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Kudos to Dr. John Smol

Kudos to Dr. John Smol

Re: "Show me the money," Issue 3-2010, p. 16

Letter to the Editor

I was dismayed to read Carey Probst’s letter in which a vitriolic tirade was presented in an attempt to rebut points presented in “A game of Russian roulette” (Issue #2, 2010, p.2). Then I was uplifted with the article by John Smol (“The folly of denial”) whereby an articulate presentation was made defending the main principles of scientific study, particularly as they pertain to the topic of human-induced climate change.

For those interested in following up in more detail about issues that Smol raises, may I suggest reading Climate Change—The Crusade to Deny Global Warming by James Hoggan (2009). This book details the arguments and tactics used by those wishing to impugn the character of climatologists and related scientists who genuinely attempt to grapple with an immensely complex subject. Hoggan points out a) the sources of most of the funding for the attacks and the attempts to hide the sources; b) the role of some governments in muzzling some scientific results; c) the general lack of credible, peer-reviewed, scientific work being done by the contrarians, most of whom are not climatologists, let alone scientists; and d) the fundamental difference between consensus and unanimity.

The free weekly newsletter from the NASA website (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/) may also be of interest to Review readers. It presents images, taken by astronauts and satellites, of a wide variety of geographical features, periodically accompanied by global-scale graphics depicting various phenomena. The site is not specifically geared to climate change, but occasionally delves into the topic. For instance, data demonstrate that the last decade (2000-2009) has been the warmest on record. Of course, there are many other sources of knowledgeable, credible and accessible information available.

Some people have admonished Canadians for producing quadruple the per capita CO2 output of China, based on published data. However, the key point is that the Earth is “disinterested” in politically derived numbers. It operates as an essentially closed system and is affected, in part, by the amount of substances emitted or emplaced in the atmosphere/hydrosphere/lithosphere, generated naturally and by humans. Recasting the numbers illustrates that China as a country produces about 10 times the CO2 emissions of Canada.

Lest we get carried away with pointing fingers, it is prudent to remind ourselves there is only one planet on which we can live. All countries/governments and peoples are part of the problem, from those with numerous technological accoutrement in “developed” countries, to those in “undeveloped” countries who are destroying their environment in other ways, due ultimately to overpopulation.

In my view, all people must insist their politicians cease the convenient, hackneyed excuses as to why we cannot do anything until someone else does, and we must hold them and ourselves accountable for what we do on and to this planet. Kudos, Dr. Smol!

Tom Muir, Sc' 72
Sudbury, ON

[Queen's Alumni Review 2010-4 cover]