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Climate change a 'questionable truth'

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Most scientists now agree that climate change is real. But they disagree on nearly everything else about it, from its severity to its solutions. Globe columnist Margaret Wente argues that Al Gore and other advocates are confusing the public with ‘environmental alarmism.' ...Read the full article

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  1. douglas campbell from Waterloo, Canada writes: "For the record, all these experts are highly critical of An Inconvenient Truth and the scary headlines that regularly sweep the media. (Climate alarmism sells, and the media know it.)"

    Then once again Margaret Wente is only talking to people who agree with her or is misinterpreting what they said (to put it charitably). Consider this from RealClimate (www.realclimate.org):

    "How well does the film handle the science? Admirably, I thought. It is remarkably up to date, with reference to some of the very latest research. Discussion of recent changes in Antarctica and Greenland are expertly laid out. He also does a very good job in talking about the relationship between sea surface temperature and hurricane intensity. As one might expect, he uses the Katrina disaster to underscore the point that climate change may have serious impacts on society, but he doesn't highlight the connection any more than is appropriate (see our post on this, here)."

    ...

    "For the most part, I think Gore gets the science right, just as he did in Earth in the Balance. The small errors don't detract from Gore's main point, which is that we in the United States have the technological and institutional ability to have a significant impact on the future trajectory of climate change."

    So ... can I suggest that the Globe contact the scientists at the RealClimate and get them to critique Margaret Wente's column? I would be interested in seeing what other howlers they discover.
  2. L I from Canada writes: wow...... slow moving, boring , balanced solutions to a problem we cannot much affect in the short term. Finally something I can agree on in this whole debate.
  3. Fred Stirring the pot from Kitchener,ON, Canada writes: Finally an article in the Globe that brings some balance to this debate. It also confirms what I have thought all along. We need to make changes in our lifestyles concerning our consumption habits. These changes are the responsibility of each individual, not the government. The alarmists will pressure the government to spend my tax dollars on something that will not help. Let's hope the lunatics don't start running the asylum.
  4. Colin Ellard from Kitchener, Canada writes: Thanks, Douglas, for saving me the typing! I had the same reaction and thought of the same article at realclimate.org. I sent the link to Wente's article to that site (which is where readers should go if they want an actual balanced view -- not alarmist but right from the horse's mouth -- a whole herd of them in fact!). Hopefully somebody there will be able to comment sensibly.
  5. Your Conscience from St Catharines, Canada writes: Bravo Margaret Wente for writing an article that takes both sides of the argument into account. Too bad all the sheep that believe Gore's 2007 bible don't have the open-mindedness to see past their own flawed logic. And for the record, going to realclimate.org to find your arguments is completely futile considering that is the agency that has supported Gore and his alarmist camp for years spewing catastrophic rhetoric in the name of saving the planet. You have brains people, use them instead of mindlessly flowing Michael Moore v2.0 and his band of zombies.
  6. David Wilson from Niteroi, Brazil writes: ai ai Margaret, I have to wonder if you have actually read Tim Flannery? from what you have said it seems not, I would hardly call him an alarmist, if the forthcoming debate is to result in effective public policy balanced voices must prevail, but balance based on facts not balance for its own sake, I am very pleased to see others here referring to Real Climate which is for me an excellent source of the kind of balance I am talking about, or we can opt for big-brother and carry on like Winston (in Orwell's 1984) befuddled by a constant state of crisis, be well.
  7. John Melnick from High River AB, Canada writes: Good work Margaret. Are you sending David Suzuki a copy or shall I?
  8. Mike Bellows from Canada writes: Great balanced article Margaret. Finally someone at the G & M is addressing the garbage spewed from An Inconvenient Truth. It is amazing how many people cite this MOVIE as reference material and proof. It was a MOVIE by that renowned expert Al Gore. He did more harm than good for the environment in his effort to make a fortune on his first BIG production. Give the guy credit though...he's made millions and will win an Oscar.....hard to knock that although it will probably lead to a rash of copycat movies that will milk the issue.
  9. bob smith from Canada writes: James Lovelock argues that "before this century is over billions of us will die"? Hmm, 93 years to go, 6 billion people on the planet, average life expectancy of 67 years (http://www.worldbank.org/depweb/english/modules/social/life/index.html)
    Brilliant prediction.
  10. Tom Schreiter from Mississauga, Canada writes: To Fred Stirring:

    There is no "balance" in debates over factual issues. Those things which are empirically definable (even though, in this case, there remains debate) do not deserve balance.

    Ideological differences deserve balance, because no one can say for sure who is right and who is wrong. But climate is a matter for scientists and experts to disagree on, to discuss, and to discover for themselves. The news organizations should report on the consensus of those experts.

    I am not an expert, nor are any of us commentators, and it is wrong for us to put forward our versions of the truth about climate change as if it were an ideological problem. From what I've read, in this article and elsewhere, there's lots to be concerned about.

    I want to eventually find out the truth. That can't happen with balanced reporting; it can happen with accurate reporting.
  11. dom bort from Toronto, writes: Thanks for the brilliant insight Margaret.

    Apparently it took you this long to look into the science and find out that cutting back on Greenhouse gas emisisons will take decades to have an impact on slowing (or even reversing) the high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Well done Margaret (again, in case you were wondering.. sarcasm). Any grade 12 science student could have told you that a long time ago. Besides reporting this astonishing fact in the Globe and Mail, am I to take from your article that since this reversal of CO2 will take so long to happen, long after you are departed from this world, that its importance should be diminished?.. (the "hey, what's the point, I'll be gone" argument?). Part of the challenge in recognizing and responding to environmental issues is that they often proceed on a timeline much longer than our own individual lives. It's taken this long for enough of us to recognize (some of) the climate change dangers ahead of us. Our response will also need to be long and protracted, and sadly there are not likely to be any quick fixes. Certainly, as the article points out, adaptation will be a key response to the inevitable changes in our environment. But we need more than reactive policies if we hope to ever get a handle on this problem.

