Responding to Climate Change Scepticism by Demian Natakhan
After offering to give a talk in Edinburgh’s Ragged University programme, I have been invited by Ragged to prepare this article on my topic. The perspective I approach climate change is as engineer asking a simple question: is it a fixable problem?
If we (human society) know which of our activities are causing a problem, then we have means to fix it simply by changing those activities. If the unchecked situation is likely to cause impacts which we really don’t want, then we have ample motivation to make even big changes because that is in our best interests.
A bit about me: I studied environmental sciences including meteorology alongside my engineering studies and I have worked in wind and solar energy for many years. Now in my mid thirties, I continue to work in wind energy where I analyse weather records and deal with weather measurements. I also consult to clients on energy conservation and wider sustainable energy topics.
One of the motivating forces which led me to a career in renewable energy was the concept of being part of the solution to a global problem: I perceived that the damaging impact of climate changes caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases was a real challenge and I felt motivated to be part of the solution.
What I have found remarkable in recent years is that as more governments slowly mobilise towards taking action on climate change, the level of scepticism among critics is sky-rocketing. The scepticism is not just among politicians who oppose climate policies and carbon taxes, but is also among scientists who refute the idea that human greenhouse gas emissions are causing dangerous climate change at all.
Critics of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for example seem confident that any changes we see are purely natural, claim that global temperatures have stopped climbing and are now dropping, that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations cannot cause any significant changes to global temperatures and that therefore human emissions of greenhouse gases are in no way a problem.
Some less scientific critics go as far as claiming that we have at best a mass delusion on our hands and at worse a global conspiracy to impose global control under the banner eco-activism.
The scientific aspect to the debate attracts me because in science and engineering, it is possible to build proofs which exist independent of the opinions of individuals. Since responding to global climate change, if it is really a problem, would be a global endeavour, and because I am a fan of co-operation, I am drawn towards lines of enquiry which could unite diverse viewpoints i.e. work towards something which a majority of people could agree on.
So the pendulum swings like this, maybe this is familiar to some of you:
- 1. Read about climate change accelerating, watch reports of extreme weather events, hear that the global community is still failing to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, come to the conclusion that the problem is is now even bigger than it used to be and we are further than we were from fixing it.
- 2. Hear critics voice arguments that human emissions are not causing dangerous climate change, that all observed variations are natural, the IPCC is run by a political agenda not real science, reducing emissions would have no effect on global climate it is folly to tax carbon emissions because carbon dioxide is not a pollutant in fact it is good for plants and crop growth.
- 3. Check out the science in more depth, read arguments both ways, find that the evidence showing human emissions causing a significant effect on global climate is still convincing, that continued increasing emissions includes risks of impacts such as disastrous coastal inundation from sea level rises and surges and that despite some scientists enjoying making contrary claims, the case is stronger than ever that this is a problem which needs fixing.
- 4. Some time goes past, life goes on, then repeat steps 1 – 3.
If this sounds familiar and you would like to get beyond this vicious cycle then join me at my talk on 6th September, because SO WOULD I !
Event details are at:
Demian Natakhan’s work can be viewed at: