One of the first critics to draw attention to the UN climate panel's temperature results falling below forecasts was former NASA scientist Roy Spencer. (UAH=University of Alabama Huntsville

BC VIEWS: Science loses ground to superstition

From climate change to genetically modified crops, the popular position may not ultimately be the right one

From Stockholm to Sydney to Sicamous, September was a bad month for science.

In Sweden, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finally issued its widely leaked update on human-caused global warming. As expected, it downgraded predictions of temperature rise in the face of 15 years of measurements that show little or no average surface temperature increase.

The official spin also went as expected. The revelation that more than a dozen computer prediction models have all more or less agreed, and all have been wrong, was played down. The IPCC went from “very likely” to “extremely likely” to affirm its belief in human-caused warming, even as its own core evidence went the other way.

Again and again we are told that the vast majority of scientists believe in human-caused warming, and those who don’t are labeled “skeptics” or even “deniers” with hidden agendas. The problem is, science isn’t supposed to be done by polls or popularity contests, or assertions of faith like those that greeted Galileo’s wild claim that Earth is not the centre of the solar system.

Before the angry mail starts to arrive, let me hasten to add I am not arguing for or against the theory of human-caused climate change. You can label me a “skeptic” as I view the temperature readings and the shifting theories advanced to explain them.

Speaking of temperature data, David Suzuki had a problem with that at a TV town hall in Australia. Polite, well-informed questions soon revealed that while Suzuki rails constantly about the horrors of global warming, he doesn’t actually know much about the latest science.

As I’ve written before regarding his CBC-funded attacks on Canada’s oil and gas industry, Suzuki is not only behind on his homework, he resorts to cheap, sensational tricks to exaggerate and misrepresent hazards. His tactics are identical to the U.S.-financed environment groups that obsessively target Canadian petroleum.

As for his appearance on Australia’s public broadcaster, don’t take my word for it. Watch the show for yourself.

After being questioned on his stale climate change information, Suzuki then got in trouble on what was once his specialty, genetics. His decade-old attack on genetically modified crops was sharply contradicted by two senior scientists, one in charge of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation‘s efforts to end famine in Third World countries.

Back in B.C., local politicians gathered in Vancouver for their annual convention. One of the most intense debates was over a call to the provincial government to declare B.C. “genetic engineering free.”

The heart of this movement, which has resorted to vandalism in Europe, is hostility towards Monsanto’s “Roundup ready” seed. Speakers at the municipal convention warned of sinister “corporations” trying to contaminate and control our food supply for profit.

The debate pitted hobby farmers against professionals. Peace region grain farmers said such a ban would put them out of business. Others pointed out that the province has no jurisdiction and that scientific decisions shouldn’t be influenced by emotion.

The session ended with a classic pseudo-scientific claim. A woman who used to have a couple of bee boxes said someone’s bees died and there was a Roundup-ready canola field next door. Case closed. The misguided “G.E.-free B.C.” motion was supported by a narrow majority.

As it turns out, there are agricultural pesticides that may be harmful to bees. The David Suzuki Foundation is part of an effort to get one of them banned in Canada. The problem is, it’s not Roundup, and it’s got nothing to do with genetic engineering.

They’re called “neonicotinoids,” because they’re similar to nicotine. Old sheep farmers may recall using a crude version: tobacco soaked in water to kill insects on sheep.

It’s ironic that as the “information age” accelerates, our society, overwhelmed by conflicting messages, slips back towards superstition.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press and Twitter:@tomfletcherbc


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