Do you take your sick child to a gerontologist?

Dennis Howlett is a good friend. He writes about enterprise software over on ZDNet and is a regular viewer and commenter on the GreenMonk Energy and Sustainability show.

You can imagine my dismay then when in his latest post he discusses climate change and asks if we are being hoodwinked! Dennis trots out the old one that

CO2 is an effect, not a cause of global warming and that there is more likelihood that natural activity by the sun is causing climate change.

Sorry Dennis but there is plenty of evidence that that is not the case. To whit:

there is no correlation between solar activity and the strong warming during the past 40 years. Claims that this is the case have not stood up to scrutiny (pdf document).

Direct measurements of solar output since 1978 show a steady rise and fall over the 11-year sunspot cycle, but no upwards or downward trend .

Similarly, there is no trend in direct measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet output and in cosmic rays. So for the period for which we have direct, reliable records, the Earth has warmed dramatically even though there has been no corresponding rise in any kind of solar activity.

Dennis then goes on to use the Great Climate Swindle to back up his case. Oh dear! Seriously. Even the scientists who were quoted in that film have criticised it! Another scientist who considered working with the producer said:

To put this bluntly: the data that you showed in your programme were wrong — and may have been deliberately faked… it does show what abundant experience has already taught me — that, left to their own devices, TV producers simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

Incredibly Dennis then compares the climate crisis to Y2K

In retrospect the principle reason put forward – that there would be a mass failure of equipment essential to our industrial well being coupled with possible loss of life – was little more than a fraud. At 00:01 1st January, 2000 nothing happened.

Was there some hyperbole in talking about the risks associated with Y2K? I have no doubt there was but just because very little went wrong that is a sign that we were well prepared, not that it was a fraud. That is the same logic which says “I got a vaccination for hepatitis and I never got hepatitis, that vaccination was a complete waste of time.”

Dennis even throws out the old chestnut that

recent media reporting has been skewed firmly in favor of the green lobbyists

Even if this were true, and it is not (actually the reverse is true climate skeptics are receiving vastly more media attention than their numbers justify), reporting for decades has referred disparagingly to anyone talking about climate change as ‘looney lefties’, ‘treehuggers’, ‘sandle-wearers’, etc. It is great to see this message being taken a little more seriously by mainstream media at last.

The real crux of Dennis’ argument is one of the credibility of the science though. He says:

The problem for most of us is that the science on which we’re encouraged to think green is, as Jeff points out, something very few of us truly understand. That means we have to take on faith that what we’re being told is correct.

Dennis goes on to refer to my post last week where I say enough of the half-measures, time to get the thumb out…

Tom’s a good friend and another Irregular but his comment is based upon the recent report by MIT on Climate Change which is making polemic predictions about climate change

[my emphasis]

I’m sorry Dennis but you may have missed the bit where I said the MIT study was the:

most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century

This was by the numbers research, peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Climate – nothing polemic about that.

I could go on further dissecting Dennis’ post line by line but you get the gist.

Basically it comes down to a question of credibility. We live in an age of specialisation. If my child is unwell, I bring him to a paediatrician, a doctor who specialises in the care of sick children. I do not bring him to a gerontologist – who, although also a doctor, specialises in the care of the elderly. By the same token, if there is a problem with the climate, I am more likely to believe the opinion of climatologists than I am that of geologists, chemists or even famous botanists, for that matter. And the climatologists are pretty much unanimous in their belief that mankind is the cause of climate change.

I am disappointed that Dennis chose to publish this post before having a chat with me about it. I would certainly have helped him write a better post by pointing out some of the flaws in the article (and hopefully he’d have written a better post as a result).


If the current climate crisis is not addressed quickly, a global economic slowdown will be the least of our concerns!

Lights on, nobody home
Photo Credit Hil

Long time buddy Dennis Howlett wrote an interesting post earlier today where he talks about the dangers of being an evangelist.

In the post he takes me to task for being idealistic:

Solutions are only any good if they are solving an identifiable problem. Too often I see social media people trying to force fit solutions based on a perceived need. It is all done with the best of intentions but it is a fundamentally flawed strategy. Here’s a good illustration.

The other day, my good friend Tom Raftery was arguing that the $700 billion US financial industry rescue plan paled into insignificance compared to the good that could be done by investing a fraction of that amount in greening technologies. He may well be right. Many of us at least vaguely know we’re all going to hell in a hand basket if we don’t get a grip on climate change issues. But it isn’t top of mind in the US. Not even remotely close. Given the choice of an immediate resolution to what many believe is the imminent collapse of the US capital markets and a far off destruction of earthly resources is a non contest. The second reality is too remote for many to contemplate even though Tom’s argument is laudable. I suggested putting it in those comparative terms. Whether he does is another matter.