    Re: Extremists.. One good reason why you and others in mainstream media are talking about this issue is precisely because there have been 'alarmists' and 'extremists' making noise about this for the past couple of decades. Without these issues being made pressing, there would be little chance that they would make headlines, and without headlines and public opinion polls, governments would have less impetus to legislate some of the changes that are needed.

    Margaret, I welcome a balanced discussion on climate change (the possible dangers, solutions, costs), but based on the track record of your published articles, I doubt your ability to contribute constructively.
  12. Radio Flyer from writes: Although I do not have Margaret Wente's previous articles to immediately compare, it seems that this article marks a significant seachange in her views. This "skeptic" seems to be turning over a new leaf.

    I will also suggest though that this article is far more consistent with those she is labeling "alarmists," in particular, Flannery, Monbiot, and Gore. The information she is presenting shares far more consistencies with their perspectives than she claims. It is also very similar to the perspectives that many environmental organizations have been presenting, which she also labels inappropriately. I think that the only major area of disagreement I would raise with her article is that she seems not to consider impacts that do not directly affect people - such as the loss of species, etc. For many of us, global warming impacts are not just about people.

    Let's get on with the real debate about how to make the changes necessary - glad to see that Margaret is willing to move to this much more fertile ground.
  13. Kurt Luzny from Vancouver, Canada writes: Margaret, you're interesting for casting a cloud, quoting so many experts saying they don't really know much about the details of global warming then say that they can with certainty say it hasn't affected the climate yet, as in Hurricane Katrina, etc. Hmmm, interesting how you posit so much emotional "faith" in such contradictory certainty. Come on, Margaret, give your head a shake and come clean with your agenda. You're angry about getting upset and want to vent at those who are making you upset and begrudgingly be prodded into rational action but still throw rocks at those prodding you out of your comfort. Your article isn't insightful or "balanced". It's the emotional response of suburbia being prodded out of complacency and hurredly dressing for the expose of responsibility. I guess I can say that I'm glad you're getting moving. Just don't be so manipulative in your selective arrangment of quotes from scientists who fit your anger.
  14. s duncan from Wakefield, QC, Canada writes: There is something peculiar in Margaret Wente's skepticism that's bothered me for a long time. She is skeptical, it seems, to me, of any point of view which might threaten a set of interests - economic and political - that I think we could safely say pay Margaret Wente's bills. So though she claims that she takes climate change seriously, her real message in this story is to make the concept of "adapting" seem reasonable. Leaving out, of course, those who can't adapt (poor people in Bangladesh, polar bears, penguins, earth worms, boreal forests, I'd say actually almost all of the natural world and most of its human inhabitants). In other words, she is attempting to make a completely unreasonable point of view seem reasonable. And that's scary.
  15. Ronald Gagne from Leamington, Canada writes: A very well balanced article. We need to put in place tough measures on countries such as India and China who do NOT follow the road to a cleaner earth. Al Gore's comment that if we do the right thing they MAY follow our example is typical hide your head in the sand attitude. We should go after the big oil companies and tax them to clean up their act as well. We all need to comply and get a long range plan for our own country in place. Don't put faith in a Kyoto accord that has no plan but to set targets and make non compliers pay while letting non participants like India/ China off the hook.
  16. greg middleton from vancouver, Canada writes: The bias present in this article becomes all to apparent when quoteing a critisism of Tim flannery that people who think that putting solar panels on their roof ar epart of the solution when in fact are not.
    Over its lifetime a solar panel puts almost no water in the tub Margaret.

    The only way to keep extreme points of view from skewing the debate is to write informed educational stories. Printing such a blatent contradiction without any explanation is not helpful in the long term.

    By the way, someone is going to get VERY rich with the large scale trading oif carbon credits. Find out who that is and wrirte about that. You can always follow the money to a good story.
  17. Claus Koch from Toronto, Canada writes: Thank you for a thoughtful assessment of our environmental predicament. It seems that everyone agrees we're playing Russian Roulette with the weather. The only question is how many bullets are in the chambers. I don''t know that anyone can convince me that all the chambers are empty. And you don't need bullets in every chamber to be alarmed are the risks. For me, even one is too many. Let's take every reasonable action that helps to empty the chambers.
  18. Philip Austin from Vancouver, Canada writes: It would be an interesting class assignment to see if students can spot the inconsistency between this quote: "Nobody can really tell you what the probabilities are" says Carl Wunsch and Ms. Wente's paraphrase of Carl Wunsch telling us exactly what the probabilities are: "Prof. Wunsch, the ocean-currents expert, says that despite what Mr. Gore asserts, there is no chance whatsoever that the Gulf Stream will slow down or stop. Nor did Hurricane Katrina have any link with global warming, nor do this winter's storms and other strange weather." For the record here's paragraph 21 of the WMO consensus statement on tropical cyclones: (http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/wmo.html) "There is general agreement that no individual events in those years can be attributed directly to the recent warming of the global oceans. A more appropriate question is whether the probability of an event happening in a particular basin has been increased by the ocean warming, as for example the probability of cyclone development can change according to the phase of ENSO or of the Madden Julian Oscillation. It is well established that global atmospheric structure responds to the tropical sea surface temperature, and that such a response will affect the potential intensity (MPI) as well as other environmental factors such as vertical shear and relative vorticity. Thus it is possible that global warming may have affected the 2004-2005 group of events as a whole. The possibility that greenhouse gas induced global warming may have already caused a substantial increase in some tropical cyclone indices has been raised (e.g. Mann and Emanuel, 2006), but no consensus has been reached on this issue."
  19. Roger Brown from San Diego, United States writes: Excellent article and agree mostly.
    The reason the global warming argument is so politically and emotionally charged is the recognition by the Media that sensational negative news sells. Cunning politicians prey on a largely ignorant public for political gain. There will be little or no intelligent discussion of the issue until economic damage done by government results in financial pain. I prefer a heavy dose of Market to modify habits. $3 per gallon gasoline triggered a revolution in consumer vehicle preferences. Proof is the plight of Ford, GM, and Chrysler, all relying on guzzlers for profit.
    The media and the extremists act as if global warming is a new man made phenomon. At one time earth was mostly tropical. At another time mostly ice. Wine grapes grown in Britain circa Roman times. Settlements in Greenland and other now much colder climates.
    The nation that develops a more efficient method of generating, distributing and consuming energy will be the economic winners and a by product is reduced GHG. The ultimate goal in Century 21 is fusion produced energy. Same as the Sun.
  20. Ron Sinclair from Mississauga, Canada writes: Thanks for a great article Margaret. You bring much needed balance to an issue that seems to be quite one sided and overly negative in today's media. I particularly appreciated the quotes and comments from the scientists you spoke to. We normally only hear from the Al Gore types and it is important for us all to learn from the "middle-of-the-road" science folks as well.
  21. David Oilfield from Fredericton, Canada writes: Interesting read, I was expecting more scepticism (since Greenspon said MW is a sceptic).

