The year in climate news and views

Published on December 30, 2015
Peter Jackson

There are so many fun ways to lie, but the best by far is to simply do it flat out: no flinching. No blinking.

In an interview earlier this month, U.S. presidential hopeful Ted Cruz blithely contended “the science does not support” manmade climate change. By science, the oil-backed candidate must mean something other than that embraced by every credible scientific organization on the planet.

Here are a few of my other favourite highlights in climate change news from 2015:

 

Run AMOC

In terms of science here on Earth (rather than on Planet Cruz), one of the most striking finds came in March, when researchers Stefan Rahmstorf and Michael Mann reported a slowing of the Gulf Stream.

More specifically, they documented a gradual slowing of the AMOC, or Atlantic Meridian Overturning Circulation. This is a conveyor belt of ocean flow that starts in the southern Atlantic and flows north towards Greenland. As the water cools and gains salinity, it sinks and flows backwards underneath the surface current. A stalled current could have major effects on climate and marine life.

 

Raggedy Andy

Public Utilities Board chairman Andy Wells jumped into the fray in April when St. John’s city council was batting around the idea of buying electric cars. Waste of money, said the former mayor; manmade climate change is all a big hoax, and oil is the saviour of all mankind. I tangled with Wells in the paper and through private emails. He adamantly stuck to his guns, citing tired old “sources” long ago exposed as truth-twisting shills.

 

Exxon outed

In September, Inside Climate News confirmed top executives at oil giant Exxon were warned of pending catastrophe from greenhouse gases decades ago by their own scientists, but kept it under wraps. The conclusions complemented findings by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in their 2010 book “Merchants of Doubt.” Exxon and other fossil fuel giants took a cue from the tobacco industry in peddling doubt about the science in order to forestall definitive government action.

 

Ignoramus Rex

Newfoundland native Rex Murphy once again paraded his scientific ignorance on the pages of the National Post in December, painting climate change talks as the “High Church of Global Warming.” Using his unrivalled gift for hollow rhetoric, he mocked Paris climate talks as so many high priests arguing about “how many polar bears can dance on the edge of an ice floe.” Ironic, since Rex best represents the kind of thinking that saw scientists thrown in jail centuries ago.

 

Paris summit

In mid-December, negotiators from around the world reached a landmark deal to pursue climate change solutions on a grand scale. The agreement was noteworthy for the fact that it was infinitely more inclusive than past efforts, welcoming previous holdouts like Canada on board. The pact aims to consolidate and boost efforts already underway around the world.

 

Ominous signs

As December fades, extreme weather events around the world are signalling an especially rough year ahead, spurred both by manmade global warming and the natural ocean cycle called El Niño. Flooding in Britain, record-breaking temperatures in the U.S. and forest fires in Australia are all signs of a perfect storm to come.

Happy New Year, and don’t forget to batten down the hatches!

 

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s news editor. Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.