Category Archives: Climate Science

Typhoon Haiyan tragedy shows urgency of Warsaw climate summit

Typhoon Haiyan tragedy shows urgency of Warsaw climate summit


Typhoon Haiyan tragedy shows urgency of Warsaw climate summit

As people in the Philippines struggle with the devastation and death from the worst storm to hit land in recorded history – Typhoon Haiyan – world leaders are meeting in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss the climate crisis. “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness,” Yeb Sano, lead negotiator for the Philippines, told the opening session of the UN climate summit, which runs until November 22. “We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw.”

[quote]The only hindrance to developing a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate plan for the world is lack of political will.[/quote]

Given the slow progress at the 18 meetings held since 1992 – when countries from around the world joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – it’s hard not to be pessimistic. Canada, in particular, has been repeatedly singled out among the close to 200 member countries for obstructing progress and not doing enough to address climate change at home.

Lack of political will is main challenge to tackling climate change

But as scientific evidence continues to build, and impacts – from extreme weather to melting Arctic ice – continue to worsen, with costs mounting daily, the impetus to resolve the problem is growing. We’re exhausting Earth’s finite resources and pushing global ecosystems to tipping points, beyond which addressing pollution and climate issues will become increasingly difficult and costly. The only hindrance to developing a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate plan for the world is lack of political will.

Part of the problem is that much of the world is tied to the fossil fuel economy, and the rush is on to get as much oil, coal and gas out of the ground and to market while people are still willing to pay for it and burn it up. We’re wasting precious resources in the name of quick profits, instead of putting them to better use than propelling often solo occupants in large metal vehicles, and instead of making them last while we shift to cleaner energy sources.

Solutions to climate change are real and available

But there’s cause for hope. Solutions are available. Governments just have to demonstrate courage and leadership to put us on a path to a healthier future.

For example, a recent report by energy consulting firm ECOFYS, “Feasibility of GHG emissions phase-out by mid-century”, shows it’s technically and economically feasible to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to zero from 90 per cent of current sources with readily available technology. It shows we could phase out almost all net emissions by 2050 by innovating further. In doing so, we could likely meet the agreed-upon goal of limiting global average temperature increases to below 2 C, and we’d stand a 50 per cent chance of staying below 1.5 C by the end of the century. All of this would have the added benefit of reducing “water, air and soil pollution associated with traditional energy generation.”

The report echoes the David Suzuki Foundation’s findings regarding Canada’s potential to meet its current and forecasted demand for fuel and electricity with existing supplies of solar, wind, hydroelectric and biomass energy.

Whether or not any of this is politically feasible is another question. But the longer we delay the more difficult and expensive it will get.

Poll: climate change a top political priority for Canadians

Polling research also shows Canadians expect our government to be a constructive global citizen on climate action. A recent Leger Marketing survey sponsored by Canada 2020 and the University of Montreal found the majority of Canadians understand that human activity is contributing to climate change and believe the federal government should make addressing the issue a high priority. Of those polled, 76 per cent said Canada should sign an international treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, with most supporting this even if China does not sign.

The poll also found majority support for a carbon tax as one way to combat climate change, especially if the money generated is used to support renewable energy development. Although B.C. has recently stepped back from previous leadership on climate change, its carbon tax is one example among many of local governments doing more than the federal government to address climate change.

Typhoon Haiyan a wake-up call for climate summit

We and our leaders at all political levels – local, national and international – must do everything we can to confront the crisis. As Mr. Sano told delegates in Warsaw, “We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway.”

With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

World Energy Report 2013 - Executive Summary

World Energy Outlook 2013 – Executive Summary


Executive Summary from the World Energy Outlook 2013

The International Energy Agency’s authoritative World Energy Outlook provides an analysis of global energy markets highlighting the world’s energy and environmental challenges.

Orientation for a fast-changing energy world

[quote]Many of the long-held tenets of the energy sector are being rewritten.[/quote] Major importers are becoming exporters, while countries long-defined as major energy exporters are also becoming leading centres of global demand growth. The right combination of policies and technologies is proving that the links between economic growth, energy demand and energy-related CO2 emissions can be weakened. The rise of unconventional oil and gas and of renewables is transforming our understanding of the distribution of the world’s energy resources. Awareness of the dynamics underpinning energy markets is essential for decisionmakers attempting to reconcile economic, energy and environmental objectives. Those that anticipate global energy developments successfully can derive an advantage, while those that fail to do so risk making poor policy and investment decisions. This edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO-2013) examines the implications of different sets of choices for energy and climate trends to 2035, providing insights along the way that can help policymakers, industry and other stakeholders find their way in a fast-changing energy world.

[quote]The centre of gravity of energy demand is switching decisively to the emerging economies, particularly China, India and the Middle East, which drive global energy use one-third higher. [/quote]In the New Policies Scenario, the central scenario of WEO-2013, China dominates the picture within Asia, before India takes over from 2020 as the principal engine of growth. Southeast Asia likewise emerges as an expanding demand centre (a development covered in detail in the WEO Special Report: Southeast Asia Energy Outlook, published in October 2013). China is about to become the largest oil-importing country and India becomes the largest importer of coal by the early 2020s. The United States moves steadily towards meeting all of its energy needs from domestic resources by 2035. Together, these changes represent a re-orientation of energy trade from the Atlantic basin to the Asia-Pacific region. High oil prices, persistent differences in gas and electricity prices between regions and rising energy import bills in many countries focus attention on the relationship between energy and the broader economy. The links between energy and development are illustrated clearly in Africa, where, despite a wealth of resources, energy use per capita is less than one-third of the global average in 2035. Africa today is home to nearly half of the 1.3 billion people in the world without access to electricity and one-quarter of the 2.6 billion people relying on the traditional use of biomass for cooking. Globally, fossil fuels continue to meet a dominant share of global energy demand, with implications for the links between energy, the environment and climate change.

