Facts and evidence matter

photo of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS
by David Suzuki

We recently highlighted the faulty logic of a pseudoscientific argument against addressing climate change: the proposition that because CO2 is necessary for plants, increasing emissions is good for the planet and the life it supports. Those who read, write or talk regularly about climate change and ecology are familiar with other anti-environmental arguments not coated with a scientific sheen.

A common one is that if you drive a car, buy any plastic goods or even type on a computer keyboard your observation that we need to reduce fossil fuel use is not valid, no matter how much evidence you present. Like the “CO2 is plant food” claim, it’s a poor argument, but for different reasons.

The statement that gas-fuelled cars cause pollution is true whether or not the person making it drives a car, just as a claim that automobile emissions are harmless is false, regardless of the claimant’s car ownership or driving habits.

Fossil fuels are useful for many purposes – from life-saving medical equipment to computer keyboards – so why extract, transport and burn them so rapidly and wastefully? Supplies aren’t endless.

Most people don’t have the time or expertise to read through and comprehend the massive volumes of peer-reviewed science on phenomena such as feedback loops, ocean acidification, extreme weather events, species extinction and sea level rise.

Fortunately, some excellent resources provide information for people with varying levels of knowledge and expertise: skepticalscience.com offers a big-picture approach by examining the peer-reviewed literature.

You can also find accessible science on the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration websites. The American Institute of Physics offers a comprehensive history of climate science.

Media outlets with considerable, credible coverage include The Guardian and National Geographic and environmentally focused websites such as Grist, EcoWatch and the National Observer. Desmog Blog’s timely articles and extensive database shed light on what’s behind concerted efforts to downplay or dismiss the seriousness of climate change. Websites for environmental groups like the David Suzuki Foundation, Pembina Institute and others are also good information sources. Just Cool It!, a book coming out April 22 by Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington and me explains climate change and focuses on solutions.

It’s increasingly clear we can’t rely on politicians to get us out of the mess we’ve created. The current US administration is full of people who reject the overwhelming evidence for human-caused climate change. In Canada, our government has some good climate policies, but continues to approve fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

The silver lining of the irrationality that has descended on the US is that it has sparked a growing movement to promote scientific evidence and science-based solutions. The “March for Science” taking place in cities throughout the US and beyond on Earth Day, April 22, is one example.

We have scientific evidence and rational arguments on our side. Let’s use them to support solutions.

Excerpted from “Facts and evidence matter in confronting climate crisis.” David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

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