    But I think it goes a bit hard on Al Gore's film. Look, obviously the value of the film is in raising awareness of the issue, especially in the all important USA and on this it appears to have succeeded tremendously.

    Whether Gore gets an Oscar for his film doesn't really matter a lot to me. What does matter is that the climate change debate does not get "booted into the long grass" as that British MP said the other day. MW could acknowledge Gore's contribution on ensuring that.
  22. Frank Smith from St. John's, NL, Canada writes: I think the most important point, which we do know as fact, is that the oceans are becoming more acidic because of increased dissolved CO2. This has already resulted in shell thinning of some species of shellfish and, in all probability, is responsible for the planet-wide loss of corals. Al Gore does mention this in his book (and probably in the film also) - Margaret Wente and her experts said not a dicky-bird about it. It's here and now - not something that might happen in future!
    Frank R. Smith, retired professor of chemistry, MUN
  23. Russ Merredew from Pembroke, Canada writes: Best article yet on the subject. Go to www.curmudgeon.ca - [click on ENVIRONMENT] for a layman's study of these issues .
  24. Catch 22 from Vancouver, Canada writes: Quoting from the article: "But what about the alarmists? The ones who argue that the only way to save the planet is to stop driving, stop flying and stop consuming?"

    Ms. Wente, please stop creating straw men of your opponents. I do not believe we should stop driving, stop flying, or stop consuming, though I am deeply concerned about climate change. I believe we should drive less, fly less, and consume less. If you want to see what is possible in terms of energy efficiency Ms. Wente, visit Japan. They are EXTREMELY energy efficient, and yet somehow they have a very strong economy. Go figure.
  25. Mike Bellows from Canada writes: Catch 22.....how can you possibly say Japan has a very strong economy . This is the kind of silly statement that we should not be exposed to on this site. Japan's economy and its currency has been in the doldrums for a decade and if you would travel there you would understand. Shsshhh
  26. shel silverstein from Brentwood Bay BC, Canada writes: Thanks M.W. for your insightful commentary
    "For example, scientists are pretty sure that sea levels will rise, and rising seas will pose a threat to coastal areas. But how much will they rise, and how fast, and where will they rise most? Sorry. Science can't tell you that."
    "he global-warming debate has become so shrill, so political and so polarized that it's impossible for even a reasonably well-informed person to figure out who or what to believe. "
    Well not exactly most reasonably well-informed person would believe what science and common sense tells them. Global Warming is a planet threatening phenomenon and is the number one threat to our survival.
    Exactly how much will the oceans rise, at exactly what pace and Exactly how many people will this kill in Exactly what regions, wow what a surprise a logical person wouldn't presume to give an exact timeline.
    The BBC reports thatin the Arctic between 2004 and 2005 "The extent of "perennial" ice - thick ice which remains all year round - declined by 14%, losing an area the size of Pakistan or Turkey.Using the scatterometer on Nasa's Quikscat satellite, researchers scanned the Arctic for perennial and seasonal ice. From October 2004 to March 2006 they plotted a steady decline."If we average that over the long term we find a reduction of between 6.4% and 7.8% per decade," said Dr Nghiem. "What we have here is 14% in one year - 18 times the previous rate."

    The key questions are what caused it, and whether it is an anomaly or the first sign of a major change of pace for Arctic melting. "
    I suppose that is why a reasonable scientist might find it hard to say for certainty how fast exactly the oceans will rise
    nothing to worry about then according to the american columnist ms went.
  27. gary wilson from Calgary, writes: Not entirely clear on the point of this article. Global warming is real and it will cause great damage but we don't know how much damage so don't be alarmed by the alarmists. What? The premise of this article seems to be Wente is upset that global warming has finally been accepted worldwide, so now she feels the need to grudgingly accept this but lash out at any potential inaccuracies in the global warming world no matter how insignificant. Sounds like sour grapes from a woman who wasted too many years trying to prove global warming wrong. Too bad. Can’t get those years back.
  28. Mike Bellows from Canada writes: I'm taking these comments too seriously I guess but I have to ask one more question. Shel, if the water level will rise gradually over many years why must so many people die or will it be like the movie " The Day After Tomorrow ". Is this what will cause billions of us to die by the end of the century as the informed scientist and author referenced in the article , James Lovelock , warns ?
  29. Mary Lapner from ottawa, Canada writes: Are we so weak that we cannot handle facing this challenge head-on? According to Wente's scientists, we have a consensus that sea levels will rise and pose a threat - but by how much and how fast? Isn't this irrelevant? The fact that human activity can have an impact of this magnitude alone is reason to act now. Alarmist claims, apocalyptic predictions, scaremongering...the last time I checked it was called research based scientific data. "Stopping global warming" as Al Gore says - a non-sequitur? How does he imply that we would see an immediate end to hurricanes? Is Wente suggesting that the only reason humans would take action is if they reap the benefits instantaneously? I guess some of us may be a little short-sighted. However, I do believe that the desire to make changes in most of us is less selfish in nature. Time to stop passing the buck.
  30. stephen ottridge from vancouver, Canada writes: I accept that the Earth is warming. I do not accept that it is increasing CO2 from fossil fuels that is the cause. The polar ice caps on Mars are melting. the global warming that occurred in the middle ages when Greenland really was green and crops were grown there.