[quote]As the source of two-thirds of global greenhouse-gas emissions, the energy sector will be pivotal in determining whether or not climate change goals are achieved.[/quote] Although some carbon abatement schemes have come under pressure, initiatives such as the President’s Climate Action Plan in the United States, the Chinese plan to limit the share of coal in the domestic energy mix, the European debate on 2030 energy and climate targets and Japan’s discussions on a new energy plan all have the potential to limit the growth in energy-related CO2 emissions. In our central scenario, taking into account the impact of measures already announced by governments to improve energy efficiency, support renewables, reduce fossil-fuel subsidies and, in some cases, to put a price on carbon, energy-related CO2 emissions still rise by 20% to 2035. This leaves the world on a trajectory consistent with a long-term average temperature increase of 3.6 °C, far above the internationally agreed 2 °C target.

Who has the energy to compete?

[quote]Large differences in regional energy prices have sparked a debate about the role of energy in unleashing or frustrating economic growth.[/quote] Brent crude oil has averaged $110 per barrel in real terms since 2011, a sustained period of high oil prices that is without parallel in oil market history. But unlike crude oil prices, which are relatively uniform worldwide, prices of other fuels have been subject to significant regional variations. Although gas price differentials have come down from the extraordinary levels seen in mid-2012, natural gas in the United States still trades at one-third of import prices to Europe and one-fifth of those to Japan. Electricity prices also vary, with average Japanese or European industrial consumers paying more than twice as much for power as their counterparts in the United States, and even Chinese industry paying almost double the US level. In most sectors, in most countries, energy is a relatively minor part of the calculation of competitiveness. But energy costs can be of crucial importance to energy-intensive industries, such as chemicals, aluminium, cement, iron and steel, paper, glass and oil refining, particularly where the resulting goods are traded internationally. Energy-intensive sectors worldwide account for around one-fifth of industrial value added, one-quarter of industrial employment and 70% of industrial energy use.

[quote]Energy price variations are set to affect industrial competitiveness, influencing investment decisions and company strategies.[/quote] While regional differences in natural gas prices narrow in our central scenario, they nonetheless remain large through to 2035 and, in most cases, electricity price differentials persist. In many emerging economies, particularly in Asia, strong growth in domestic demand for energy-intensive goods supports a swift rise in their production (accompanied by export expansion). But relative energy costs play a more decisive role in shaping developments elsewhere. The United States sees a slight increase in its share of global exports of energy-intensive goods, providing the clearest indication of the link between relatively low energy prices and the industrial outlook. By contrast, the European Union and Japan both see a strong decline in their export shares – a combined loss of around one-third of their current share.

Searching for an energy boost to the economy

[quote]Countries can reduce the impact of high prices by promoting more efficient, competitive and interconnected energy markets.[/quote] Cost differentials between regional gas markets could be narrowed further by more rapid movement towards a global gas market. As we examine in a Gas Price Convergence Case, this would require a loosening of the current rigidity of liquefied natural gas (LNG) contracting structures and oil-indexed pricing mechanisms, spurred by accelerated gas market reforms in the Asia-Pacific region and LNG exports from North America (and an easing of costs for LNG liquefaction and shipping). There is also potential in some regions, notably China, parts of Latin America and even parts of Europe, to replicate at smaller scale the US success in developing its unconventional gas resources, though uncertainty remains over the quality of the resources, the costs of their production and, in some countries, public acceptance for their development.

[quote]A renewed focus on energy efficiency is taking hold and is set to deliver benefits that extend well beyond improvements in competitiveness.[/quote] Notable policies introduced over the past year include measures targeting efficiency improvements in buildings in Europe and Japan, in motor vehicles in North America and in air conditioners in parts of the Middle East, and energy pricing reforms in China and India. As well as bringing down costs for industry, efficiency measures mitigate the impact of energy prices on household budgets (the share of energy in household spending has reached very high levels in the European Union) and on import bills (the share of energy imports in Japan’s GDP has risen sharply). But the potential for energy efficiency is still far from exhausted: two-thirds of the economic potential of energy efficiency is set to remain untapped in our central scenario.

[quote]Action is needed to break down the various barriers to investment in energy efficiency.[/quote] This includes phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies, which we estimate rose to $544 billion worldwide in 2012. Enhancing energy competitiveness does not mean diminishing efforts to tackle climate change. The WEO Special Report: Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, published in June 2013 identified four pragmatic measures – improving efficiency, limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants, minimising methane emissions in upstream oil and gas, and reforming fossil-fuel subsidies – that could halt the increase in emissions by 2020 without harming economic growth. This package of measures would complement the developments already envisaged in our central scenario, notably the rise in deployment of renewable energy technologies. Governments need, though, to be attentive to the design of their subsidies to renewables, which surpassed $100 billion in 2012 and expand to $220 billion in 2035. As renewables become increasingly competitive on their own merits, it is important that subsidy schemes allow for the multiple benefits of low-carbon energy sources without placing excessive burdens on those that cover the additional costs. A carefully conceived international climate change agreement can help to ensure that the energy-intensive industries in countries that act decisively to limit emissions do not face unequal competition from countries that do not.

Light tight oil shakes the next ten years, but leaves the longer term unstirred

[quote]The capacity of technologies to unlock new types of resources, such as light tight oil (LTO) and ultra-deepwater fields, and to improve recovery rates in existing fields is pushing up estimates of the amount of oil that remains to be produced. But this does not mean that the world is on the cusp of a new era of oil abundance.[/quote] An oil price that rises steadily to $128 per barrel (in year-2012 dollars) in 2035 supports the development of these new resources, though no country replicates the level of success with LTO that is making the United States the largest global oil producer. The rise of unconventional oil (including LTO) and natural gas liquids meets the growing gap between global oil demand, which rises by 14 mb/d to reach 101 mb/d in 2035, and production of conventional crude oil, which falls back slightly to 65 mb/d.

[quote]The Middle East, the only large source of low-cost oil, remains at the centre of the longer-term oil outlook.[/quote] The role of OPEC countries in quenching the world’s thirst for oil is reduced temporarily over the next ten years by rising output from the United States, from oil sands in Canada, from deepwater production in Brazil and from natural gas liquids from all over the world. But, by the mid-2020s, non-OPEC production starts to fall back and countries in the Middle East provide most of the increase in global supply. Overall, national oil companies and their host governments control some 80% of the world’s proven-plus-probable oil reserves.

