Of detainees, ClimateGate, and Y2K

We can hardly blame the mainstream media for no longer hosting public debate about whether climate change is actually happening: nobody wants to appear as though they’re supporting foolish conspiracy theories. Dissenters have been relegated to the journalistic ignominy of the internet, which is why the Internet is so juicy.

Isn’t it ironic that the people wearing the end-of-the-world sandwich boards used to be considered the wild-eyed fringe? Now, they’re the reasonable ones  and the crazies are the ones saying, “hold on, it’s not that dire. Everything’s going to be okay.”

This morning, Anna-Maria Tremonti and Linden MacIntyre read some emails on CBC radio’s The Current regarding the “ClimateGate” scandal and interviewed Spencer Weart, recent author of “The Discovery of Global Warming.” He explained away the hacked emails and computer files from Britain’s Climate Research Institute, saying he didn’t find anything particularly damning in them.

And on Tuesdays show, The Current broadcast a sample of debates being held in Toronto that evening between George Monbiot, author of “Heat, How to stop the World from Burning,” and Bjorn Lombourg, author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist.” The focus of the debate was how to best spend money on fighting global warming.

But I can’t help feeling cynical about it all, just like with the reports on the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. There’s a lot we don’t know, and a lot we’re not allowed to read. All we hear are the accusations and the denials.

If scientists say the world is warming up…fair enough. I trust them, just like I trust my doctor when she says my thyroid’s underactive and I need to take that little yellow pill every morning. (However, she was also the doctor who asked me if I wanted to see a shrink when I was really suffering from an undiagnosed balance disorder. Lesson? Professionals don’t know everything.)

Since I am a citizen who pays her taxes, and since my wallet is about to burst with the trillions of dollars Mr. Monbiot wants countries like ours to spend on energy changes, could someone answer the following questions for me?

1)      How do scientists know for sure that heating and cooling trends do not run in cycles?

2)      Are we in a heating cycle, as climate-change deniers speculate, that has little to do with us?

3)      How do they know that what is happening now hasn’t happened before and will probably happen again in varying degrees (no pun intended)?

4)      How do scientists know that their present scientific models predicting the flooding of coastlines around the world are actually accurate?

Question number four is of particular importance, because politicians, special interest groups, the EU and the UN, are pushing countries to make some very drastic (not to mention, expensive) changes based on the accuracy of these models. And the third world can hardly be expected to keep up. As a humble citizen, I feel like a first-time parachuter being forced out at 20,000 feet by an overzealous jump instructor.

The IPCC has the vast majority of our global population convinced (at least, the ones that aren’t starving to death or are in the middle of a civil war and have bigger problems to worry about) that our demise is imminent. As a result, we are willing to hand over our sovereignty because of it.

The fact that so many people no longer brook denial and insist on extreme political and economic changes that have the potential to bankrupt us (like the UN, for example, who would dearly love to charge independent nations a global carbon tax) is bully behaviour. In the end, this movement has the potential to remove power from individual governments and put it in the hands of a much smaller (and richer) group of people.

I became skeptical about panic movements after Y2K—remember that? This time ten years ago, The Current reported about it constantly, along with every other TV news station, radio program, newspaper or magazine. We were faced with doomsayers everywhere we looked. Toasters were going to burn up, planes were going to fall from the sky, and your electric toothbrush was going to explode in your mouth on January 1, 2000 because of some computer glitch.

And then, midnight rolled around. The calendar turned over, the sun rose the next morning. Coffee makers dripped, planes landed safely, no cars broke down on the highway.

And what happened to the story in the media?

It just went away, never to be mentioned again, along with all the creative non-fiction authors who made a bundle on the story and a name for themselves in interviews. How about that?

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