    No vehicles in either if those cases.
  31. Bill Woolverton from Edmonton, Canada writes: An Inconvenient Truth is in line with mainstream scientific opinion, Montbiot tends to be more extreme, but that doesn't necessarily make him wrong, and to classify the scientific debate as denialists or even skeptics/complacency versus alarmists is quite false. Pielke's analogy as described by Wente is actually deeply flawed. The tub holds say 380 litres (we are a metric country and I find volume is more useful than depth). What is going in (carbon sources) is in fact closer to 79.5 litres of which about 3.6 litres is human caused (including land-use changes)). What is going out (withdrawn by carbon sinks) is about 77.9 litres, thus around half of anthropogenic emissions are absorbed by carbon sinks; hence the observed increase in carbon dioxide concentrations. The problem is not just that the drain may get clogged, i.e. the sinks may not function as well in the future, but some sinks may indeed turn into sources. One of the possibilities is that there will be a significant impact from the melting of carbon-rich permafrost. The goal is not to reduce the water in the tub to 280 litres, but rather to stabilize it at a level that will not result in an increase of no more than a global average of 2 degrees Celcius, which some scientists agree constitutes dangerous anthropogenic climate change. There is some disagreement on what level of concentration that is, but it could be lower than 450 ppm (or 450 litres in the tub). Of course actions now will not have an impact for many years, partly because there is almost as much warming expected as has occurred to date merely because of the stored heat in the oceans. That is not the point. As Montbiot points out so eloquently, the sooner deep cuts in emissions are made, the easier (and cheaper) it will be to stabilise the atmosphere, because cutting deeply early rather than waiting will reduce significantly the total amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. What uncertainty there is is no reason for complacency.
  32. Geoff I from Canada writes: Wow! I'll say one thing for Maggie Wente, she can cherry pick like the best of them. Most climate scientists found An Inconvenient Truth largely correct thought they fuss on some of the details. Apparently that's far too inconvenient for Maggie. People like her once denied the world was warming at all. This is just another transparent propaganda move. The AP4 comes out next week. I guess we'll see what the science really says.
  33. David Muller from Cambridge, ON, Canada writes: Why is it not possible to legislate change throught goverment policy?
    Not just a reduction in emmisions, but a complete change in how the industry perpetuates itself.
    We have the technology to reduce our need in fossil fuel except the big 3 (oil, auto, energy) only care about their bottom line $$

    They are the ones who killed the electric car 10 years ago and are still the root cause of high use of fossil fuels

    I say we MAKE them change, MAKE them produce alternative fuel derived cars (and not the hybrid because this will not help reduce are consumption) because there will still be more cars then people.

    The more non-fossil fuel cars they make the cheaper they become,, force the consumer to buy and end the polluting way of the car

    set up an energy distribution pump at all gas stations so people can pay to recharge their electric cars

    give tax breaks to people who purchase a non-fossil fuel car

    legalized marijuana, give it to the farmers, and make a new industry to create ALL paper products out of hemp so we can stop cutting down trees that produce oxygen and cleans out the co2
    or use that to fuel our autos,, but thats another thread for another time
  34. Eric Lehner from Barrie, Canada writes: There is less danger in "over-reacting" with an inconvenient reduction in carbon use than from unnecessarily conservative hesitation emanating from the climate change deniers. It is sooooo obvious that major untoward climate events are happening worldwide that the skeptics are literally strange in their continuing obstinance. Thank you Al Gore for popularizing awareness of the issue. The others will be eating their words soon enough.
  35. Martin Spacek from Vancouver, Canada writes: Prior to reading Margaret Wente's spewage of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), I happened to read Vancouver's Georgia Straight's front-page story this week on global warming: "Trust us, we're the media"

    http://straight.com/article-67107/trust-us-were-the-media

    It addresses exactly Margaret's brand of flawed, "balanced", reporting.

    I find it quite sad that Margaret falls so neatly into the slot described by the Straight's Mitchell Anderson, in spite of the fact she doesn't even work for a CanWest paper under the thumb of the Asper family.

    To wit:

    "Translation: the public is being misinformed on climate science by poor journalism that continues to tell both sides of the story even when there is no other side. The resultant political inaction might well kill the planet."

    I hope that Margaret, for the sake of consistency in her unswerving dedication to "balance", is also writing a piece on how Evolution should be taught alongside Creationism in Canadian classrooms, Kansas-style.

    Come to think of it, employing aged reporters such as Margaret, who personally have little to fear from upheaval and collapse within the next 50 years, is in fact a conflict of interest. If the Globe is truly concerned about clear, concise, and factual reporting on this issue (as the Editor in chief has just recently announced with glorious fanfare) put some young reporters on the job, ones that will actually have a vested interest in accurately reporting the true urgency of this mess that the old have created for the young.

