Sometimes I wish I could be a climate skeptic. It would be such a relief to remain optimistic about the future of the world -- despite all the evidence to the contrary.
On Friday the world's top scientists released their latest gloomy assessment of global warming and the message was clear: we need to find a way to stop burning fossil fuels or risk imperilling the planet.
"Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983-2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years," according to the fifth assessment report from the U.N.-appointed, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (You can read the top 10 findings of the climate report here.)
But this won't deter climate science deniers. Their outlook will remain determinedly sunny. They cling to the facts that suit their purpose (the world stopped warming in 1998!) and ignore all the horrific details that undermine their entire hypothesis.
Truth be told I don't want to "believe" in climate change either. I do, however, believe in climate scientists who spend years toiling at their craft and subject their findings to a rigorous peer review process. So in the end I have to "accept" climate change -- the evidence is overwhelming.
Again from the IPCC report:
Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.
How can you get around such a gloomy and unequivocal statement? Well climate skeptics can. If you look at a chart of earth temperatures from the 1800s it ascends like a jagged ascending staircase, or even like a graph of some hot company on the stock market. The trend is upward but of course there are highs and lows.
But when climate skeptics look at the earth temperatures, they only see 1998, when temperatures hit a high. Scientists say the peak could be but a momentary pause and many believe the extra warming is being absorbed by the seas. The skeptic says, "yippee global warming is over!" and even believe it could signal a new ice age. These ideas are not supported by any credible sources.
Here is a headline from London's Daily Mirror, which has been in the forefront of climate denial: "UN scientists reveal the world's barely got any hotter in the last 15 years -- but say they are now 95 per cent certain man is to blame for global warming."
In the words of Simon and Garfunkel: "All lies and jest. Still a man hears what he wants to hear. And disregards the rest."
Unfortunately, I can't disregard the rest. Can you?
I will give the last word to the European Union's climate change office which issued a challenge today after the release of the IPCC report: :
"What would you do if your doctor was 95 per cent sure you had a serious illness? And what if it wasn't just one doctor, but hundreds of the world's leading doctors? Would you just ignore them and continue business as usual or would you start looking for a cure? It's just common sense. The same logic applies to climate science."