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Here’s a joke: ACT and climate science

When will the ACT Party wake up to the world’s realities?  When will they open their eyes to the scientific consensus on climate change?  When will they understand that some small, isolated American petition simply doesn’t cut the mark for evidence of a lack of consensus?  The ACT Party’s understanding of climate science makes the Residents’ Action Movement’s economic policies look intelligent.  (And that’s a really, really big call.)

The ACT Party is the lone dissenting political party to generally accepted evidence and causes of climate change.  If the election debate that the NZ Planning Association hosted last week is anything to go by, no-one else is in denial.  (National’s spokesperson was airport-bound and couldn’t make it, but I’m reasonably certain the National Party is quite well-informed in this respect.)  The only serious debate is about how we should go about solving the problem.

It is difficult to understand whom exactly the ACT Party listens to.  The best I can do is to understand from Peter Tashkoff’s blog to that they are prepared to base their opposition to emissions trading schemes (in general, not just Labour’s one) on some petition circulating in the United States.  You have to wonder, though, when Tashkoff says scientists accepting climate change are “outnumbered fifty to one” while the best figure the petition’s website itself can give is fifteen to one.  A subtle discrepancy, but a chilling one for credibility.

And even then, the fifteen-to-one claim is questionable.  The petition can cite no survey other than the petition itself, with no counter-figure for comparison.  Rather, “fifteen-to-one” is based on the number of scientists “seriously involved in the United Nations IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) process”.  I hardly think it necessary to go further than to question the assumption that all involved scientists are directly involved in the IPCC.  It is quite a ridiculous assumption indeed.

Somewhat telling is the petition card on the front page of the website.  This petitioner’s PhD was in physics: was this the best example they could give of a petitioner?  No meteorologist, no climate scientist, no geologist?  I certainly wouldn’t want to question this person’s intelligence: if a physicist said something about particle physics, and a meteorologist said something contradicting the physicist, I think I’d believe the physicist.  The same goes in reverse when the meteorologist’s field of expertise is the topic at hand.

What, then, is the real scientific consensus on climate change?  When I direct you to the article “Scientific opinion on climate change” on Wikipedia, I’m not directing you to the article content—everyone knows that Wikipedia alone shouldn’t be taken as authoritative.  What I am directing you to is the list of 66 references (at time of writing) at the bottom of the page, for you to browse through.  It’s no coincidence that most of these views are of associations of meteorologists, climate scientists and geologists.  To give the whole picture, I should also mention this article outlining dissenting scientists (in the most broadly defined way), also quite well-referenced.  On the whole, if there is any solid evidence that the UN’s view is “not supported by the scientific community”, I find it hard to find.

I will concede, though, there there are a handful of scientists who don’t agree with the view that climate change is happening and caused by human actions.  If 100 per cent concurrence is a requirement before we should believe anything, then I could sympathise with the ACT Party’s stance against the Emissions Trading Scheme.  It just so happens that I think 100 per cent is a bit of a tall ask.  No-one in their right minds would flatly refuse scientific opinion, not even the ACT Party.  The question is, who do you believe: the vast majority of researchers, or a few thousand petitioners who we don’t even know are connected to the field?

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