[quote]The need to compensate for declining output from existing oil fields is the major driver for upstream oil investment to 2035.[/quote] Our analysis of more than 1 600 fields confirms that, once production has peaked, an average conventional field can expect to see annual declines in output of around 6% per year. While this figure varies according to the type of field, the implication is that conventional crude output from existing fields is set to fall by more than 40 mb/d by 2035. Among the other sources of oil, most unconventional plays are heavily dependent on continuous drilling to prevent rapid field-level declines. Of the 790 billion barrels of total production required to meet our projections for demand to 2035, more than half is needed just to offset declining production.

[quote]Demand for mobility and for petrochemicals keeps oil use on an upward trend to 2035, although the pace of growth slows.[/quote] The decline in oil use in OECD countries accelerates. China overtakes the United States as the largest oil-consuming country and Middle East oil consumption overtakes that of the European Union, both around 2030. The shifting geography of demand is further underlined by India becoming the largest single source of global oil demand growth after 2020. Oil consumption is concentrated in just two sectors by 2035: transport and petrochemicals. Transport oil demand rises by 25% to reach 59 mb/d, with one-third of the increase going to fuel road freight in Asia. In petrochemicals, the Middle East, China and North America help push up global oil use for feedstocks to 14 mb/d. High prices encourage efficiency improvements and undercut the position of oil wherever alternatives are readily available, with biofuels and natural gas gaining some ground as transport fuels.

The great migration in oil refining and trade

[quote]Major changes in the composition of oil supply and demand confront the world’s refiners with an ever-more complex set of challenges, and not all of them are well-equipped to survive.[/quote] Rising output of natural gas liquids, biofuels and coal- or gas-to-liquids technologies means that a larger share of liquid fuels reaches consumers without having to pass through the refinery system. Refiners nonetheless need to invest to meet a surge of more than 5 mb/d in demand for diesel that is almost triple the increase in gasoline use. The shift in the balance of oil consumption towards Asia and the Middle East sees a continued build-up of refining capacity in these regions; but, in many OECD countries, declining demand and competition in product export markets intensify pressure to shut capacity. Over the period to 2035, we estimate that nearly 10 mb/d of global refinery capacity is at risk, with refineries in OECD countries, and Europe in particular, among the most vulnerable. The new geography of demand and supply means a re-ordering of global oil trade flows towards Asian markets, with implications for co-operative efforts to ensure oil security. The net North American requirement for crude imports all but disappears by 2035 and the region becomes a larger exporter of oil products. Asia becomes the unrivalled centre of global oil trade as the region draws in – via a limited number of strategic transport routes – a rising share of the available crude oil. Deliveries to Asia come not only from the Middle East (where total crude exports start to fall short of Asian import requirements) but also from Russia, the Caspian, Africa, Latin America and Canada. New export-oriented refinery capacity in the Middle East raises the possibility that oil products, rather than crude, take a larger share of global trade, but much of this new capacity eventually serves to cater to increasing demand from within the region itself.

The power sector adjusts to a new life with wind and solar

[quote]Renewables account for nearly half of the increase in global power generation to 2035, with variable sources – wind and solar photovoltaics – making up 45% of the expansion in renewables. [/quote]China sees the biggest absolute increase in generation from renewable sources, more than the increase in the European Union, the United States and Japan combined. In some markets, the rising share of variable renewables creates challenges in the power sector, raising fundamental questions about current market design and its ability to ensure adequate investment and long-term reliability of supply. The increase in generation from renewables takes its share in the global power mix above 30%, drawing ahead of natural gas in the next few years and all but reaching coal as the leading fuel for power generation in 2035. The current rate of construction of nuclear power plants has been slowed by reviews of safety regulations, but output from nuclear eventually increases by two-thirds, led by China, Korea, India and Russia. Widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would be a way to accelerate the anticipated decline in the CO2 emissions intensity of the power sector, but in our projections only around 1% of global fossil fuel-fired power plants are equipped with CCS by 2035.

Economics and policies, in different doses, are key to the outlook for coal and gas

[quote]Coal remains a cheaper option than gas for generating electricity in many regions, but policy interventions to improve efficiency, curtail local air pollution and mitigate climate change will be critical in determining its longer-term prospects.[/quote] Policy choices in China, which has outlined plans to cap the share of coal in total energy use, will be particularly important as China now uses as much coal as the rest of the world combined. In our central scenario, global coal demand increases by 17% to 2035, with two-thirds of the increase occurring by 2020. Coal use declines in OECD countries. By contrast, coal demand expands by one-third in non-OECD countries – predominantly in India, China and Southeast Asia – despite China reaching a plateau around 2025. India, Indonesia and China account for 90% of the growth in coal production. Export demand makes Australia the only OECD country to register substantial growth in output.

[quote]Market conditions vary strikingly in different regions of the world, but the flexibility and environmental benefits of natural gas compared with other fossil fuels put it in a position to prosper over the longer term.[/quote] Growth is strongest in emerging markets, notably China, where gas use quadruples by 2035, and in the Middle East. But in the European Union, gas remains squeezed between a growing share of renewables and a weak competitive position versus coal in power generation, and consumption struggles to return to 2010 levels. North America continues to benefit from ample production of unconventional gas, with a small but significant share of this gas finding its way to other markets as LNG, contributing – alongside other conventional and unconventional developments in East Africa, China, Australia and elsewhere – to more diversity in global gas supply. New connections between markets act as a catalyst for changes in the way that gas is priced, including more widespread adoption of hub-based pricing.

Brazil is at the leading edge of deepwater and low-carbon development

[quote]Brazil, the special focus country in this year’s Outlook, is set to become a major exporter of oil and a leading global energy producer.[/quote] Based mainly on a series of recent offshore discoveries, Brazil’s oil production triples to reach 6 mb/d in 2035, accounting for one-third of the net growth in global oil production and making Brazil the world’s sixth-largest producer. Natural gas production grows more than five-fold, enough to cover all of the country’s domestic needs by 2030, even as these expand significantly. The increase in oil and gas production is dependent on highly complex and capital-intensive deepwater developments, requiring levels of upstream investment beyond those of either the Middle East or Russia. A large share of this will need to come from Petrobras, the national oil company, whose mandated role in developing strategic fields places heavy weight on its ability to deploy resources effectively across a huge and varied investment programme. Commitments made to source goods and services locally within Brazil add tension to a tightly stretched supply chain.

