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DAVE’S DIGS: Debunking climate science distortions on social media

IPCC deadline on drastically reducing emissions 126 months away and counting
Floodwater destroyed this section of Ootsa Nadina Road in a remote area near Burns Lake, B.C. last spring after a sudden heat wave combined with the high snowpack to create flooding. Human-caused climate change is expected to result in more extreme weather events. Photo by Nancy Plesko

There’s a meme going online around that’s so completely insane that I thought it would be worth spending a column trying to unpack.

Allow me to quote at length from this galaxy-brain brilliance rendered in meme form, complete with misused apostrophes.

“1970’s - The New Ice Age. 1980’s - Acid Rain. 1990’s - Ozone Depletion. 2000’s - Global Warming. Then they had to switch to Climate Change since the globe was no longer warming.”

Scandal! And to drive the point home, it continues:“That’s 40 YEARS of shameless and baseless fear-mongering to siphon off billions of dollars from taxpayers, expand government power, and advance the left’s agenda. #ClimateHoax.”

Wow. Let’s examine the various facets of this remarkable gem. First of all, the 1970s. On this point, I have to concede there was a brief period when mainstream media outlets like Newsweek and Time wrote about a “cooling world.”

There was also a handful of scientists predicting a cooling trend. But even then, a larger number of scientific papers predicted global warming. The idea of a scientific consensus on “global cooling” is a myth.

But now let’s get to the good stuff, acid rain and the ozone layer. This is amazing because these are both examples of environmental problems that were ameliorated by government action and international cooperation.

READ MORE: Bank of Canada identifies climate change as important economic weak spot

READ MORE: Canada’s failure to fight climate change ‘disturbing,’ environment watchdog says

For those who distrust journalists or feel uneasy about the “peer-review” concept (after all, who are these shadowy cabals of scientific “peers”?) perhaps the dusty authority of Encyclopedia Britannica will resonate.

On acid rain: “In the United States, reductions in acid deposition stem from the Clean Air Act of 1970 and its amendments in 1990. Work toward developing a Memorandum of Intent between the U.S. and Canada to reduce air pollution and acid deposition began in the 1970s.”

The article notes that emissions of SO2, one of the main chemicals causing acid rain, “in the United States and Canada peaked in the late 1970s, but they have subsequently declined as a result of the adoption of government-mandated air pollution standards.”

On the ozone layer: “Compliance with international treaties that phased out the production and delivery of many ozone-depleting chemicals… is thought to have contributed to the shrinking of the ozone holes over the poles and to slightly higher stratospheric ozone levels overall.”

On the latter point “upper stratospheric cooling due to increased carbon dioxide” is supposed to have helped with ozone depletion as well, so chalk one up for the healing powers of pollution? The larger point is that government efforts to address acid rain and ozone depletion have, unsurprisingly, actually helped us.

As for global warming and climate change, the world is warming. Here’s the way The Canadian Encyclopedia sums it up: “(S)ince the Industrial Revolution the world has been warming at an unprecedented rate. Because of this, the current period of climate change is often referred to as ‘global warming.’ Human activities that release heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as the burning of fossil fuels, are largely responsible for this increased rate of change.”

It seems obvious that only through international efforts and intervention by government will we overcome this problem, whether you want to call it global warming or climate change. Personally, I prefer the term climate crisis.

Remember that 2030 deadline from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to drastically reduce emissions? The one that we’re supposed to meet to avoid catastrophe? That’s 126 months from now.

And yet, the meme in question had been shared some 5,400 times on Facebook by last Thursday evening. There’s no time to waste in debunking this kind of disinformation.


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