    Margaret, you make me want to vomit.
  36. Martin Spacek from Vancouver, Canada writes: Apparently, I'm not alone in my nausea:

    http://wentewatch.blogspot.com
  37. Lee Bailie from Whitby, ON, Canada writes: Many of the comments on this forum highlight the sort of condescending, holier-than-thou moralism that dominates much of the climate change discussion, as Margaret clearly explains in her piece. I thought the article was both reasonable and fair and contained what I thought were interesting counterpoints to some of the shriller voices and the outrageous and unreasonable solutions they propose. The irony in some of these comments is pretty thick, as they accuse Ms.Wente of bias, while piling on plenty of their own, calling her a 'denier' or 'skeptic' for years and then pillorying her again now that she's come around to the realization that climate change is real. In so doing these posters unwittingly prove her point about the hysteria that prevents more rational discussion about climate change and what can be done to mitigate its effects. I can only imagine the volumes of hate-mail that have filled her inbox over the past two days. Letters seething with contempt for the nerve she must have to acknowledge the obvious: predicting the path of climate change is fraught with guesswork, even for the experts, and secondly, what we can reasonably do to alter the trajectory of these events. It would seem obvious to me, and I would think to any rational person that humans alone will NEVER be able to control our weather. Does this mean we shouldn't take steps now to try and make things better for future generations? Well of course not, but reading some of these comments make me wonder if recognizing the inherent limitations of our efforts and the need to change our behaviours are mutually exclusive. Like if you really want to save the world, you wouldn't dare second-guess the motives of Al Gore and George Monbiot, would you? They, like David Suzuki, have already been properly lionized as great visionaries and are therefore beyond criticism. Therefore, Ms. Wente's article is to be viewed through that prism with appropriate revulsion.
  38. D Bell from Toronto, Canada writes: Kudos to Margaret Wente for highlighting the fact that there is no scientific unaniminity on some of the suggestions made by Al Gore's movie on how to improve the environment. But while Ms. Wente scores points for highlighting this lack of unaniminity, she fails to follow through. Where is the unaniminity on the proposition that we should be cleaning fossil fuels, as suggested by Mr. Jaccard? There is no unaniminity that reducing reliance on fossil fuels will solve any problems. Fred Palmer, CEO of Western Fuels Association, said on PBS Newshour that "Fossil fuels are good and not bad. We want to use more of them." See? One is forced to the inescapable conclusion in the circumstances: until there is scientific unaniminity, we should do nothing. This is the same reason why I continue to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day: the medical community is still not unanimous that it is harmful. Sure, I coughed a bit when I was shovelling my driveway for the first time this season last week, but like the previous commenter Mr. Ottridge points out, if there are counterexamples one can point to, you cannot draw any conclusions. In fact, I saw two other people coughing the other day, and they weren't smokers. So it can't be the cigarettes. Kudos again Ms. Wente, but follow through with the strength of your convictions! You almost had the answer - which is that we should do nothing until there is unaniminity.
  39. Dean W from Toronto, Canada writes: I remember when MW went to Iraq after the US invasion. All she could find were Iraqis who were elated with the invasion. If you were to read her article it seemed as though there could be nothing to worried about. As it turns out, things haven't been very good for the Iraqis.

    The point is that MW starts with an answer and seeks to confirm it by interviewing those who are likely to confirm her hypothesis. Even if they are nuanced, a little editing takes care of that. How you frame your questions helps determine your answer, as does who you ask. When MW finds a few scientists who support the (now former) Bush-line, as MW does for everything, those are they ones she talks to.

    And just like in Iraq, when the vast majority of Iraqis were angry and afraid, she finds a few to support her line of thinking. But if we're talking percentages, scientists who don't believe in global warming are in the vast minority; just like to happy Iraqis.

    So she finds this tiny minority, and now we have "balance."

    Also, it's funny (hypocritical) to hear MW lament scaremongering from environmentalists, which I'll admit there is some. MW is more than willing to scaremonger over terrorism, which is far less likely to effect the average Canadian than climate change. Besides, everybody knows it takes scaremongering to motivate the masses. See Bush Post-9/11.

    MW is to journalism what pro wrestling is to sports.
  40. John sutherland from Fredericton, N.B, Canada writes: Bravo Margaret. Al Gore’s film, like his book, is proving to be popular with those who know little to nothing of science, climate change, or even of weather, it seems. Both are mostly a load of old Codswollop. It is verging on criminality that we seem to be so scientifically illiterate as to buy into his politically-inspired disinformation about the effects of carbon dioxide to such a degree that we seem hell bent on destroying our economies, our societies, and our lifestyles. Almost any response that any politician foolishly tries to make to meet any half-baked Kyoto target, will achieve almost nothing – already well known – but at a monetary cost of trillions of dollars, and at a horrendous social cost that few seem to have recognized just yet. What level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere should we aim for if the present almost 400 parts per million is too much? No-one dares to say for some reason, or more likely, can’t. But until we can answer that question, and justify our answer with believable science (unlikely), we are treading on dangerous ground. We don’t even know what the global average temperature is, or what we foolishly think that should be either, so we tinker in our ignorance. The best, safest and most sensible response would be to ignore the Gore flim flam and continue technological and scientific progress; encourage GM to develop electric plug-in cars; electrify the railways; and build nuclear power plants and hydro projects just as fast as we can, and encourage tele-commuting to work. Within 20 to 30 years we could meet the economy-killing illusory Kyoto targets anyway, worthless as they are, and have mostly disconnected ourselves from OPEC tyrants, and at the least cost, and with maximum benefit. A real win-win situation. One of the more thorough critiques is by Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and can be found at this web address: http://www.cei.org/pages/ait_response-book.cfm#CHAPTERS
  41. Manue Fernandez from Canada writes: let's us "adapt" to live in the Sahara, too. Here goes the teeny "whatever." AT least the National Post's ideologues of successful denial - a mindset that, with impunity, has thrown heapsof abuse to anyone standing for climate change - have themselves "adapted" to a more moderante stance and, somehow-somehere- stop singing ( loud) " My Way" to the ultimate " you'r fired" boss of all: this very Earth. Ditto.
  42. Andreas Roschlaub from Canada writes: Hmmmh, I wonder what happens when someone questions any details of a established religion. Looking back over the 40 comments the results are the usual collection of outrage, invective and ... vomit.