[quote]Brazil’s abundant and diverse energy resources underpin an 80% increase in its energy use, including the achievement of universal access to electricity.[/quote] Rising consumption is driven by the energy needs of an expanding middle class, resulting in strong growth in demand for transport fuels and a doubling of electricity consumption. Meeting this demand requires substantial and timely investment throughout the energy system – $90 billion per year on average. The system of auctions for new electricity generation and transmission capacity will be vital in bringing new capital to the power sector and in reducing pressure on end-user prices. The development of a well-functioning gas market, attractive to new entrants, can likewise help spur investment and improve the competitive position of Brazilian industry. A stronger policy focus on energy efficiency would ease potential strains on a rapidly growing energy system. Brazil’s energy sector remains one of the least carbon-intensive in the world, despite greater availability and use of fossil fuels. Brazil is already a world-leader in renewable energy and is set to almost double its output from renewables by 2035, maintaining their 43% share of the domestic energy mix. Hydropower remains the backbone of the power sector. Yet reliance on hydropower declines, in part because of the remoteness and environmental sensitivity of a large part of the remaining resource, much of which is in the Amazon region. Among the fuels with a rising share in the power mix, onshore wind power, which is already proving to be competitive, natural gas and electricity generated from bioenergy take the lead. In the transport sector, Brazil is already the world’s secondlargest producer of biofuels and its production, mainly as sugarcane ethanol, more than triples. Suitable cultivation areas are more than sufficient to accommodate this increase without encroaching on environmentally sensitive areas. By 2035, Brazilian biofuels meet almost one-third of domestic demand for road-transport fuel and its net exports account for about 40% of world biofuels trade.

Read More – World Energy Outlook 2013

David Suzuki on right wing media's War on Science

David Suzuki on right wing media’s War on Science

David Suzuki on right wing media's War on Science
Sun Media’s Ezra Levant attacks David Suzuki on his Fox News-style show, The Source

From government scientists to First Nations citizens and environmentalists, pretty much everyone working to protect the air, water, land and diversity of plants and animals that keep us alive and healthy has felt the sting of attacks from sources in government, media and beyond. Much of the media spin is particularly absurd, relying on ad hominem attacks (focusing on perceived character flaws to deflect attention from or invalidate arguments) that paint people who care about the world as greedy conspirators bent on personal enrichment or even world domination! It would be laughable if so many people didn’t take it seriously.

War on Science

Government tactics have been more insidious, often designed to silence anyone who could stand in the way of massive resource extraction and export policies. Politicians in the U.K., Australia, the U.S., Canada and elsewhere have created a false dichotomy between the environment and the economy in efforts to downplay the seriousness of issues like climate change and the need to address them. The arguments are wrong on so many levels.

[quote]Many scientists have been told to alter or exclude information from government documents for non-scientific reasons and prevented from speaking to the public or media about their work.[/quote]

‘The Economy’ is a human invention

First, the economy is a human invention, a tool that can be changed when it no longer suits our needs. The environment is the very air, water, land and diversity of plant and animal life we cannot live without. Why not work to build a healthy, prosperous economy that protects those things?

Volumes of research also conclude ignoring climate change will be far more costly than addressing it. The massive bills for cleaning up after events related to extreme weather, such as flooding, are just a start. Climate change is also affecting water supplies and the world’s ability to grow food, and is contributing to a growing number of refugees. According to the World Health Organization, close to 150 million people are already dying every year from causes related to global warming – and that doesn’t include death and illness related to pollution from burning fossil fuels.

Muzzling scientists

Here in Canada, the rush to exploit fossil fuels and get them to market as quickly as possible has sparked a concerted effort to muzzle anyone who would stand in the way, including the government’s own scientists. A recent survey by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada found many have been told to alter or exclude information from government documents for non-scientific reasons and prevented from speaking to the public or media about their work. The survey also revealed cases where political interference actually compromised the health and safety of Canadians and the environment.

Canada blowing emissions targets

Meanwhile, a recent Environment Canada report says Canada is failing to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reductions targets under the Copenhagen Accord. With the federal and some provincial governments relying on oil sands and gas fracking – mostly for export – as the cornerstones of both economic and energy policy, the situation is likely to get worse.

Right wing media bullies

The campaign to promote fossil fuels over clean energy has also been taken up by others. In several cases, it has devolved to the level of schoolyard taunts and bullying – in government, but even more so in certain mainstream media. Some outlets have stooped to ignoring ideas and rational argument in favour of lies, innuendo, exaggeration and personal attacks.

Ironically, one source is a media personality with government ties who has demonstrated a pattern of using bogus arguments and faulty reasoning, leading to a string of libel charges and convictions, censure over violations of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ethics code and complaints about racist statements.

It’s sad to see so much of our media and governance in such a sorry state that we can’t even expect rational discussion of critical issues such as climate change and energy policy. And there is room for debate – not over the existence of climate change or its causes; the science is clear that it is real and that we are a major contributor, mainly through burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests.

But there’s room for discussion about ways to address it. And address it we must. We won’t get there, though, if we hinder scientists from conducting their research and speaking freely about it, and if we allow the discussion to be hijacked with petty name-calling and absurd allegations.

With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Wildrose leader Smith admits climate change real, human-caused

Wildrose leader Smith admits climate change real, human-caused


Wildrose leader Smith admits climate change real, human-caused

RED DEER, Alta. – Alberta Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, under fire by critics as a weak leader and climate change denier, announced Friday she now believes climate change exists and that mankind is at least partially to blame. As her party delegates opened a weekend policy convention, Smith told reporters:

[quote]I accept that climate change is a reality, as do our members. I accept that there’s a human influence on it. I leave the debate about the details to the science about (to) what extent it is and how fast it is occurring.[/quote]

Smith has been sharply criticized this week for refusing to say if she believes climate change exists, echoing disastrous statements she made in last year’s election campaign.

