Dear Climate Change Deniers

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Written by Scott Gilbert

The Guelph Mercury and the University of Guelph have both been contributing to the climate change knuckle-dragging that is poising our planet and future human generations for terrible disasters. My point here is that we not only have to deny public airtime to climate change deniers, but must also shame them publicly for their actions.

Ross McKitrick is a perfect example. He is an associate profressor in the department of economics at the University of Guelph, and is widely known for his views on climate change.

Now before I proceed, I must say that I respect free speech, and feel that everyone has the right to voice their opinion, within reason. For instance, it is perfectly legitimate for two people to be quoted in a daily newspaper who disagree on whether or not city hall should rezone a certain area of town for commercial purposes. One might argue that it will cause too much traffic in the area and increase hit and run occurrences, and other might argue that it will be good for business, and therefore good for the city. However, if city council was going to vote on whether or not to change their hiring policy to increase the number of females working for the city (assuming more men were generally hired), then a degree of censorship must be considered when searching for quotes for a newspaper article.

For instance, if a Mercury columnist wanted to present a balanced view, they could quote one person that argued it would provide more balance to the hiring process, and another that might say the changes are a good idea, but there are simply not enough females with the proper qualifications and therefore the act would be futile. However the Guelph Mercury would never present the opposing view of a known sexist who argued that females are simply unintelligent and hiring more of them would therefore be a bad idea. This would never happen because such claims are known to be false.

However, the fact is that people who have these views do exist. There are people out there who think men are superior to women, heterosexuals are superior to homosexuals, and so on. But no respectable newspaper would quote someone with those views. Similarly, if a University of Guelph professor was an outspoken racist, or was avidly anti-female and consistently gave female students failing grades when all the males passed, they wouldn't hang around for long.

But why is the situation much different when it comes to the climate crisis? There is now a consensus – and actually had been for some time – among the scientific community that climate change is real, that humans are a major contributor to it, and that if we do nothing we are going to face conditions in the near future that are so extreme that the extinction of the human race is not unlikely.

I want to argue that Ross McKitrick is perpetrating a serious crime by his constant campaign of misinformation, and that he is given legitimacy by both the Guelph Mercury and the University of Guelph. By being associated with an institution of higher learning, and being quoted as an expert by the local newspaper, both give him the status he needs to perpetuate his nonsense.

If someone were abusing their position as a professor to advocate sexist, racist, or homophobic views they would be stopped fairly quickly (or at least I hope they would be). We have a Human Rights and Equity Office at this university, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our country, and publication policy documents at our local newspapers. But for some reason we cannot seem to apply the same logic of necessary censorship to the issue of climate change deniers.

Ross McKitrick, by challenging the global consensus that climate change is real, is essentially challenging the scientific method and the peer review process. Should someone like this be allowed to teach at a university where the scientific method and the peer review process are central to the founding principals of an academic institution and have been for generations?

The thing that really bugs me about Ross McKitrick is that he is not even a climatologist, he is an economics professor. Not only that, but he is a senior member of the Fraser Institute which is known for its right wing views and for receiving funding from the oil industry.

In closing, my view is that people like Ross McKitrick should not be given airtime as their views have been proven wrong to the highest degree that they can be. You can never say that 100 per cent of the population is in consensus on an issue, but when you get to 95 per cent, I think you are close enough. There will always be crackpots who argue one thing to generate attention for themselves, or to sell more of their books. What we can do as citizens is lambaste newspapers that give such morons airtime, and use the space provided in universities to criticize professors who are going against the wellbeing of our species, and that of all others.

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