinions of people who reject climate science.
Over the past few weeks, Canada’s Postmedia chain has run columns denying or downplaying the seriousness of climate change, by Fraser Institute senior fellow Ross McKitrick; defeated politician Joe Oliver; and fossil fuel executive and Fraser Institute board member Gwyn Morgan, who is also former chair of scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin.
McKitrick, an economist, has also signed the Cornwall Alliance Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which says, in part, “We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” Other prominent deniers, including Roy Spencer and David Legates, have also signed.
South of the border, the Heartland Institute, a leading U.S. denial organization with ties to Canadian organizations such as the misnamed International Climate Science Coalition, still holds its annual denial-fest. But even that organization is feeling hard times in the face of evidence — similar to the proof that made it walk back its previous support for the tobacco industry to the point that its members now admit smoking is bad but defend vaping and other “smokeless” tobacco industry products.
Heartland’s 13th International Conference on Climate Change — held at the Washington, D.C., Trump International Hotel — was down from three days to one. It once attracted more than 50 sponsors, but this year drew just 16 — and one was fake! Fossil fuel companies have also cut funding, realizing denial is not an effective way to gain social licence. Attendance was limited to a couple hundred mostly older white men.
As usual, the conference speakers’ reasons for denying climate science were all over the map.
Some simply rejected all evidence. According to British eccentric Christopher Monckton, who has no scientific credentials, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes are decreasing; sea levels are falling, not rising; and rising carbon dioxide emissions are improving life on Earth!
Others argued that CO2 levels aren’t rising, while some claimed the planet is cooling. In other words, the arguments were mostly easily debunked, contradictory nonsense in service of the most profitable and polluting industry in human history.
You’d think Heartland would be riding high under a government that shares its anti-science views. But even holding the conference in a Trump hotel blocks from the White House didn’t gain it the profile organizers would have liked. Tom Harris, a discredited Canadian fossil fuel promoter who works with Heartland and the International Climate Science Coalition, penned a sad article with fellow denier, Heartland “science director” and convicted criminal Jay Lehr, crying, “no one from the Trump administration will be in attendance,” which, they whined, is “a huge loss since ICCC-13 will reveal that neither science nor economics back up the climate scare.”
Lehr, a groundwater hydrologist by training, also worked for The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, an organization founded by Phillip Morris and by PR firm APCO Worldwide to cast doubt on the scientific evidence regarding harms caused by tobacco. Harris also worked for APCO Worldwide.
It’s getting harder for anyone to deny the reality staring us in the face. Those who continue to spread doubt and confusion about climate science are starting to look even more ridiculous with their many conflicting, insubstantial arguments.
Even some prominent deniers have come around. Political consultant Frank Luntz — who once advised the U.S. government to cast doubt on scientific certainty around climate change and to use the term “climate change” rather than “global warming” because it sounds less scary — now says, “I was wrong in 2001.” In recent testimony before the U.S. Senate, Luntz said, “Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, tornadoes, and hurricanes more ferocious than ever. It is happening.”
Yes, it is happening. And it’s time for deniers to accept evidence and reason or get the hell out of the way.
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor and Writer Ian Hanington. Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.