The level of confusion and misinformation surrounding the real and perceived issues of “climate change” related to CoP 15 in Copenhagen is enormous, but it need not be.
The real issue is not about “climate change”, but about the effects of global warming on the environment. Every adverse effect on the environment cited by people who study these things is always about the effect of warming. For example, glaciers are melting; species are dying out or changing geographical ranges because of increased temperature. No one denies that since 1910 the atmosphere has warmed. Several different records show the same result.
The term “climate change” is not useful in the current situation because the only constant factor about the earth’s climate since the beginning of time is “change”. It is normal for the climate to change. At some time, and with 100% certainty, we can say the current warming will stop and the earth will move into a period of global cooling.
The controversy, and there is a controversy, is about the cause of the current warming. Some scientists claim that the increased concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is the major cause. Other scientists claim that the major cause is changes in the energy output of the sun.
Confusion has entered the controversy on both sides with the incorrect use of the word “consensus”. Achieving consensus in social situations is very powerful and contributes greatly to the success of churches and other social organizations. Consensus is the agreement among a group of people about how to accomplish a particular goal or objective. Consensus encourages the individuals in a group to work together smoothly and efficiently towards a common goal.
Consensus does not work in science because science is not about opinion; it is about verifiable and reproducible evidence—the evidence rules. Throughout history, many examples show consensus in science was just plain wrong. Some of the most famous are that of Galileo, Copernicus, Einstein and more recently, Alfred Wegener, the discoverer of the tectonic plate theory of continent movement. In the current controversy, it is safe and intelligent to disregard the results of counting the number of scientists with one opinion or another.
A complicated set of variable forces determine the earth’s climate. Understanding how these forces work together is only just beginning. New information and reassessment of existing information will continue to surface for many years and change how we must view the climate and its effect on the environment.
There is a dangerous misconception that we can change the climate. If the sun is the cause, it is obvious that we cannot control the sun. If the cause is CO2, then we also cannot control the atmospheric temperature. Even if we could reduce carbon emissions to zero today, the warming from CO2 currently in the atmosphere will be with us for centuries. That is how long it will take the excess CO2 to dissolve in the oceans or react with rocks.
We have no alternative but to adapt to climate change and to concentrate on a more important problem – future energy supply as coal, oil and natural gas become scarce. Without sufficient energy, we cannot adapt to climate change.