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Are you a climate change denier?

Has the climate change debate been hi-jacked by scare-mongers?

Published on December 11th 2009.

Are you a climate change denier?
Yes: - 26%
No: - 74%

As the Copenhagen Climate Change conference gets under way (6-18 December), questions have been raised over the validity of the University of East Anglia’s key research into climate change. Some have claimed that evidence was distorted to help make the case for the human effect on climate change. It seems like another slanging match is about fire up.

The hope for Copenhagen is that it will be an opportunity for reasoned debate, rather than a 'goodies' v 'baddies' scrap mixed in with a dozen conspiracy theories.

George Monbiot is one of the reasons the public (and seasoned commentators) find the subject of climate change so fraught. Monbiot was particularly ill-advised when he termed those who disagree with his side of the argument as ‘climate change deniers’. This was a clear reference to ‘holocaust deniers’: those who say the Nazi deathcamps were a fabrication.

But whereas you can visit Auschwitz, view the physical and historical evidence, proof of the human effect on climate change is less tangible. Monbiot really shouldn't have equated human negligence in polluting the air with carbon dioxide to the pure human evil of mass genocide. Maybe he should rather have considered how humanity is undergoing a natural process of growing awareness which has led to the Copenhagen conference and may lead to a working plan on how to slow down and then react appropriately to global warming.

What is certain is that the Earth's climate has constantly been in flux.

In Chris Stringer's excellent book Homo Britannicus which tackles the effect of climate change while tracing human settlement on these islands, there's this passage: 'Britain was colonised by human populations at least eight times in 700,000 years, but seven of those were ultimately unsuccessful in the face of severe climate change with only the occupation beginning about 11,000 years ago continuing to the present day. We have been truly fortunate to enjoy one of the most stable periods of climate.'

Ice Ages were responsible for clearing Britain previously, this time it's warming not chilling that is the threat. Not that this is a unique occurrence, Europe warmed by a degree between 800AD and 1300AD for reasons as yet unclear.

So if climate has fluctuated naturally throughout Planet Earth's life-span why do we think we can affect it? Are we displaying human arrogance , thinking we hold God-like influence over our planet?

Probably not.

We have been busy beavers since Manchester became the first social and urban product of the new industrial age 200 plus years ago. Since that moment we have shoved 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And as other economies across the world grow that will increase greatly. Many forecast that average global temperatures might rise another degree in the next forty years, whatever we try. This will lead to growing deserts, more storms and hurricanes, the loss of habitats for wildlife and maybe mass extinctions. Worse it could also lead to human migration as displaced populations seek food and water – this would threaten the security of the planet like nothing we've experienced recently.

But that's a doomsday scenario.

A more positive reading of this is that humanity will show its quality again, work together and find some type of solution. Copenhagen is part of this. Measured debate is better than tub-thumping especially for the large part of the public which remains sceptical about the human influence on climate change.

Perhaps in using the violent language of 'climate denial' George Monbiot might prove to be one of the most dangerous of opinion-formers if we ever want an effective global response to climate change. Along with Monbiot, angry crusty protesters, fey 'green' fanatics and end of the world types attract media attention and turn the whole debate into a freak show which plays into the hands of those who don't think that any human affected climate warming is taking place.

So is scare-mongering hindering the debate on climate change? Vote on the Homepage.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Stanley StreetDecember 4th 2009.

As the Americans are almost alone in the world (against 190+ other countries) in having a majority denying that man-made climate change exists, then man-made climate change must exist Many Americans believe that Jesus Christ was an American, for God’s sake!

Ronnie de RamperDecember 4th 2009.

If Chris Stringer did actually say "Britain was colonised by human populations at least eight times in 700,000 years", then he was talking utter nonsense. Humans emerged in East Africa only 180,000 years ago; entered Asia 70,000 years ago; and reached Europe about 12,500 years ago. They would have crossed into Britain about 11,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. Perhaps this bloke means 'hominids' not humans - hominids being late apes & neanderthals unrelated to humans. Even then, none were around these parts 700,000 years ago.

BrrrrrDecember 4th 2009.

The BBC says it's the warmest decade on record. But how come it's got cooler in Britain? Not being funny.

Brown TrousersDecember 4th 2009.

We are nearer the North Pole than the Equator but we have - so far - benefitted from the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift bringing warmer waters from the tropics. However, thanks to global temperature rises these climate systems are changing. We might soon have winter temperatures of -20°C or colder.

Typical, Skint VoterDecember 4th 2009.

This is indeed the greatest threat facing the human race at the moment, but it should not be allowed to distract us from other, less tolerable man-made evils, such as bankers, political corruption (particularly in the U.S.) by the oil companies, and the prosecution of war criminals.

Old FartDecember 4th 2009.

It's all the fault of western greed. Burgers. Cows emanating methane. Now the Chinese want burgers too. We are all doomed.

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