• The Low Down

Giving equal weight to corporate climate change narrative a ‘perilous travesty’

As a recently retired professor of geography, I have spent my career in the company of some of the only people on Earth with the expertise required to render credible judgements about humanity’s impact on the planet. So, let’s be clear about the mainstream science [narrative] of climate change: survey after survey has shown that 97 per cent of atmospheric scientists in the world are certain that anthropogenic climate change is in full swing and that at current rates of change, will render many parts of the Earth uninhabitable, further the collapse of biodiversity and have devastating impacts on the global economy and humanity. This is consistent with my professional experience and is reflected in research published in prestigious, credible, peer-reviewed scientific journals.

The other three per cent, who deny that there is anthropogenic climate change, are almost universally reporting on research undertaken with funding by oil companies or oil-rich governments. So yes, there is such a thing as a “corporate narrative.”

To give these views equal weight to those of the overwhelming majority of scientists would be a perilous travesty.

An afternoon of simple research shows that since the 1960s, the oil industry has known with certainty that fossil fuel use is driving a massive increase in atmospheric CO2 levels and it has actively repressed, buried or misreported the research by its own scientists that show this to be true. (One such source for this is Scientific American, “Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago,” Oct. 6, 2015.)

It is clear to any thinking person that maintaining the standard of living to which Canadians have become accustomed is not even remotely ‘of equal importance’ to the multi-faceted ecological crisis facing the Earth and very possibly threatening human extinction. The conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are not ‘worn’ or ‘panic driven.’ They are the august conclusions of some of the most intelligent and best-educated people in the world, chosen specifically because of their climate expertise. Hopefully, their work will inspire the level of urgency required for us to make fundamental changes to an ossified and intellectually backwards global economy.

For neo-conservative ideologues to lash out at progressive governments and advocate tax cuts for the wealthy and (like the head of the regime currently in control of the U.S.) to urge by innuendo that we disregard majority scientific opinion, is so irresponsible as to be tantamount to criminal negligence.

The oil industry is rapidly becoming obsolete. If we miss the opportunity to build a new green economy and instead follow the demagogues into a rejection of reason and science, then the totalitarian state … will become inevitable.

Bill Hipwell, Ph.D., is adjunct research professor of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University and a resident of Wakefield.