Oh the CBC…. It’s not that I particularly enjoy kicking them around, but rather they seem to enjoy it. At least they must because their reporting sometimes just begs for it. Granted this time I’m referring to an Associated Press article they’ve republished, but if they post it, they’re fair game for criticism.
Take last Saturday’s article, Ice climbers give eyewitness accounts of global warming. The questions start with the headline. The climbers may have witnessed “vanishing glaciers, melting ice routes, crumbling rock formations and flood-prone lakes where glaciers once rose,” but those aren’t global warming. Rather, they’re effects of it. Possibly.
Climate is ridiculously complex. There are so many factors, climate scientists resort to models to explain their observations because a simple formula or two aren’t enough. But models are only as good as the assumptions put into them. Can climate scientists understand everything about the climate in a given area to build a perfect model? Don’t bet on it. Regardless, models are useful because if you make one that explains everything you’ve measured in the past, you can see what future effects may be by changing parameters. Still, a model sufficient to explain past observation may return incorrect results when other changes are introduced.
What the news media, and most enviro-nuts, refuse to understand is the complexity of the climate is so extreme, drawing simple causal conclusions is laughably naive. Even the climate scientists often get things wrong, but we’re supposed to believe anyone with crampons and a rope when they claim a particular retreating glacier is proof of anthropomorphic climate change? Perhaps if it’s what you’re already determined to believe…
The article wants to believe it very badly it seems. It refers to Yvon Chouinard as a renowned climber and surfer. His further credentials are having founded an outdoor clothing company. How can we possibly deny our hand in global warming when he says, “I personally have done a bunch of ice climbs around the world that no longer exist. I mean, I was aghast at the change.” Case closed. That’s as solid as proof can get. Might as well go home now.
Mark Bowen is a climber and a physicist, and he also wrote a book on climate and mountains. He says, “As climbers we see these places, we go all over the world. We’re in touch with the natural world like few people are. We can see the changes better than most people can.” I have no doubt climbers see things the average person doesn’t. But does seeing things make them experts about the cause of what they see? At least Bowen is a scientist, but a doctorate in physics doesn’t make him a climate expert. The blurb describing the book explains that Bowen accompanied Lonnie Thompson, a pioneer of high-altitude ice-core drilling. Frankly, I’d rather hear what Thompson has to say.
Next up is Maynard Miller. He says, “We’re going to be in one heck of a mess, I can guarantee that. We have mucked up the world’s climate.” I’m impressed with his credentials as a climber, but not so impressed with his climate pronouncements given he’s a geologist. He goes further, saying, “Glaciers are extraordinarily sensitive indicators of climate change.” I have no problem believing this, but how can he be so sure of the cause of the changes he sees?
My favourite example is Mount Kilimanjaro. The glaciers on Kilimanjaro are shrinking and this is a commonly brought up in support of the claim that we’re warming the planet. What’s rarely said, just as the CBC article fails to mention, is the cause of Kilimanjaro’s glacial retreat is in more question now than ever. Scientists have noticed Kilimanjaro has undergone intense deforestation and many believe this is the reason for the shrinking glaciers. The article cites Kilimanjaro as clear evidence of global warming, despite the evidence not being as conclusive as the doomsayers claim.
But hey, I’m not a climatologist, or even a physicist or geologist. Why would you believe me? The difference between me and these guys is I am not suggesting you believe me. All I’m suggesting is you ask questions, challenge conclusions, and not automatically believe what the media hands you. This tiny application of thought and the scientific method would make you better qualified to write the article than the author of the article.