When you’re dealing with one of the most controversial debates in modern history, a little tact is in order.
Or at least it should be with global warming, because contrary to popular opinion, it is not a settled science. While the majority of people in most countries believe that it’s happening, many of them don’t think that it’s being caused by human behavior.
And don’t believe anyone who tells you that there is a ‘consensus’ in the scientific community. The oft-repeated statistic that claims 97% of scientists believe in man-made global warming, is a joke. That number can be tied to a vague 2009 questionnaire that was only answered by 79 scientists from the climate field, and which ignored the opinions of thousands of researchers from multiple relevant fields. There is no consensus.
You could say that none of this is important, because something can be true even if nobody believes it. In our world however, consensus is the closest we can get to the truth. If everybody agrees on something, then there’s a very good chance that it is a fact.
If however, a sizable percentage of the population that consists of both scientists and laymen disagree with popular opinion, then it can hardly be called a settled science. This situation calls for more research and debate until the truth, whatever it may be, becomes indisputable and everyone can get on board with that reality. You know what it doesn’t call for? Persecuting and prosecuting the minority that has dared to disagree with popular opinion.
And that’s exactly what a secretive UN funded legal conference decided to do last month, when they met to discuss climate change and how the International Court of Justice should tackle it.
The purpose of this strange get-together was outlined in a keynote speech (visible on YouTube) by Philippe Sands, a QC from Cherie Blair’s Matrix Chambers and professor of law at University College, London. Since it is now unlikely that the world will agree in Paris to a legally binding treaty to limit the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees C from pre-industrial levels, his theme was that it is now time for the courts to step in, to enforce this as worldwide law.
Although his audience, Sands said, would agree that the scientific evidence for man-made climate change was “overwhelming”, there were still “scientifically qualified, knowledgeable and influential individuals” continuing to deny “the warming of the atmosphere, the melting of the ice and the rising of the seas”, and that this is all due to our emissions of CO2. The world’s courts, led by the International Court of Justice, said Sands, could play a vital role “in finally scotching these claims”.
“The most important thing the courts could do,” he said, was to hold a top-level “finding of fact”, to settle these “scientific disputes” once and for all: so that it could then be made illegal for any government, corporation (or presumably individual scientist) ever to question the agreed “science” again. Furthermore, he went on, once “the scientific evidence” thus has the force of binding international law, it could be used to compel all governments to make “the emissions reductions that are needed”, including the phasing out of fossil fuels, to halt global warming in its tracks.
On the surface this sounds like what I was just asking for. There should be research and debates until the indisputable truth is found. However, this hardly sounds like a fair debate. It sounds like Sands is calling for an international court to prove what he thinks is true, rather than seeking the truth with an open mind and a consideration for all parties. He’s really just calling for a kangaroo court to make his science official, which would be followed by prosecuting any institution that disagrees. Frankly, that would be incredibly unethical to do, even if global warming was proven to be true.
What I find interesting about this whole situation, is that I don’t remember hearing about anyone calling for pro-global warming opinions to be made illegal (as a matter of fact, if you can find a single instance of this happening, post it in the comments.) This type of behavior seems to stem exclusively from the other side of the aisle, and it doesn’t do their argument any favors. If this is how top global warming proponents approach science and debate, then it’s hard to imagine anyone taking their assertions seriously in the future.