The Ostrich Brigades: Climate Deniers Emerge From Hibernation

BROOKLIN, Canada - Colder than usual January temperatures in the United States have brought the climate change deniers out of hibernation, flooding websites, and opinion and letters pages about the 'great global warming hoax'. They even organised their own conference on denial in New York City this week.

'Global warming is not a global crisis' declared the Heartland Institute, organiser of the 'International Conference on Climate Change'. Heartland is a well-known right-wing lobby group which accepted more than half a million dollars from oil giant ExxonMobil between 1999 and 2005, according to Exxon documents disclosed by Greenpeace, and thousands of dollars more from the tobacco industry.

Not surprisingly, in a statement issued Tuesday, they insisted that all efforts 'intended to reduce emissions of CO2 be abandoned forthwith'.

'Manmade global warming is a total hoax. It has no basis in fact,' shouted Rush Limbaugh, a U.S. conservative radio host, on his Feb. 27 show, which draws as many as 13 million listeners.

'Record snows and cold are being reported from all over the northern hemisphere this winter,' Limbaugh claimed.

There is more to the northern hemisphere than the U.S. and Canada. Yes, it has also been cold in China and the Middle East, but it has also been very warm in Britain and most of Europe. In early February, it was balmy 14 degrees C in Edinburgh, Scotland, which is the city's normal average temperature in July. In Moscow, Russia, the most northern capital city in the world, the forecast this week is rainy and about 3 degrees C, instead of the normal snowy and -10 degrees C.

These temperatures prove nothing. It is just weather. However, climate is completely different than the daily variations in temperature in any one place. Climate is the total of all weather occurring over a period of years in a given place. A cold January means it is winter in the U.S., nothing more.

But Limbaugh went on to claim that NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies latest data shows that 'global temperatures have dropped precipitously' in the last year, when in fact NASA reported that 2007 was the second warmest year on record.

Refuting this seemingly endless flow of erroneous information, not to mention outright lies, has become a no-win proposition. Most scientists no longer waste their time, feeling that giving any attention to these self-titled 'global warming sceptics' simply encourages them and their sponsors -- corporate interests in the fossil fuel industry, among others.

Far from fading away as the world struggles to come to grips with the reality of climate change, deniers in the U.S. are making their last stand. The Washington Post reported last month that a new group, backed by the coal industry and its utility allies, are waging a 35-million-dollar campaign to fuel opposition to U.S. legislation to slow climate change.

Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that Earth is warming, and fast, even respected newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and Canada's National Post continue to print opinion articles claiming an Ice Age or global cooling is imminent. Even though there is no science behind this, the 'facts' are often distorted and comments from scientists willfully misrepresented, which are then cited on websites and blogs for months and even years.

Those who deny humans are causing climate change will continue to do whatever they can to confuse and delay action. And they can be convincing, by citing well-known experts and twisting their views and findings. So here's a couple of common sense tips to add to your radar.

Denier Tip 1: It is relatively easy to check out a suspect claim with a simple Google search. A reader recently told this reporter that global warming is really caused by variations in the sun's activity. His proof was a 'science' article from Investor's Business Daily that said this was the conclusion of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, a well-known research centre in Germany. A quick check of the Institute's website revealed their actual conclusion: 'Solar activity affects the climate but plays only a minor role in the current global warming.' It's in English and still posted on their website.

Denier Tip 2: Follow the money. Who benefits from denying climate change? It's not too hard to figure it out. General Motors Corp. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, the head of new product development, recently told reporters in Texas that global warming was a 'total crock of shit'. He had previously written a blog entry deriding efforts to force car companies to build smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles as 'like trying to address the obesity problem in this country by forcing clothing manufacturers to sell smaller, tighter sizes'.

Journalist Ross Gelbspan has documented the money trail from the automotive and fossil fuel industry to various right-wing organisations and institutes in his two books, 'The Heat is On' and 'Boiling Point'.

And how would scientists benefit by concluding that humans are inadvertently changing their climate? Deniers often allege they get grants to do research on climate change. Yes they do, but they could also get grants to research water pollution or the ozone layer.

When scientists conduct research, they are simply asking questions about something and then trying to find answers. They don't really care what the answers are. They are what they are: Humans are changing the climate. These are smart people. If they wanted to make tonnes of money, they'd work on Wall Street, wouldn't they?

(c) 2008 Inter Press Service

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