LETTERS: Climate change and the plea for sanity

Metchosin resident stunned by Tom Fletcher Column

In reading the Dec. 2 column by Tom Fletcher (Inconvenient truths of climate change, B.C. Views), I was stunned by his inaccuracy.

He misused data from a highly contested NASA report, misleading people that climate change is not a significant issue. Then without referencing any source, he wrongly confirmed that Arctic ice is rebounding at an increasing rate. Furthermore, in his pursuit to downplay global warming, he misused data from the International Union of the Conservation of Nature to claim that polar bear populations are not at risk. These claims unjustly persuade people to believe that global warming is either non-existent or trivial.

NASA scientist Jay Zwally, lead author of the recent controversial Antarctic report, stated that “climate warming is taking place in the Antarctic, but to a lesser extent than it is in the Arctic or the rest of the world.” Zwally then said, “I know some of the climate deniers will jump on this report, but it should not take away from the concern about climate warming.”

This leaves anyone who looks into the depth of Fletcher’s claim about NASA’s climate report to see that it is quite misleading. Oddly, the recent NASA report Fletcher cited only uses data up to 2008, and goes against another NASA project known as GRACE, which uses data up to 2014, both measuring changes in Antarctic ice mass. The GRACE reports show that Antarctica is losing over 130 billion tons of ice per year at an increasing rate, while Greenland is losing over 280 billion tons of ice per year.

Therefore, it is untrue for Fletcher to say that NASA, as an organization, confirmed total ice mass in Antarctica is increasing. Debates on Antarctic ice sheets among NASA scientists are highly technical, discussing inaccuracies in satellite laser altimetry, snow science, and measuring gravity anomalies. Their intent was never to fuel the fire for climate change deniers or down-players.

Fletcher claimed that polar bear populations are not at risk, and helped attribute his claim to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). He needs to check his sources better, because the IUCN’s research states that “climate change has a high probability of decreasing the global polar bear population by more than 30 per cent over the next 35 to 40 years.” I will trust that Fletcher is not deliberately lying, but needs to verify his sources before citing important scientific organizations.

To top this all off, Fletcher said he believes climate warming is happening, but that his real problem surrounding climate change is the “misuse of data” and attacks on skeptics. It is clear that Fletcher’s comment on the “misuse of data” is highly hypocritical. He misconstrued the reports of both NASA and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. This is not meant to be an attack on Fletcher or climate change skeptics, but a plea for them to use reputable peer-reviewed science to form opinions on such a significant issue.

This approach will allow the integrity needed to work together to prevent the potential catastrophes of global warming. We should be thankful that Canada’s new government is committed to uphold objective science, and not disregard it like the Stephen Harper “Fossil Award” days. Now we just have to make sure Justin Trudeau and his cabinet stick to their word.

Dave Cuddy

Metchosin