Afraid of what her members thought

Smith said Friday she has hedged in the past because she wasn’t sure where party rank and file stood on the issue, and said what opinions she did hear were across the spectrum.

“I really didn’t have a gauge of where our members were at because it had never come forward for debate,” said Smith.

“Remember, we are a grassroots party and I do take my marching orders from our members. When our members are silent on particular issues, I try my best to interpret. Sometimes we get it wrong, and in this case I’m pleased to see our members want us to move forward on a policy.”

Wildrose voting on climate policy

Party delegates will vote Saturday on two resolutions to direct the caucus to push for measures to reduce greenhouse gases, which lead to the extreme weather anomalies associated with climate change.

Smith said a straw poll of delegates on Friday indicated those resolutions will pass overwhelmingly, and said she takes that as a green light to speak out on climate change.

“It gives me a mandate,” she said.

The science of climate change has bedevilled the right of centre Wildrose party for more than a year.

According to some political observers it was the single biggest reason the party’s surging popularity fell through the floor just days before the vote in last year’s election, after Smith announced the science of climate change was not settled.

Climate silence attacked by NDP, Conservatives

Earlier this week, Smith declined to spell out her stand on climate change when asked by reporters about the upcoming environmental resolutions.

That led NDP Leader Brian Mason and Environment Minister Diana McQueen to sharply criticize Smith as a poor leader for refusing to stake a stand on a matter of clear importance to Albertans.

McQueen also stated that Alberta would be seen as a “joke” on the international stage if it was represented by a party that didn’t believe in climate change.

Those comments rankled Smith.

“I don’t accept a lecture from a do-nothing environment minister like Diana McQueen,” she said.

“If you look at our neighbours in Ontario and Quebec, they’re already below their 1990 levels (while) Alberta has increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 46 per cent.

“So every time this issue comes up the reason why (McQueen) points at our party is because there’s been absolutely no progress by her party — and it’s affecting Alberta.”

Climate change denier’s speech cancelled

The Wildrose also moved Friday to cancel the headline speaker for a Nov. 2 party fundraiser for MLA Jason Hale.

The speaker was author/filmmaker Bruno Wiskel, known for the book “The Sky is Not Falling,” which argues that glaciers have been melting and water levels rising for millenia, long before humans showed up.

Smith said Hale told her Wiskel was booked by an over-enthusiastic volunteer.

“I understand the fundraiser was put together by one of his well-meaning volunteers, and that the speaker has been cancelled,” said Smith.

“It’s very clear that our members want us to go in a particular direction.”

Stefan Baranski, spokesman for Premier Alison Redford, said the volunteer explanation is a weak fabrication for what was clearly a party-sanctioned event.

He said the fundraiser shows that what the party says and what it believes are two different things.

“Albertans won’t be fooled by Danielle Smith and her promises to sweep their extreme agenda under the rug,” said Baranski.

The verbal fireworks underscore the bitter animosity that exists between Redford’s Progressive Conservative party and Smith’s Wildrose.

Wildrose-Conservative blood-feud

The Wildrose is made up of many disaffected former Tories who grew disenchanted with what they called the party’s top-down management style and its decision to abandon the fiscal conservatism of former premier Ralph Klein and embrace taking on debt to pay for infrastructure.

The blood-feud acrimony surfaced again Friday when the Wildrose kicked out three PC staffers, accusing them of posing as Wildrose delegates in order to spy on the debate.

Smith said all parties allow opposition members to attend rival events as long as they register and are clearly marked as observers.

Baranski said his staffers did register as observers, but were turfed anyway, officially for lack of space.

“What that says to us is the Wildrose is clearly hiding something, clearly afraid of what looking into what their members are debating,” said Baranski.

Smith said that’s not the case.

“We’ve been open to having observers in the past,” she said.

“But if you’re going to try to sneak in and pretend you’re a member and start videotaping or audiotaping other members’ conversations with them thinking that you’re here as another Wildroser, we’re not going to allow for that.

“If they’re going to sneak their way in to spy on us, what else would they expect us to do?”

A mandatory leadership review was also held Friday and Smith received the support of 90.2 per cent of members in the vote.

Why Story of Climate Change Fails to Capture Public's Interest

IPCC report shows action on climate change is critical


Why Story of Climate Change Fails to Capture Public's Interest

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released the first of four chapters of its Fifth Assessment Report. It shows scientists are more certain now than in 2007 when the Fourth Assessment was released that humans are largely responsible for global warming – mainly by burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests – and that it’s getting worse and poses a serious threat to humanity. It contains hints of optimism, though, and shows addressing the problem creates opportunities.

The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and UN Environment Programme at the request of member governments. For the recent study, hundreds of scientists and experts worldwide combed through the latest peer-reviewed scientific literature and other relevant materials to assess “the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its causes, potential impacts and response strategies.”

IPCC scientists as certain as they can be

Scientists are cautious. That’s the nature of science; information changes, and it’s difficult to account for all interrelated factors in any phenomenon, especially one as complicated as global climate. When they say something is “extremely likely” or 95 per cent certain – as the latest report does regarding human contributions to climate change – that’s as close to certainty as science usually gets. Evidence for climate change itself is “unequivocal”.

According to the latest installment, which cites 9,200 scientific publications in 2,200 pages, “It is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.” It also concludes oceans have warmed, snow and ice have diminished, sea levels have risen and extreme weather events have become more common.

Warming slowing, but threat just as serious

The report also dismisses the notion, spread by climate change deniers, that global warming has stopped. It has slowed slightly in recent years, scientists say, because of natural weather variations and other possible factors, including increases in volcanic ash, changes in solar cycles and, as a new scientific study suggests, oceans absorbing more heat.

An increase in global average temperatures greater than 2 C above pre-industrial levels would result in further melting of glaciers and Arctic ice, continued rising sea levels, more frequent and extreme weather events, difficulties for global agriculture and changes in plant and animal life, including extinctions. The report says we’ll likely exceed that threshold this century unless we choose to act.