Dennis is referring to a couple of posts I put up on Twitter the other day where I said:

The climate crisis is infinitel more dire than the financial crisis, so why aren’t we spending billions on it?

@jeffnolan I don’t think fixing the climate is noble, I think it is waaaaay beyond urgent and dwarves the importance of the financial crisis


@dahowlett The US gov’t isn’t investing in the climate prob but can spend $100billion on the financial crisis? Insanity!

At the time of writing those posts I incorrectly thought that the US government was investing $100 billion to fix the financial crisis. I have since realised that that figure is actually $700 billion.

I am not sure if Dennis saw the original post and my link to Joseph Romm’s excellent article because if he did and he had followed it he would have read things like:

If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.

So warned IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri last fall when the IPCC released its major multi-year report synthesizing our understanding of climate science. And remember Pachauri was handpicked by the Bush administration to replace the “alarmist” Bob Watson.


What happens if we fail to act in time to avert the climate catastrophe?

Note, none of the above points are opinion. They are facts culled from the IPCC reports, reports which are widely believed to be conservative and whose predictions up to now have been shown to underestimate the observed outcomes of climate change to-date.

Now, given that the IPCC think we need to take definitive action before 2012 or it will be too late and that most people believe the IPCC to be extremely conservative, I think Dennis may want to re-think his assertion that:

Given the choice of an immediate resolution to what many believe is the imminent collapse of the US capital markets and a far off destruction of earthly resources is a non contest

Then again, maybe he’s right!

How many people do you know who are aware that definitive action needs to be taken by 2012 or its too late? Not many I suspect.

As against that, how many people do you know who are aware of the immediacy of the current financial crisis? Significantly more, I imagine.

The message about the immediacy and urgency of climate change is not getting out there.

If the current financial crisis is not addressed quickly, we risk a global economic slowdown.

If the current climate crisis is not addressed quickly, a global economic slowdown will be the least of our concerns.


Small island nations petition to the UN

Nowhere to go..
Photo Credit Sir Mervs

I received the following email this afternoon – it is a request by small island nations for the UN to address the international climate crisis with at least as much urgency as it gives to matters of war and peace.

I think it is worth reproducing here:

Dear friends,

Imagine the sea rising around you as your country literally disappears beneath your feet, where the food you grow and the water you drink is being destroyed by salt, and your last chance is to seek refuge in other lands where climate refugees have no official status. This is not a dream, it’s the fearful reality for millions of people who live on islands around the world, from the Maldives to Papua New Guinea.

That is why these small islands are taking the unprecedented step of putting an urgent resolution before the United Nations ahead of next week’s global climate talks, calling upon the Security Council itself to address climate change as a pressing threat to international peace and security.
This is a creative move born of desperation, a challenge to global powers to end their complacency and tackle this lethal crisis with the urgency of wars. But the island states’ campaign is meeting fierce opposition from the world’s biggest polluters, so they need our help. Sign the petition now to raise a worldwide chorus of support for this call — it will be presented by the islands’ ambassadors to reinforce their resolution at the UN next week:

For the first time in human history, the North Pole can be circumnavigated — the Arctic ice is melting quicker than many anticipated, accelerating sea level rise. Now small island nations, whose highest points are often only a few meters above sea level, are preparing evacuation plans to guarantee the survival of their populations. They are on the frontline, experiencing the first wave of devastating impacts from climate change which soon will threaten us all.

President Remengesau of Palau, a small island in the Pacific, recently said: “Palau has lost at least one third of its coral reefs due to climate change related weather patterns. We also lost most of our agricultural production due to drought and extreme high tides. These are not theoretical, scientific losses–they are the losses of our resources and our livelihoods…. For island states, time is not running out. It has run out. And our path may very well be the window to your own future and the future of our planet”.

Beyond the islands, countries like Bangladesh, whose population of 150 million people is already suffering, face losing large parts of their landmass. The experience of our planet’s most vulnerable communities serves as a warning sign of the future world we can all expect: extreme weather growing in intensity, conflict over water and food supplies, coasts disappearing and hundreds of millions made refugees.

The small islands’ brave campaign for survival is our campaign too — and the more signatures we raise to be delivered to the UN next week, the more urgently this call will ring out to protect our common future:

With hope,

Ben, Iain, Alice, Paul, Graziela, Pascal, Ricken, Brett, Milena — the Avaaz team

PS: For a report on Avaaz’s campaigning so far, see:

PSS: These are the States who are sponsoring the resolution: Canada, Fiji, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu

For a draft of the Small Islands States Resolution please see:

For more information about those presenting the petition please visit:

For information on Tuvalu’s evacuation plan and climate refugees:

For information about how rising sea levels will affect us all:

For more information on the Ice melt:

For more information about all of the Island States: