Queen's University

Smol article "made me spit"

Stuart Elliot, Artsci’75, of Edmonton, AB, says Dr. John Smol's article on the folly of "climate change denial" made him so angry that he is no longer a Queen's supporter.

Letter to the Editor
Re: "The folly of denial"
Issue #3-2010, p. 10

I graduated in Geography while the earth was still (literally) cooling, way back in 1975. Part of our curriculum was of course Climatology, and we studied peer-reviewed literature that declared another ice age was inevitable due to anthropogenic causes, namely particulates from industrial emissions. One well-publicized recommendation was to cover Greenland`s ice with soot in an attempt to reverse the current 30-year cooling trend. A generation later the rhetoric is the same, that the climate has changed for anthropogenic reasons, but mysteriously the direction of the temperature trend has reversed.

I am still as much of an environmentalist as I was when I graduated 35 years ago, but in one important way I have changed. I no longer accept single-cause explanations of the behaviour of complex systems.

Particulates were not the sole factor driving temperature trends in 1975, nor was CO2 the sole factor in 2000. Given the role of solar cycles, ocean current oscillations, and land use changes near official weather stations, the two apparent causes (particulates or CO2, respectively) may not have been major drivers at all. We have opinions, but we don't actually know, and every year the expert explanations become more nuanced.

Progress in science demands skepticism; those who seek to silence skeptics are more committed to the status quo than to increasing understanding. They may be well meaning, but they can hardly call themselves scientists.

The Review has published several articles over the past decade decrying “climate change” and implying that man's effect on the atmosphere goes beyond our traditional understanding of pollution. Debatable, both for cause and effect, but that is science. In contrast, the recent “The Folly of Climate Change Denial” made me spit. A biologist (a biologist!) compares those who happen to disagree with him on climate science to Holocaust deniers and tobacco industry lobbyists, and my alma mater gives his views prominence on the cover of the alumni magazine and several pages inside.

Unlike previous Review articles describing hard-working researchers gathering data in remote locations, this article is an anti-science polemic, akin to an attack on agnostics by a religious zealot. In my view it simply does not belong in the Review.

My charitable donations are directed elsewhere, and I have conveyed this to the patient canvasser who called me recently.

Stuart Elliot, Artsci’75
Edmonton AB

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