Introduction: Q&A with Malcolm Roberts and Brian Cox
When newly elected One Nation senator and climate change denier Malcolm Roberts met world-renowned physicist Brian Cox on ABC’s Q&A, a question was posed asking if the panel could provide some evidence that humans have induced climate change. What ensued was a debate painful for anyone with a science background to watch and in which Malcolm Roberts simply repeated that he wanted to see the “empirical evidence”. It frustrated me watching someone as intelligent and eloquent as Brian Cox who could not penetrate Malcolm Roberts. Here are my thoughts…
What Climate Change Deniers Say
Climate change deniers are not science illiterate or hardcore religious folk; inappropriate propaganda has strangled their minds. The dialogue is very limited and school-boy-bullish. The same old arguments are continually used without the slightest shred of evidence in support – hypocrites. Some need no explanation like the conspiracy surrounding climate scientists and financial profits, humans can cope with change, or that the human race should just wait for improved and more affordable technologies to solve the problem. Other arguments at least have a spine to support them, but have no legs to stand up on. These include the global warming ‘pause’, trace gases have minimal effect, the urban island heat effect, and climate models exclude water vapour.
What Scientists Say
The global warming hiatus refers to a slowing in recorded temperature increases at the beginning of the 21st century. Climate change deniers believe this is sufficient evidence that climate change has paused. In my opinion it is a bit hypocritical that deniers won’t believe the scientific evidence presented to them but will happily use a small variance in the expected data to suit their efforts. The recorded temperatures are still moving in an upward trend. During the first decade of the 21st century the temperatures have just increased at a slower rate, but this is evident throughout previous centuries.
CO2 is a trace gas as it composes less than 1% of the atmosphere but it does have an effect. A nice analogy I found compares CO2 with arsenic; you can let your children drink that water with arsenic in it, the arsenic is just a “trace water containment”. Small but active substances can be dangerous. Research shows that CO2 levels are increasing and this correlates almost perfectly with temperature increases.
The urban island heat effect is often used as an argument that rising temperatures are exaggerated but scientists have known about the effect for decades. Scientists reduce the impact of the heat island effect on their date to negligible levels. For example, NASA normalizes the urban weather station temperatures with surrounding rural weather stations. Much research has pierced this topic and all find that the effect is negligible in climate data.
There is no question that water vapour has the largest effect on climate change. Some sources say it could account for two thirds of the Earth’s heating. But climate change deniers miss a vital point. Water vapour and CO2 are related. If the temperature increases, more water is transformed into vapour, and vice versa. Therefore, sources of temperature increase, such as CO2 due to the greenhouse effect, create more water vapour which impacts climate change further. So even though CO2 has a much smaller impact directly on global warming, it indirectly impacts global warming through water vapour.
Denial VS Skepticism
‘Skeptic’ is often used to describe a climate change denier. In my opinion this is an insult to actual skeptics. The foundation of science is pinned upon skepticism. Scientific theories are scrutinized and tested through experiments because scientists are skeptical. Conversely, climate change deniers do not accept the scientific data and do not provide any conflicting evidence. Actual skeptics have a desire to improve their knowledge while climate change deniers just think they are correct.
The University of Queensland produced an excellent short video examining denial versus skepticism.
There is no doubt that climate change should be scrutinized, but when at least 97% of climate scientists believe that temperature trends are due to human activities and organizations such as NASA and prominent leaders such as Pope John Paul ll accept this, eventually rejection will die out.