This means a strong, concerted global effort to combat climate change is necessary to protect the health of our economies, communities, children and future. That will cost us, but far less than doing nothing. Although governments of almost 200 countries agreed global average temperature increases must be kept below 2 C to avoid catastrophic warming, we are on track for the “worst case scenario” outlined by the first assessment report in 1990. Research indicates it’s possible to limit warming below that threshold if far-reaching action is taken. We can’t let skeptics sidetrack us with distortions and cherry-picking aimed at creating the illusion the science is still not in.

The value of investing in sustainable alternatives

The reasons to act go beyond averting the worst impacts of climate change. Fossil fuels are an incredibly valuable resource that can be used for making everything from medical supplies to computer keyboards. Wastefully burning them to propel solo drivers in cars and SUVs will ensure we run out sooner rather than later.

Working with other nations to meet science-based targets to cut global warming pollution and create clean, renewable energy solutions would allow us to use our remaining fossil fuel reserves more wisely and create lasting jobs and economic opportunities. That’s why the David Suzuki Foundation is working with the Trottier Energy Futures Project to identify clean-energy opportunities for Canada.

Shifting to cleaner energy sources would also reduce pollution and the environmental damage that comes with extracting coal, oil and gas. That would improve the health of people, communities and ecosystems, and reduce both health-care costs and dollars spent replacing services nature already provides with expensive infrastructure.

The IPCC report gathers the best science from around the world. It’s clear: There’s no time to delay. The first chapter examines the current science of climate change, the second will look at impacts and the third will consider strategies to deal with the problem. A report synthesizing the three chapters will be released in 2014. We must take it seriously.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

Climate Change will hit Canada harder - international report

Climate Change will hit Canada harder: international report


Climate Change will hit Canada harder - international report

OTTAWA – The latest international report on climate change confirms that global warming is amplified in Canada and the trend is going to continue, the David Suzuki Foundation said Monday.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was partially released Friday before being unveiled Monday in its entirety, confirms the planet is heating up and that it’s likely human activities are to blame.

The Suzuki foundation, however, said the detailed report shows that climate change hits harder in northern countries such as Canada. Global warming is magnified at or near the polar regions, largely due to the loss of ice and snow cover.

Canada has seen double the average warming

Canada has experienced double the average global temperature increase during the last century, the foundation said, while adding that it’s not too late to cut carbon emissions and avert the worst effects of global warming. Said Ian Bruce, the foundation’s science and policy manager, in a statement:

[quote]Our future will not be determined by chance. It will be determined by choice: either we ignore the reality of the science or we make changes to reduce carbon emissions.[/quote]

Harper Govt claims climate change “leadership”

The Harper government greeted the preliminary details of the report last week by saying it’s already acting to cut greenhouse gas emissions and by taking some partisan potshots at its political rivals.

The government is already “playing a leadership role in addressing climate change,” Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Friday.

“Unlike the previous Liberal government, under whose watch greenhouse gas emissions rose by almost 30 per cent, or the NDP, who want a $21-billion carbon tax, our government is actually reducing greenhouse gases and standing up for Canadian jobs.”

Canada falling far behind on emissions targets

Aglukkaq’s own department, however, says the country is on pace to make it only halfway to its promise to reduce greenhouse gases by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Aglukkaq’s comments drew scorn from both the Liberals and the NDP.

Harper government claims to be a leader on climate change action

Harper government claims to be leader on climate change action


Harper government claims to be a leader on climate change action

OTTAWA – The Conservative government has responded to an international report on “unequivocal” global warming by slamming past Liberal inaction and renewing its warning of an alleged NDP carbon tax.

The latest report Friday from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms the planet is heating up and that it’s “extremely likely” human activities are the cause.

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia,” said the scientific report released in Stockholm.

[quote]The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.[/quote]

The report says the effects are especially apparent in the Northern Hemisphere, affecting everything from sea ice and snow fall to permafrost.

“Multiple lines of evidence support very substantial Arctic warming since the mid-20th century,” says the document.

Haper government playing ‘leadership role’ on climate change?

While environmental groups and some governments around the world used the report as a clarion call for action, Conservative Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq issued a statement saying her government is already “playing a leadership role in addressing climate change.” Said Aglukkaq in the release:

[quote]Unlike the previous Liberal government, under whose watch greenhouse gas emissions rose by almost 30 per cent, or the NDP, who want a $21-billion carbon tax, our government is actually reducing greenhouse gases and standing up for Canadian jobs[/quote]

Canada, however, is on pace to achieve only half of its 2020 promise to reduce greenhouse gases by 17 per cent below 2005 levels, according to Environment Canada.

And of the reductions made, 75 per cent were attributed to provincial actions in a 2012 report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy — a group the Conservative government has since closed down.

US on track to meet its targets

The State Department in Washington, meanwhile, reported Thursday that the United States is on track to meet its 2020 target.

John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, is nonetheless calling Friday’s IPCC report “another wake-up call.”

“Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate,” Kerry said in a statement.

Harper won’t take ‘No’ for an answer on Keystone XL

The contrast in tone on the climate file between Ottawa and Washington was reinforced Thursday when Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a forum in New York that “you don’t take ‘No’ for an answer” on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The TransCanada project to export Alberta bitumen to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, which still needs President Barack Obama’s approval, has become a potent symbol for American environmentalists.

Critics fuming over Conservative comments

Aglukkaq’s sharp-elbowed, partisan response to the IPCC report left environmental critics fuming.

“We have an opportunity to rise to the challenge of protecting our kids’ future, so let’s not blow it to score political points and prop up oil company profits,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada.

New Democrats said the minister’s comments embarrass Canada.

“This report should be a call to action for one of the greatest environmental challenges of our generation,” said NDP environment critic Megan Leslie, “not the basis for Conservative attacks on non-existent NDP policies.”

John McKay, the Liberal environment critic, labelled Aglukkaq’s release “really stupid.”

“As long as you’re not serious about pricing carbon, you’re not serious about climate change,” said McKay, something he said a number of provincial governments have already recognized.

Canada will face disproportionate effects from climate change

The IPCC report, the fifth by the UN-sanctioned intergovernmental panel, is designed to provide governments with solid scientific evidence to support policy making.