    Margaret's article is futile. The newspaper headlines declare it to be truth, as do the 6 o'clock news and we can even watch a movie about it. The majority of people on the planet do not have the time to do the science themselves, yet everybody "just knows" it now and it's all so self-evident.

    Time to swallow the blue pill and stop arguing with the fervent. At this point we're just supposed to take it on faith.
  43. K S from Calgary, Canada writes: Dean W from Toronto.....I couldn't agree with you more!
  44. Scott De Freitas-Graff from Canada writes: Margaret I have to wonder if you have been looking out your window at the world today. These debates about political agendas and scientific truth are increasingly pointless - climate change is right in front of our eyes, and the consequences of doing nothing will certainly be dire. Anyone disputing this is simply in denial, too scared to confront reality. And yes, we should be scared - but scared into action. The future of human beings depends on it.
  45. Lee Bailie from Whitby, ON, Canada writes: Well you know what Dean? Sounds to me like you've done the exact same thing you accuse MW of. It hardly matters what she says, because you, along with many others here have decided she's a scary neo-con, non-believer who only seeks to support predetermined conclusions. I'm surprised someone hasn't accused her of being an Exxon shareholder, given the hysterics of this forum. At any rate, if you've been reading her on a regular basis like I have, you'll know that her beliefs on climate change have evolved, which I think do reflect the feelings of most regular folks. Those of us, that is, who don't have a book or a movie to flog or feel the need to be on television every night. Her 'mistake', it would seem, is taking a few well-placed shots at the paranoid hysteria that surrounds this debate. You know, the claims that we'll run out of oil in 10 years (or is it 15? 20?), every hurricane, tornado and winter storm is a result of climate change, etc. I mean, where were all those Katrinas in 2006? Oops...where are my manners? The apocalypse is coming because we drive SUVs! Buy an ugly, overpriced hybrid or die! Shut down the oil sands now! Yeah, yeah, I need to see Al Gore's movie and read some scary climate change books and that'll set me straight. For the record, I do think our climate is changing. Duh, it's always changing! Are we contributing to it? Undoubtedly, but I don't pretend to have all the answers and judging by the experts MW talked to, the scientists aren't totally sure either. Which come to think of it was the main thrust of her article. Action is needed, but there is still plenty of differing opinions on exactly what we should be doing. Gee, what a scary climate change denier she is for writing such things!
  46. Lori Gadzala from Ottawa, Canada writes: It is gratifying to have a former naysayer like Margaret a) accept the science of climate change, and b) embrace the key policy ideas that really will reduce greenhouse gases for industry and automakers, namely carbon taxes and emissions caps.

