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Are you a climate change denier?

Has the climate change debate been hi-jacked by scare-mongers?

Published on December 4th 2009.


Are you a climate change denier?

As the Copenhagen Climate Change conference gets under way (6-18 December), questions have been raised over the validity of the University of East Anglia’s key research into climate change. Some have claimed that evidence was distorted to help make the case for the human effect on climate change. It seems like another slanging match is about to fire up.

The hope for Copenhagen is that it will be an opportunity for reasoned debate, rather than a 'goodies' v 'baddies' scrap mixed in with a dozen conspiracy theories.

George Monbiot is one of the reasons the public (and seasoned commentators) find the subject of climate change so fraught. Monbiot was particularly ill-advised when he termed those who disagree with his side of the argument as ‘climate change deniers’. This was a clear reference to ‘holocaust deniers’: those who say the Nazi deathcamps were a fabrication.

But whereas you can visit Auschwitz, view the physical and historical evidence, proof of the human effect on climate change is less tangible. Monbiot really shouldn't have equated human negligence in polluting the air with carbon dioxide to the pure human evil of mass genocide. Maybe he should rather have considered how humanity is undergoing a natural process of growing awareness which has led to the Copenhagen conference and may lead to a working plan on how to slow down and then react appropriately to global warming.

What is certain is that the Earth's climate has constantly been in flux.

In Chris Stringer's excellent book Homo Britannicus which tackles the effect of climate change while tracing human settlement on these islands, there's this passage: 'Britain was colonised by human populations at least eight times in 700,000 years, but seven of those were ultimately unsuccessful in the face of severe climate change with only the occupation beginning about 11,000 years ago continuing to the present day. We have been truly fortunate to enjoy one of the most stable periods of climate.'

Ice Ages were responsible for clearing Britain previously, this time it's warming not chilling that is the threat. Not that this is a unique occurrence, Europe warmed by a degree between 800AD and 1300AD for reasons as yet unclear.

So if climate has fluctuated naturally throughout Planet Earth's life-span why do we think we can affect it? Are we displaying human arrogance, thinking we hold God-like influence over our planet?

Probably not.

We have been busy beavers since Manchester became the first social and urban product of the new industrial age 200 plus years ago. Since that moment we have shoved 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And as other economies across the world grow that will increase greatly. Many forecast that average global temperatures might rise another degree in the next forty years, whatever we try. This will lead to growing deserts, more storms and hurricanes, the loss of habitats for wildlife and maybe mass extinctions. Worse it could also lead to human migration as displaced populations seek food and water – this would threaten the security of the planet like nothing we've experienced.

But that's a doomsday scenario.

A more positive reading of this is that humanity will show its quality again, work together and find some type of solution. Copenhagen is part of this. Measured debate is better than tub-thumping especially for the large part of the public which remains sceptical about the human influence on climate change.

Perhaps in using the violent language of 'climate denial' George Monbiot might prove to be one of the most dangerous of commentators if we ever want an effective global response to climate change. Along with Monbiot, angry crusty protesters, fey 'green' fanatics and end of the world types attract media attention and turn the whole debate into a freak show which plays into the hands of those who don't think that human affected climate warming is taking place.

So is scare-mongering hindering the debate on climate change? Vote on the Homepage.

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21 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

GordoDecember 4th 2009.

I see, Schofield, that yet once again you have ignored my idea for the vote page. Its all me, me me with you innit?

tomegranateDecember 4th 2009.

"Along with Monbiot, angry crusty protesters, fey 'green' fanatics and end of the world types attract media attention and turn the whole debate into a freak show"And by quoting Monbiot and Monbiot alone (and by perpetuating the idea that the Uni of Anglia researchers might have been trying to hide something), you intend to redress said unbalanced debate?? Good one.

tomegranateDecember 4th 2009.

Sorry, not the ONLY quote, but the main one of only two in fact, and one which you interpret to make it seem much more sensational that was necessarilyintended by it's source. How many synonyms can you think of for 'denier' anyway?

chriskDecember 4th 2009.

Is it possible that, since there are so few rants connected with this article, one can assume universal boredom/scepticism re the subject and perhaps as a direct result of overkill in the media?

tomegranateDecember 4th 2009.

More likely that most people have got better things to be doing of a Friday afternoon. Unlike saddo here.

rosieDecember 4th 2009.

If it is true, I wish that it'd bloody hurry up. I'm freezing my proverbials off.

RICHARD NASHDecember 4th 2009.

