A More Civil Debate Needed

Commentary, Climate, Tom Harris

Greg Davis (Times letter – "Just follow the money, Art", Feb 16) demonstrates the tactics employed by those who seek to silence debate about the causes of climate change. They:

1 – Belittle and discredit opponents.

This is the "ad hominem" logical fallacy-"attack the man." Davis does this when he makes entirely irrelevant accusations that I am a "former energy lobbyist and PR guy turned astroturf-roots organizer" and that International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC) is a "dubious" group.

The only question that matters is:

"Are humanity's greenhouse gas emissions, causing, or likely to cause, dangerous global warming and other problematic climate change."

Davis presented no scientific evidence whatsoever to counter ICSC's view that humanity's impact on global climate appears to be very small.

His accusations are wrong besides. I spent most of my career in engineering but am guided at ICSC by leading climate scientists from around the world. I have never been a lobbyist for anyone, let alone the energy industry. Lobbying is a waste of time until the public is more realistic about climate change. Therefore, we focus on public education.

The 'denial' label Davis uses was originally created to equate those who question political correctness on climate to Holocaust denial, a highly offensive ad hominem that continues to poison the debate.

2 – Assert that the skeptic made absolute and exaggerated statements.

This is usually done to portray skeptics as extremists who cannot be trusted.

For example, Davis implies that, in my TV interview, I condemn environmentalists as "misanthropic losers bent on the extinction of the human species." I would never say that since I and many of my friends are environmentalists.

People should be aware however that there is a small and at times very loud subset in the movement who take an antihuman approach that, if ever carried out fully, could threaten our survival.

Also, I would never say "the ice caps are actually getting bigger," although recent satellite surveys have found that, globally, ice melt is far slower than feared.

Similarly ICSC does not assert that climate alarmism is, in general, a conspiracy. While some people promote the scare for financial or philosophical reasons, most are simply misinformed.

3 – Use guilt/fear to disgrace opponents.

Davis demonstrates this when he asserts that "if there is a hell," then we are headed there for our "shameful deception."

4 – Minimize the opposition and simplification to the point of meaninglessness.

Davis asserts, "About whether or not humans are changing the atmosphere and climate of our planet, however, there seems to be increasingly little doubt within the credible scientific community."

This is meaningless. No one contests that we are changing the atmosphere and climate. The debate is over whether or not we are causing dangerous climate change. A quick look at the list of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific references in the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC – see nipccreport.org) shows that the skeptics side is very well supported.

Canada needs climate policy based on sound science and economics, coupled with a genuine desire to protect nature and help societies most affected by climate change. Attack-style, error riddled contributions such as that by Davis are not helpful.