    But grousing about the differing opinions on what will happen exactly when with our climate clouds the issue. The bottom line is greenhouse gases are changing the climate, and not for the better in most parts of the world (although some Canadians tired of winter may disagree.) So why wouldn't Canada (as the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita) want to do something about that if we could? Especially if we have signed a legally binding treaty to do so? Even the US has lower per-capita emissions than us, and the Governor of California is eating our lunch on clean, green initiatives.
  47. Canadian Citizen from Ottawa, Canada writes: Congratulations, Margaret! You have successfully couched a "let me get on with my resource consuming ways and stop telling me I have to actually make changes to my lifestyle" attitude in a semi-rational argument. At least you are finally admitting that climate change is a problem, but it doesn't sound like you're going to be turning down that air conditioner (see one of Margaret's previous inane commentaries for her view on how to avoid discomfort at the expense of the environment) any time soon, and God forbid should we consider the disappearance of the polar bear (see another of her inane commentaries for this one in case you really think she's a "born again" environmentalist like her hero Harper) as a warning of what will come if we don't take serious action today. The bottom line is, mild action taken today (as you advocate) means more severe consequences in fifty years (yes, not in our lifetime, but you might want to consider giving some thought to others for once, like our grandchildren and the lives they will have to lead). Those consequences if we do little now could be catastrophic, which is reason enough for most of us to want society to take more drastic action now. The sensationalism you decry in the media today is getting people to understand the impact of their actions on future generations - even if it is sometimes a little over the top, it may actually be leading to meaningful action being taken now - a good thing in my books.
  48. Keen Observer from Toronto, Canada writes: Oh, here we go again. Margaret "We're all Americans Now" Wente (we are NOT, BTW, and nor do most of us want to be) who unabshedly advocates for the abuse and ignoring of our environment in numerous articles over the years is now going to offer us what she considers a reasoned position on climate change. Ms. Wente, I refer to you as "Blithe Spirit". I think it's an appropriate description. What have you to say about the thousands of scientists from the world over who have recently endorsed the most comprehensive, peer reviewed report ever put forward on the issue? Their warning is dire. We're not talking about a few alarmists here, are we? No. It may be true that we can't predict all the consequences and outcomes. That doesn't mean we shouldn't take drastic measures to try and avert certain disaster. The experts are telling us that's what we must do. One can always find those who are nay-sayers, even if they really ought to know better. It really wasn't all that long ago when tobacco companies had medical doctors endorsing thier products. Why aren't they doing so today? Indeed, there were armies of scientists employed by the tobacco co's. obfuscating the real dangers of smoking, but eventually, as always, the truth won out. It won't matter how skeptical or in denial one is when the actual consequences of our actions are felt.
  49. garlick toast from mill village, Canada writes: isn't it funny how in the third world,it's the poor who live on the beach,whilst in ours it's the wealthy.either way as the polar ice cap melts it's time to make plans.
  50. David J. Parker from Edmonton, Canada writes: It has taken almost half a century for the environment to get to this "scaremongering" level. How does Ms. Wente expect us to do anything, even moderately effective, unless the screws are tightened even more.
    Does she believe that the British would have been motivated to take on the Germans if Winston Churchill had said "no need to be alarmed, just suffer a little bit of discomfort and stiff upper lip". Churchill promised nothing less than 'blood, sweat and tears", and we can't even consider going into a car that hasn't been started by the automatic idler for 15 minutes.
    Thank god the media sells papers through sensationalism, if that is the only way we can be motivated to get off out collective butts.
  51. j boland from United States writes: Al Gore, like his supporters, is far more zealot than thinker, and he has never let facts get in the way of what he wants to accomplish. Al is motivated by money and power, not altrusim. And surely Margaret is correct that Al will receive an Oscar and in that demonstrate once again the inanity of Hollywood. The fact of the matter is that scientists know so little about nature as to be laughable when they pontificate as they do with such matters. None of them knows really why the earth cools or warms, just that it does from time to time. Don't be surprised if 15-20 years from now, a new mini ice age begins. Is the matter worthy of thought and objective investigation? Of course. Is it worthy of extremist machinations that will bring misery to much of the world without proven cause? Of course not.
  52. Brad MacDonald from Toronto, Canada writes: Dear Margaret, Great article. I am perplexed by all the sky is falling media on climate change that we hear daily. It was only a scant 1o,ooo years ago that there was 5000 ft of ice over southern Ontario. Thank God it melted. The hysteria reminds me a bit of Y2K. We all know how that turned out. Sure we should reduce CO2 and pollution but the new greenies remind me of a new Red Guard in their tirades on our present Western lifestyle. Tell me do you honestly want to morph into an 1860's lifestyle? If these people get their way we will be on our way to the past. Where is my horse?
  53. Long live Canada from Canada writes: This article provides a perspective that is sorely lacking with regards to this issue--a middle ground. I am growing weary of the alarmists, and I see many instances where facts are being presented in a way that is favourable to the "cause", and not objectively. Take Al Gore's movie. The realclimate.org article people are quoting also points to errors in the film. One is Gore's claim that the changes made by the U.S. Clean Air Act are visible with the naked eye on Antarctic ice core samples. They aren't. Al Gore states very clearly that they are. Anyone who has watched any type of Discovery Channel program on ice cores also knows this is untrue. I guess nobody told Gore. They also state that his use of ice core CO2 and temperature readings is not correct, and that the correlation between GW and invasive plant species is not entirely accurate. I suggest everyone read the article to instead of relying on the quotes posted here. In my opinion, a documentary promoted as a teaching tool and something that should be shown in schools, and a slide show that has been given for years should correct errors that even a non-scientist like me can spot. The science shouldn't just be "almost right", and Gore shouldn't claim things that aren't true. I guess the actual science isn't thrilling and frightening enough. Please do not only quote parts of an article that favour your argument.
  54. Cup of Tea from National, Canada writes: Wente is a windbag and she is out of her league here.

    She knows not what she speaks.
  55. Public Health Doc-in-training from Canada writes: While it is likely true that the small efforts of individuals will not change the global climate in the foreseeable future, there are many reasons to act in an ecologically-sensible manner other than just trying to influence climate change.

    Our whole "SUV mentality" is destroying far, far more than just the climate: it has diminished our general sense of community, worsened all kinds of health problems (eg. childhood obesity!), likely plays a role in a great deal of mental health issues... and there is a great deal of evidence for the benefit of "feeling like you can make a difference" as an individual, being able to exert some measure of control over your own life. Sure, bringing my own bag to carry the groceries home (on foot!) probably won't save the world. But it's a choice I can make, and it makes me feel better, and maybe it makes my little corner of the world a better place. And that alone is probably worth a lot more than the credit we give it.
  56. peter wilson from Ottawa, Canada writes: I just read a Greenland Viking article at: http://www.holloworbs.com/Greenland_vikings.htm

    "For the first century or so of their Greenland colonization, the Vikings and their descendants enjoyed a reasonably prosperous and pleasant life there. Greenland's climate c. 1000 A.D. was in an extraordinarily warm phase, and the name Eric chose for his new land may not have been quite the real-estate promoter's con-job as has been assumed. Even 350 years later, after a general global cooling had altered Greenland's climate for the worse, Ivar Bardson wrote that " On the mountains and lower down grow the best of fruits, as big as apples and good to eat. There also grows the best wheat that exists." Life in Greenland was hardly the rough outpost existence we might expect...." Gee maybe a little global warming will be a nice thing... and chilly Newfoundland and Greenland are pretty big places !
  57. Wilma Leung from Canada writes: As someone who has been significantly humbled, though mostly privately, I have come alive again reaffirming that the solution to climate change is half abatement and half adaptation, half through "getting our acts together" and half through tchnologies and innovations. I'm positive all these are within our means.
  58. Greg Davies from Calgary, Canada writes: Nice to see some reasonably balanced reporting from the G&M (source criticism's noted).

    However I expected to see some discussion around the issue of deforestation and the impact on CO2 absorbtion.

    The experts point out that reducing the rate of 'filling' (CO2 emissions) even drastically won't have a substantial immediate effect on warming - but there is no discussion on our ability to impact the rate of 'draining'.

    The mechanism for draining CO2 is (I believe?) PhytoSynthesis, but deforestation is increasing rapidly in many parts of the world, so I would guess that the rate of CO2 'draining' is also decreasing.

    I've read another post somewhere suggesting that 'carbon tax' calculations should be based on CO2 absorbion / emission by region.

