Global warming, dentists; and is Simon a Cyborg?

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    Here’s a letter I had published in the South China Morning Post today (it was somewhat edited):

    Dear Sir:

    I was interested to see Simon Patkin has again sent an anti-environmentalists missive. As regular readers of letters to the Post will have noted, Mr Patkin has no need for fresh air, clean water and greenery. Might we suspect, then, he is a cyborg, engaged in a mission to transform our planet?

    Mr Patkin cited a petition of 17,000 scientists who did not believe in global warming. He failed, however, to tell us that this petition dates from 1998, and that Scientific American estimated only around 200 climate specialists signed the petition. Other signatories included dentists, gynacologists, nutritionists and others with no expertise in climatalogy. Indeed, the signature gathering procedure was so lax that names included “Ginger Spice”, and a fictional character from the TV series M*A*S*H.

    The evidence global warming is a real, serious problem, is overwhelming, and increases daily. Today, for instance, comes news of a study that shows warming is not driven by variations in the sun’s output – as some global warming “sceptics” have claimed; and another that revealed a significant decrease in permanent Arctic ice cover, even during winter.

    To cyborgs, such news may seem trifling. But for the rest of us, global warming is real cause for concern.

    Post edited by: Martin, at: 2006/09/17 11:50

    Post edited by: Martin, at: 2006/11/12 18:26


    Hi Martin, You might like to follow up with the news from the Guardian in the UK – see my post "Corporate Denial" at Corporate denial re global warming and impacts cheers, Roger.


    Hi Roger: Thanks for this I’ve added a little info to the thread you started. Letter in yesterday’s SCMP also said global warming not a problem. Cited Richard Lindzen, of MIT – who is about the only major climate scientist among the sceptics. He also takes dough from energy industry: his Wikipedia entry says that allegedly charges industry US$2500 for consulting. Letter also mentioned a "hockey stick" graph – with forecast for major upturn in temp – is wong. But, warming trends clear


    Simon Patkin (at least I get the fellow’s name right!) responded to my letter to the SCMP, adding some other info; there was a good, prompt response, and I then sent my own letter (not published), which I hope makes sense without also reproducing SP’s:

    Good to see Dave Dearman (letters, 4 October) lambast Simon Patkin for using selective evidence to support his notions there is “Shrill alarmism” regarding climate change. Indeed, use of selective evidence – some of it dubious or downright wrong – is commonplace amongst climate change sceptics.

    There is a hard core of such sceptics, who like Senator Inhofe receive significant funding from the energy industry, including ExxonMobil – which was recently criticised by Britain’s Royal Society for supporting organisations that provide “inaccurate and misleading information to the public”. Several of these sceptics were among the 60 signatories of the letter Mr Patkin cited, which was recently sent to the Canadian government, denying the reality of climate change.

    Mr Patkin is correct to note that “Ginger Spice” was not among the signatories [of the letter]. However, he neglected to note they included a mathematician who had been tricked into signing, and just 19 of the 60 were Canadian. And it surely slipped Mr Patkin’s notice that the letter was followed by another from 90 scientists who were all Canadian, all climate-change specialists, saying climate change is indeed real, and urging action.

    – for sources, see for instance:
    Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial
    Signatory Bails on Anti-Climate Science Petition
    Scientists urge PM to fund national climate strategy


    After another daft letter from Simon Patkin appeared in the paper, I sent another response:

    Simon Patkin has written another missive to the Post (Sunday, 5 November), this time berating Christine Loh for “pressing the global warming alarm button yet again”. He accuses global warming alarmists of picking random changes in climate out of context.

    Now, a little news for Mr Patkin: here on Planet Earth, it is not random changes that are causing alarm, but a persistent, disturbingly fast rise in global temperatures. This rise is consistent with predictions made based on the likely effects of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These gases are known to absorb radiation emitted from the earth’s surface after warming by the sun – resulting in a significantly higher atmospheric/surface temperature than if the gases were absent. As the gas concentrations increase, the science predicts temperatures will rise, broadly as observed.

    Further, the scientific “debate” about the reality of global warming is now over. Yes, a few scattered scientists continue to noisily cloud the issue. However, climate change is accepted as fact by major scientific bodies including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NASA, and Britain’s Royal Society – as well as by our own Hong Kong Observatory.

    The real debate has now shifted to discuss what, if anything, should be done about global warming. In a major report for the UK government, economist Sir Nicholas Stern has recommended that strong action is essential, or the consequences could be disastrous, including for the free markets of which Mr Patkin is so fond.

    With the scientific literature bereft of papers countering arguments that global warming is real, I see Mr Patkin cites State of Fear by novelist Michael Crichton as “an excellent analysis of the environmentalists’ attempts to deceive us over global warming”. Crichton’s novel is two years old (perhaps Mr Patkin really does dwell in an alternate reality), and has already been criticised for demonstrating a lack of thorough understanding of the issue, and of selective use of data.

    The deception over global warming is not perpetrated by “environmentalists” – and by scientists including climate experts who actually work in this field. Instead, it stems from the relatively small but noisy band of “sceptics”, several of whom are funded by a hard-core group of industries that are unwilling to change their polluting ways to help ensure a decent future for our planet – including future generations, biodiversity, and self-interested free markets.

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