• The Low Down

C02 denier ‘sadly confused’ over climate threat

The author of a February letter (Methane the real villain, Feb. 8 edition) states that CH4 (methane) is a potent greenhouse gas. The letter writer is right. But in dismissing the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (C02), he loses all credibility. Like a flat-earther proudly informing everyone that the planet is pizza-shaped, he tells us, "There is absolutely no correlation between the earth's temperature and atmospheric CO2 levels." Woo, you lost me there, dude.

The influence of C02 on climate was recognized 127 years ago by Nobel Prize winner Svante Arrhenius. And for the past 34 years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been reporting the impact of rising CO2 levels on the earth's temperature and climates.

Apart from the sadly confused letter writer, who else would want people to think that CO2 emitted from the burning of fossil fuels does not contribute to climate change? Gee whiz, do you think it might be companies like Exxon and Shell that rake in money by extracting, refining and selling oil?

About 46 years ago, Exxon and Shell scientists warned their company executives that a continued expansion of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion would lead to very rapid global warming in the 21st century. They foresaw the possibility of catastrophic changes to climates by 2030. The models they used to make their predictions have proved to be remarkably accurate. Over the past 46 years, the earth has warmed almost precisely as they predicted.

The executives responded to the predictions of their scientists by organizing disinformation campaigns to divert governments from developing policies to curb the use of fossil fuels. They began attacking their own predictive models, calling them flimsy and flawed. They painted environmentalists as crazy, far-left Chicken Littles. Copying a technique refined by the tobacco industry, they funded scientists who would deny that C02 emissions were warming the planet. Some of the messaging in their campaigns leaps out of the C02 denier's letter.

He argues that global warming is perfectly normal. Actually, the current extremely rapid rise in the earth's mean temperature is highly abnormal. He suggests that plants will grow better with more C02 in the air. In fact, the atmosphere now contains way more C02 than all the plants in the world could possibly use. He tells us that nature's wetlands produce methane but ignores the fact that human activities account for about 61 per cent of CH4 emissions.

Disinformation is insidious. A study of Twitter data has demonstrated that falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth.

Fight falsehood with a vengeance. Misinformation about global warming weakens public pressure for firmer and faster government action.

Michael Obrecht is a resident of Wakefield, Quebec.