The reports also make up the baseline for UN negotiations toward a new global climate deal, which is supposed to be completed in 2015.

To that end, the IPCC reported that each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any since 1850.

“In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years,” said the report.

Canada can expect disproportionate climate effects because of its northern latitude.

“From a Canadian point of view it’s important to remember that the temperature change we experience in Canada is larger than the global average temperature change,” Greg Flato, a climate scientist with Environment Canada, said in an interview.

“That’s been the case in the historical observations and that’s been projected to continue in these climate model projections of the future.”

Fossil fuels driving climate change

Burning fossil fuels is the driving force, says the report.

Thomas Stocker, a co-chair of the IPCC working group, flatly asserted in an accompanying release that “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions” are required.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers noted that global energy demand is expected to grow by 35 per cent by 2035.

“Most economists agree that most of this demand will be met by fossil fuels for the foreseeable future,” CAPP spokesman Alex Ferguson said in an email.

Ferguson said the oilsands account for just 0.14 per cent of global GHG emissions, and Alberta requires a carbon tax of $15 per tonne — something many other oil exporting countries don’t have.

That won’t dissuade environmental critics who have long argued the Harper government’s emphasis on pipeline building, energy exports and oilsands expansion simply can’t be reconciled with overall emissions reductions.

Amid the accusations and counter-claims, Ian Bruce of the David Suzuki Foundation said the IPCC report actually does offer a message of hope, if governments have the will to hear it.

“Our parents’ generation didn’t know about climate change, but we do,” Bruce said. “It’s really up to our generation to tackle this problem.”

International panel- Climate change 'extremely likely' man-made

Panel: Climate change ‘extremely likely’ man-made

International panel- Climate change 'extremely likely' man-made
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

STOCKHOLM – Scientists can now say with extreme confidence that human activity is the dominant cause of the global warming observed since the 1950s, a new report by an international scientific group said Friday.

Calling man-made warming “extremely likely,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used the strongest words yet on the issue as it adopted its assessment on the state of the climate system.

In its previous assessment, in 2007, the U.N.-sponsored panel said it was “very likely” that global warming was man-made.

Warming ‘hiatus’

One of the most controversial subjects in the report was how to deal with a purported slowdown in warming in the past 15 years. Climate skeptics say this “hiatus” casts doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change.

Many governments had objections over how the issue was treated in earlier drafts and some had called for it to be deleted altogether.

In the end, the IPCC made only a brief mention of the issue in the summary for policymakers, stressing that short-term records are sensitive to natural variability and don’t in general reflect long-term trends.

“An old rule says that climate-relevant trends should not be calculated for periods less than around 30 years,” said Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the group that wrote the report.

Many scientists say the purported slowdown reflects random climate fluctuations and an unusually hot year, 1998, picked as a starting point for charting temperatures. Another leading hypothesis is that heat is settling temporarily in the oceans, but that wasn’t included in the summary.

Stocker said there wasn’t enough literature on “this emerging question.”

Improved climate change models

The IPCC said the evidence of climate change has grown thanks to more and better observations, a clearer understanding of the climate system and improved models to analyze the impact of rising temperatures. Said Qin Dahe, co-chair of the working group that wrote the report:

[quote]Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.[/quote]

The full 2,000-page report isn’t going to be released until Monday, but the summary for policymakers with the key findings was published Friday. It contained few surprises as many of the findings had been leaked in advance.

Sea level projections rise, temperatures increases cool

As expected, the IPCC raised its projections of the rise in sea levels to 10-32 inches (26-82 centimetres) by the end of the century. The previous report predicted a rise of 7-23 inches (18-59 centimetres).

But it also changed its estimate of how sensitive the climate is to an increase in CO2 concentrations, lowering the lower end of a range given in the previous report. In 2007, the IPCC said that a doubling of CO2 concentrations would likely result in 2-4.5 C (3.6-8.1 F) degrees of warming. This time it restored the lower end of that range to what it was in previous reports, 1.5 C (2.7 F).


The IPCC assessments are important because they form the scientific basis of U.N. negotiations on a new climate deal. Governments are supposed to finish that agreement in 2015, but it’s unclear whether they will commit to the emissions cuts that scientists say will be necessary to keep the temperature below a limit at which the worst effects of climate change can be avoided.

Using four scenarios with different emissions controls, the report projected that global average temperatures would rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees C by the end of the century. That’s 0.5-8.6 F.

Only the lowest scenario, which was based on major cuts in CO2 emissions and is considered unlikely, came in below the 2-degree C (3.6 F) limit that countries have set as their target in the climate talks to avoid the worst impacts of warming.

Kerry: ‘another wakeup call’

“This is yet another wakeup call: Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate.”

At this point, emissions keep rising mainly due to rapid growth in China and other emerging economies. They say rich countries should take the lead on emissions cuts because they’ve pumped carbon into the atmosphere for longer.

Climate activists said the report should spur governments to action.

“There are few surprises in this report but the increase in the confidence around many observations just validates what we are seeing happening around us,” said Samantha Smith, of the World Wildlife Fund.

The report adopted Friday deals with the physical science of climate change. Next year, the IPCC will adopt reports on the impacts of global warming, strategies to fight it and a synthesis of all three reports.

Attacks on climate change science hinder solutions

Attacks on climate change science hinder solutions

Attacks on climate change science hinder solutions
photo: Dan Crosbie

Starting in late September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its Fifth Assessment Report in three chapters and a summary. Not to be outdone, contrarians have unleashed a barrage of attacks designed to discredit the science before it’s released. Expect more to come.

Many news outlets are complicit in efforts to undermine the scientific evidence. Contrarian opinion articles have run in publications in Canada and around the world, from the Financial Post and Washington Post to the Australian and the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday.

In the Guardian, scientists Dana Nuccitelli and John Abraham point out that attacks cover five stages of climate denial: deny the problem exists, deny we’re the cause, deny it’s a problem, deny we can solve it and claim it’s too late to do anything.

One attack that’s grabbing media attention is the so-called Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change’s report, “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science.” It’s written by Fred Singer, a well-known tobacco industry apologist and climate change denier, with Bob Carter and Craig Idso, also known for their dismissals of legitimate climate change science, and published by the Heartland Institute, a U.S. non-profit known for defending tobacco and fossil fuel industry interests. Heartland made headlines last year for comparing people who accept the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change with terrorists and criminals such as Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski!

Read Singer’s report if you want. But it’s full of long-discredited claims, including that carbon dioxide emissions are good because they stimulate life. It’s not the goal of deniers and contrarians to contribute to our understanding of climate change; they want to promote fossil fuel companies and other industrial interests, a point explicitly stated in the Heartland-NIPCC news release.

It claims the Singer report, which isn’t peer-reviewed, provides governments with “the scientific evidence they need to justify ending the expansion of ineffective alternative energy sources and other expensive and futile strategies to control climate. Then they can focus on supporting our most powerful energy sources – coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro-power – in order to end the scourge of energy poverty that afflicts over one billion people across the world.”

In other words, don’t worry about climate change, let alone health-damaging pollution or the fact that fossil fuels will become increasingly difficult to extract and eventually run out altogether. And even though mountains of solid evidence from around the world show climate change is and will continue to be most devastating for the world’s poorest people, the report feigns concern for those suffering from “energy poverty”.

Overall, the attacks on legitimate climate science are coming from people whose arguments have been debunked many times and who often have ties to the fossil fuel industry. Some, including Roy Spencer and Ross McKitrick, have signed the Cornwall Declaration, which states: “We believe Earth and its ecosystems – created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence – are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.”

The declaration also states that “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming” and that renewable energy should not be used to replace fossil fuels. Their world view can’t accept the reality of climate change or its solutions no matter how much evidence is provided – something that offends many people of faith who believe we have a responsibility to care for the Earth.

The IPCC report, on the other hand, is a review of all the available science on climate change, conducted by hundreds of experts from around the world. It confirms climate change is happening, burning fossil fuels is a major cause and it will get worse if we fail to act. It also examines what appears to be a slight slowing of global warming – but certainly not a halt, as deniers claim – and offers scientific explanations for it. Upcoming chapters will also propose solutions.

Resolving the problem of climate change will cost, but it will be much more expensive to follow the defeatist advice of industry shills, whose greed and lack of care for humanity will condemn our children and grandchildren to an uncertain future.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

Scientists as certain of climate change as they are that smoking kills

Scientists as certain of climate change as they are that smoking kills


Scientists as certain of climate change as they are that smoking kills

by Seth Borenstein – Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Top scientists from a variety of fields say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill.

They are as sure about climate change as they are about the age of the universe. They say they are more certain about climate change than they are that vitamins make you healthy or that dioxin in Superfund sites is dangerous.

They’ll even put a number on how certain they are about climate change. But that number isn’t 100 per cent. It’s 95 per cent.

And for some non-scientists, that’s just not good enough.

In science, no such thing as 100%

There’s a mismatch between what scientists say about how certain they are and what the general public thinks the experts mean, experts say.

That is an issue because this week, scientists from around the world have gathered in Stockholm for a meeting of a U.N. panel on climate change, and they will probably issue a report saying it is “extremely likely” — which they define in footnotes as 95 per cent certain — that humans are mostly to blame for temperatures that have climbed since 1951.

One climate scientist involved says the panel may even boost it in some places to “virtually certain” and 99 per cent.

Some climate-change deniers have looked at 95 per cent and scoffed. After all, most people wouldn’t get on a plane that had only a 95 per cent certainty of landing safely, risk experts say.

But in science, 95 per cent certainty is often considered the gold standard for certainty.

“Uncertainty is inherent in every scientific judgment,” said Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Thomas Burke. “Will the sun come up in the morning?” Scientists know the answer is yes, but they can’t really say so with 100 per cent certainty because there are so many factors out there that are not quite understood or under control.

George Gray, director of the Center for Risk Science and Public Health at George Washington University, said that demanding absolute proof on things such as climate doesn’t make sense. Gray, who was chief scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the George W. Bush administration, noted:

[quote]There’s a group of people who seem to think that when scientists say they are uncertain, we shouldn’t do anything. That’s crazy. We’re uncertain and we buy insurance.[/quote]

With the U.N. panel about to weigh in on the effects of greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of oil, coal and gas, The Associated Press asked scientists who specialize in climate, physics, epidemiology, public health, statistics and risk just what in science is more certain than human-caused climate change, what is about the same, and what is less.

Almost as certain as gravity

They said gravity is a good example of something more certain than climate change. Climate change “is not as sure as if you drop a stone it will hit the Earth,” Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. “It’s not certain, but it’s close.”

Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss said the 95 per cent quoted for climate change is equivalent to the current certainty among physicists that the universe is 13.8 billion years old.

The president of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone, and more than a dozen other scientists contacted by the AP said the 95 per cent certainty regarding climate change is most similar to the confidence scientists have in the decades’ worth of evidence that cigarettes are deadly.

“What is understood does not violate any mechanism that we understand about cancer,” while “statistics confirm what we know about cancer,” said Cicerone, an atmospheric scientist. Add to that a “very high consensus” among scientists about the harm of tobacco, and it sounds similar to the case for climate change, he said.

Easy to nitpick reports

But even the best study can be nitpicked because nothing is perfect, and that’s the strategy of both tobacco defenders and climate deniers, said Stanton Glantz, a medicine professor at the University of California, San Francisco and director of its tobacco control research centre.

George Washington’s Gray said the 95 per cent number the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will probably adopt may not be realistic. In general, regardless of the field of research, experts tend to overestimate their confidence in their certainty, he said. Other experts said the 95 per cent figure is too low.

Jeff Severinghaus, a geoscientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said that through the use of radioactive isotopes, scientists are more than 99 per cent sure that much of the carbon in the air has human fingerprints on it. And because of basic physics, scientists are 99 per cent certain that carbon traps heat in what is called the greenhouse effect.

But the role of nature and all sorts of other factors bring the number down to 95 per cent when you want to say that the majority of the warming is human-caused, he said.

Seth Borenstein can be followed at