    Instead of channeling Kyoto bucks to developing nations why not channel Carbon tax payments towards a blend of international reforestation where it will be most effective, and international R&D for alternative fuels?
  59. john varty from New Haven, CT, US, Canada writes: This is perfectly consonant with MW's style -- find the exception(s) and proceed as if they prove the rule. Remain ignorant at all costs, submit copy, receive paycheque.
  60. Brad Dykema from Halifax, Canada writes: Maraget, stop trying to convince yourself you can sustain your unsustainable lifestyle. It's so unbelievably selfish to argue that since lifestyle changes you make won't substantially help the problem of global warming in your lifetime, there's no point in making them. Using solar panels and driving less doesn't help solve the problem, you say? If everyone made enough of such changes in their lives to slow the rate the tub fills, we've helped matters. If there's any chance that one day, perhaps in a distant relative's lifetime, the tub will overflow, shouldn't we start slowing the rate of fill NOW?! By whatever means we have at our disposal now?
  61. Bill Templeman from Peterborough, Ontario, Canada writes: Margaret Wente holds an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto. I hold an M.A. in English Literature from the same university. She hasn't much of a science background. I don't have much of a science background either. Wente is a high-profile columnist who writes well and has discovered a slick formula for creating lots of buzz about her columns: Take a contrarian position, give no credence to opposing views and arrive at a conclusion which supports conservative ideology. I am a legend only in my mind, do not write particularly well, have yet to find a formula for getting my rants published, and my ideology is all over the map. Wente is a talented journalist. I am not. People don't pay any attention to my opinions about global warming, the science behind it and what we should do about it. Why should they? Then why, oh why should Wente's opinions treated any differently? At the end of the day Wente and I are both utterly dependent on the scientific experts and systems thinkers who are best equipped to sort out all this frightfully complex stuff out and recommend actions. Let's listen to them. So don't listen to me. And don't listen to Margaret Wente.
  62. Dr. Robert Wright from Regina, Canada writes: I was in some ways dismayed by Ms. Wente's column on climate change. We have a real problem and we need all people of good will to get behind all parts of the solution, not just the aspects that are convenient to their lifestyles. There is no question that cutting down on your personal CO2 output will have long-term benefits for the planet. Yes, solar panels and smaller cars will help. These alterations in personal life style are part of the solution. It is negligent to suggest otherwise and encourage your millions of readers to sleepwalk into the future. As far as assigning responsibility for why we, as a society, have done so little on this issue, I note that your columnist lists industry and gov't but conveniently leaves out journalists and the rest of media. Think a little more about what you are saying - have the courage to recognize, and say, that individuals need to take action too. Ms. Wente is making the mistake of thinking in terms of her life time and fails to think about the next few centuries. We ought to think of our children's children's children - or longer. We may well be in a serious pickle - shall we dally and take our time? Shall we ask our neighbour to act first, divest our responsibility to gov't and industry? I hope the rest of your staff see the movie. This is serious business and I don't think we can afford complacency. Sometimes speed is of the essence, and SUVs and sunny vacations in Florida are not. I am a scientist and I would ask your columnist to understand that scientists are notorious for not wanting to take a firm position on anything. It is the nature of their training - they make poor decision-makers. I suppose that Ms. Wente feels she is doing some white-knight service in mocking the alarmists, but her shallow understanding of the potential effects on the global ecosystem have done us all some harm.
  63. T Dog from toronto, Canada writes: To Margret Wente and all others who do not believe that the enviroment is in dire need of some serious T.L.C.
    It seems obvious that these people do not have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews (or even friends for that matter) that they care about enough to help ensure their future
    PLEASE do the rest of humanity a huge favour and and help reduce green house gases.

    STOP BREATHING!!!! Thank you!!
  64. Dave Zaluski from Calgary, Canada writes: Thats right! I am big bad capitalist from oil soaked Calgary but you know what? I am disgusted at the dual standards Ms. Wente applies to the debate. She handily dismisses any argument for the Gore camp while adopting those that she supports for example, Prof. Mendelsohn's view that benefits for Canada are a sure bet. She also refuses to allow for the possibility that some of these very dire consequences are indeed possible. Who says the Greenland "pump" cant stop? Why its Prof. Wunsch himself- and I quote from the article "Nobody can really tell you what the probabilities are" -except of course the "con" camp. Perhaps a little scare is exactly what we need to see some action for the political and industrial power brokers.
  65. Michael Aziz from Toronto, Canada writes: Thank you for this very insightful and thought-provoking article.

    Cheers.
  66. Alan Brown from Ex-pat, Canada writes: Al Gore started a carbon-credit business two years before writing his book. He is a snake-oil salesman and will likely get rich playing off the fears of others. He doesn't care about the environment. His carbon footprint is 20 times that of any one of us. But don't worry he is buying carbon credits from his own company.
    The fact of the matter is that we don't know anything. I have looked at the climate models and have studied the debate to death. Most think tanks in the world think that fighting climate change is fundamentally a waste of money. Alberta unleashed it 100 billion dollar carbon capture program. Basically it will reduce the carbon dioxide globally by such a small number it will not even measure on any scale. That 100 billion would go a long way to building mass transit, reclaiming land, setting up wildlife sanctuaries or planting trees. But no, we will spend it on putting plant food into the ground. Brilliant. I know you are all afraid of what they are saying may happen. You are supposed to be a afraid. That is why they call it fear mongering. As far as the future, turning Canada into a third world country will not help. I am in the third world, they have no environmental controls here at all. The water is undrinkable, the air is polluted and garbage is dumped wherever. They have no environmental watchdog groups and have never heard of Kyoto. So go ahead and shut down you industry and buy your products from here. It won't reduce the global green house gas emissions, in fact it will increase them due to the distance they have to travel but you will sleep better thinking you have done something. Or better yet, buy your carbon credits off Gore, I hear he needs a new jet. Or better yet, get your government to tax you more because we all have too much money and the government will spend your money wisely. Reduce your energy needs because it is good for your bank account. We need to put more money into research and development of alternative energy.

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