This is a crisis

I noted two strong objections to a previous article on climate change in the July/August edition of Engineering Dimensions. I wanted to challenge some of the assertions made and highlight some misinformation cited in those letters:

  • A statement was made by R. Bradshaw (“Questioning the cause,” July/August 2017), dismissing temperature variations as “obviously not caused by man.” There are contributions from both natural and anthropogenic sources. I invite you to read an insightful article that quantifies and compares the sources, called “What’s really warming the world?” As engineers, we cannot accept over-simplified logic and should seek broad sources to confirm viewpoints and formulate sound policy:
  • S. Korn (“The other side,” July/August 2017) cites a CERN article as dismissing climate change. In fact, the lead author Kirkby was quoted in 2013 saying that, at the present time, we cannot say whether cosmic rays affect the climate. A review of the climate-skeptic-driven hype around this myth is discussed in detail at:
  • The online petition cited by Korn is based on politically-driven believers of a fabricated paper that is debunked here (“The 30,000 global warming petition is easily-debunked propaganda”): The article says that the petition was so misleading, the National Academy issued a news release stating: “The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists and to rally them in an attempt to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol…[the petition] was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science.” I tried to find a place to write a comment on this petition site, but there was no way to register an objection. It seems to be a one-way valve for self-validation of skeptics.

We are at the hottest global temperature in over 100,000 years. It is unreasonable to dismiss an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide by 40 per cent as a normal perturbation in the Earth’s history. Note this increase of the gas content is measured in the atmosphere already considering some of the excess has been absorbed by other sinks. The optical absorption effect is indisputable. Feedback mechanisms and other variables make it more complex but the energy input is real. Atmospheric chemistry is incredibly complicated as there is much more going on with methane, water and other constituents having their own impacts. 

This is a crisis that definitely bears our concern, increased research and timely measures to limit our impact. We can’t allow political and financial influences to affect our judgment, cloud public opinion and delay action further. People trust the view of engineers on technical topics, even if outside of our expertise—but spreading false information as a professional can damage our reputation as well as the environment.

Andrew Gibson, MSc, P.Eng., Saint-Lambert, QC