Ed Norman’s position on climate change seems rather confused and incoherent. He accepts that the Earth is warming, is in favour of reducing CO2 emissions, and reducing our environmental footprint, and states that climate change denial is wrong. Yet he also states that there is no climate crisis, and that the planet is not in imminent peril from CO2. It is deeply ironic that his letter was published just a few days after storm Fiona wreaked devastation in the Maritimes, causing damage estimated at up to $700m, and just a few days before hurricane Ian hit Florida causing damage estimated at up to $47bn US.
In terms of logical fallacies, an appeal to authority can be a legitimate argument or it can be a fallacious one depending on the circumstances. A person citing the views of an expert in a specific field is not necessarily committing a logical fallacy, especially if those views are shared by other experts in that field. A person is committing an appeal to authority when they cite the support of an eminent individual who works in a different field as a reason for supporting that argument. To give a brief example, Clintel lists a number of professors and doctors as ambassadors to their ‘World Climate Declaration’, as well as a Nobel prize winner, but on investigation many, if not all of these individuals do not work in fields related to climate change. The Nobel prize winner won a share of the prize in 1973 for work done in 1960 on superconductors – when it comes to climate change he is a layperson, not an expert.
Mr Norman takes aim at some predictions that were made in the past about climate change. Climate and weather are highly complex, nonlinear systems that make specific predictions difficult if not impossible to make. Instead of predicting specific events we should be thinking in terms of risk or probabilities – just like we do with health where we know that smoking increases the risk of developing lung cancer but can’t predict exactly which smokers will develop lung cancer. Increased temperature equates to increased energy, and warmer air carries more moisture than drier air, so we can predict that climate change will lead to stronger storms, like Fiona, and heavier monsoon seasons like Pakistan is experiencing – Sindh province received more than eight times the usual amount of rain between June and August this year.
We cannot ignore the realities of climate change and how it is going to affect us in the coming decades. Unfortunately, Mr Norman wants to bury his head in the sand. We’ve seen just in the last few weeks the immense power of Mother Nature. Buildings and other infrastructure can’t resist the 135km/h winds seen in Port-Aux-Basque, or the storm surges that accompany such winds (and remember, just one cubic metre of water weighs 1000kg). Many people around the world are going to have to migrate to safer places, including some in Canada (Nomad Century by Gaia Vince has an excellent discussion of this for interested readers). As much as we might wish it were otherwise, climate change poses a real threat to current and future generations and we should be taking every possible step to reduce emissions. We cannot defer measures due to cost, as everything we do and our very existence is dependent on having a habitable biosphere.
Steve Gabell (he/him)
President, Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes Constituency Association, Green Party of Ontario