THERES A LOT OF BULL...IT GOING AROUND ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE, POLAR BEARS ARE GUNA DIE OUT! NO THERE NOS HAVE QUADRUPLED ! THE EARTHS TEMPERATURE IS WARMING UP ! IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN ! YADA YADA YADA, THIS IS A PROJECT BY LEFT WING TAX AND SPEND MERCHANTS NOTHING LESS, IF WE SIGN UP TO COPENHAGEN WE WILL BE SPENDING EVEN MORE MONEY THAT WE HAVENT GOT TO LITTLE EFFECT ! SO WHAT SHALL WE DO? WE SHOULD START BUILDING NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS , OH THE LEFTY GREENS DONT WANT THIS , NEITHER DO THEY WANT COAL FIRED STNS ! WE SHOULD CONTINUE PRODUCING FUEL EFFICIENT MOTOR VEHICLES , AIRCRAFT ETC , OH DEAR THE LEFT WING GREEN FACSITS DONT WANT US TO DRIVE OR FLY ! WHY DONT WE JUST DEINDUSRIALISE AND GO GO BACK TO BEING A 3RD WORLD POVERTY STRICKEN NATION , THATS WHERE WE ARE HEADING UNDER THESE GREEN SCARE STORY POLICIES , DOWN THE PAN , NO INDUSTRY , HIGH ECO TAXES AND BACK TO THE DARK AGES !

AnonymousDecember 4th 2009.

But dear Gordo the Editor's decision is final. Are you Richard M? Is this the'Sun'? :-)

RICHARD NASHDecember 4th 2009.

no pal i am a private citizen who isnt having the wool pulled over my eyes , and theres plenty of us around, so go and mull over the facts and eat a fat steak just like that hypocrit Al Gore does , might open your eyes !

TOMDecember 4th 2009.

Gordon Brown is rubbing his hands at the thought of a green tax on this nonsense!, hope he hurrys up before the earth explodes its keeping me up at night worrying about it !

AnonymousDecember 4th 2009.

Copenhagen 2009 , i can see the overpopulated 3rd world rubbing there hands ready for all the handouts paid for by us ! white guilt trip here we go !

The MimeDecember 4th 2009.

... ...

Michel de Nostredame's lesser known but more accurate older brother SimonDecember 4th 2009.

It's too late for us now. Whilst global warming isn't our fault (the planet warmed and cooled in a cyclical manner for millennia before we evolved), we are exacerbating and speeding up the process. Gaia cannot support us anymore, will not support us, and in 2012 we will see the beginning of a major planetary cleansing. The time of man is coming to an end, and the cockroach shall rejoice.

The Lampshade with AttitudeDecember 4th 2009.

I think Michel has a point.

Clare the CockroachDecember 4th 2009.

Hallelujah, WOO, YEAH, PARTY TIME!

The Lampshade with AttitudeDecember 4th 2009.

Clare, attagirl. There is something about Michel's piece that rings true, I am pretty sure that someone else has been mentioning 2012 as the end of it all as well.

Little dDecember 4th 2009.

Er.... yeah, love. The Mayans. For centuries!!

NostrodamusDecember 4th 2009.

I predict a riot.

DavidDecember 4th 2009.

Even if the whole thing is a hoax, the oil and gas are going to run out and so it is sensible anyway to start living sustainably and reduce the population and use less resources generally. When there are no petro fertilizers we cannot sustain this population. The Government's idea of expanding airports, roads and increasing the population to 80m is crazy.

The MimeDecember 4th 2009.

...

scoteeeDecember 4th 2009.

@David-short of a nanny state which forces families to limit how many children they have, we must continue to grow naturally using new and existing forms of transport, smarter food resources and renewable energy more efficiently. Then we can have the projected growth in the economy/population over the next 50 years on top of a sustainable carbon emissions reduction programme. It will take time for people to get on board with the Green idea in the UK and across the world. But a government that can issue clear directives and make the necessary happenings is what is needed now. New run ways are being built, we have to acknowledge that we don’t live in a world where a boat to Sydney Australia is an acceptable and timely form of transportation anymore, the fact is we need air travel. If the key drivers surrounding the need for carbon reduction are made to happen in the same manner that our taxes are made to happen, it can only be a successful government which directs a country to change it’s behaviour through clear messages, integrity, honesty and consistency. Global warming and climate change is inevitable, how we deal with the sometimes inaccurate and flawed facts and figures intermediately is my concern. The facts are that we have a government that flaps around the political card saying the right thing but doing the wrong. This is why it is so important to choose who we vote for next time around. Personally I reckon we are f*cking doomed either way because no single person with any political clout in this country at least can be trusted.

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