Someone tweeted a thought the other day that had been on my mind for a while. In short, will the warming climate finally convince Newfoundlanders to break down and buy air conditioners?
With increasing periods of stifling humidity this year, the thought has certainly crossed my mind. And though temperatures will still vary a bit from year to year, global warming is not going away any time soon.
Climate change (which is just a less alarming substitute for the term global warming) has been back in the news in recent months. And it’s not, as skeptics may have hoped, because scientists have had to backtrack on many of their dire predictions.
Last month — deemed the hottest July on record for many areas of North America — saw a huge upswing in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. For a few days, almost the entire surface was melting at the same time. Scientists say there is a known 150-year cycle of simultaneous melting, but July’s event was still unprecedented.
Great big meltdown
This month, scientists warned that Arctic sea ice could disappear entirely in summer months within 10 years, much earlier than originally thought.
According to Postmedia News, “the unrelenting Arctic meltdown — in which the five greatest ice retreats of the past three decades have happened in the five summers since 2007 — is part of an overall warming in Far North communities that has caused record-setting ambient temperatures, costly coastal erosion and a discernible northward expansion of plant and animal ranges.”
If you’re reading this column online, there may already be a comment or two posted below saying, in a nutshell, that global warming is a hoax.
I can understand how some people may think that. Because there certainly is a hoax at play here. Just not the one they think it is.
The real hoax is the one played by large corporations such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, who have the most to gain by muddying the scientific waters.
British science journalist George Monbiot has been an untiring defender of the climate consensus. (Yes, there is a consensus — not just a thin majority, but virtual unanimity.)
In his 2006 book “Heat,” he explains how the illusion of debate over the very existence of manmade warming was manufactured by the deep pockets of ExxonMobil.
“To safeguard its profits, ExxonMobil needs to sow doubt about whether serious action needs to be taken on climate change. But there are difficulties: it must confront a scientific consensus as strong as that which maintains that smoking causes lung cancer or that HIV causes AIDS.”
Propaganda at play
In short, says Monbiot, Exxon created an elaborate funding scheme to finance organizations intent on seeding doubts about global warming.
This is not merely paranoia talking. As of 2006, the website Exxonsecrets.org, using data obtained from the corporation itself, counted 124 foundations and think-tanks that were directly or indirectly funded from Exxon’s coffers.
These organizations may vary in several ways, says Monbiot, but they all take one consistent line on climate change: “that the science is contradictory, the scientists are split, environmentalists are charlatans, liars or lunatics, and if governments took action to prevent global warming, they would be endangering the global economy for no good reason.”
Six years later, in fooling a large segment of citizens into thinking climate science is not settled, Exxon has “won” the battle. It has sowed just enough doubt to help stall efforts to do anything about it — particularly among North American leaders.
Many of those who lobbied for action now expect the response will be more crisis management than prevention.
There’s a hoax, all right. And the joke’s on all of us.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s editorial page editor.