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Fighting ignorance, denial and inaction • Axis

Fighting ignorance, denial and inaction • Axis


September 10 next The conference will take place Global Warming: Scam or Real Danger? Organized by conspiratorial blogger Samuel Grenier. Faced with climate-skeptical panelists, professor and hydroclimatologist Philippe Gachon, of UQAM’s Department of Geography, plans to make an argument based on science. Pivot spoke to him.

Hub: The organizer said it had difficulty finding a climate scientist who would agree to take part in the discussion. What prompted you to accept?

Philip Gachon: Inaction, denial and ignorance will contribute to more and more deaths and this year we are still breaking records like we’ve never seen before.

I decided to attend the conference for several reasons. First of all, to fight ignorance, to confront denial. If I can convince at least one person, either on the board or among team members, that better information, combating denial, and taking action individually and collectively can allow things to change, then I will have at least one success.

In Europe, there are fewer and fewer climate skeptics, even if they are much talked about, because people have been severely affected by droughts, heat waves and wildfires. Ordinary humans are becoming aware of the impact of human activities on the climate. One speaks of 90% of people being convinced that the climate is warming, and that it is linked to human activities.

If we climate professionals refuse to participate, we leave the platform to those who engage in denial, who spread ignorance or facts that are not based on scientific facts.

Here, unfortunately, we still have a good percentage, about 20 to 40% depending on the place, of people who don’t believe in it. This is why I wanted to participate in this discussion. To get people interested to know more. Above all, I make it my duty, as it is my prerogative, to present arguments based on scientific knowledge.

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If we climate professionals refuse to participate, we leave the platform to those who engage in denial, who spread ignorance or facts that are not based on scientific facts.

Many of the speakers at the event acknowledge the possibility of climate change, but claim that this phenomenon has always existed and deny the influence of human activity. How do you answer them?

Philip Gachon: One thing we do know, and it is indisputable, is that the evidence shows us that during the interglacial phases [entre deux phases glaciaires]the warmer, the rate of carbon dioxide2 It has never exceeded 300 parts per million by volume (ppm). Right now, we’re about 420 ppm, maybe a little more, in particular because of wildfires that have released massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

We know that in addition to a certain amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere, this will affect the amount of energy that Earth transfers to space. And the more greenhouse gases we have, the more this amount of energy [emprisonnée dans l’atmosphère] Important and the warmer the climate.

The climate is changing exceptionally fast and we will soon reach values ​​of warming that we have not observed before. There is no equivalent since the last interglacial periods.

The last item, which in my opinion makes it possible to make an irrefutable argument: not just the CO2 rate2 It has never exceeded 300 ppm, but the speed with which this increase has occurred since the beginning of the industrial age is unmatched by anything observed since the last glaciers of the Quaternary period. It is not a normal process. It must be an anthropogenic process. [i.e. humaine].

The climate is changing exceptionally fast and we will soon reach values ​​of warming that we have not observed before. There is no equivalent since the last interglacial periods.

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This will bring us into the unknown, in a weather condition we have not noticed before. Anyway, not since we are Australopithecines, the Homo sapiens From this world lives on this planet.

Some climate skeptics, like the panelists you’ll be discussing with, use a very scientific vocabulary, with lots of tables and figures. How can a non-professional find his way around?

Philip Gachon: 97% of publications by professional people claim that human activity has an effect on increasing carbon dioxide levels2levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and have caused warming in the past fifty or sixty years.

We’ve been getting to rates close to 99% in recent years, because the data and scientific knowledge is piling up.

The remaining 1% or 2% are scientific publications, [faites par] Climate skeptics, we realized that first and foremost, these are people who are not climate physicists or climate sciences most of the time; Then some of it is funded by oil companies or oil lobby groups; Finally, they have value judgments that are often not based on scientific facts.

Let’s get back to the basics. Scientific publications exist, consensus exists, generalization work has been done and is still being done.

It’s not easy, there is a lot of misinformation out there, especially the climate skeptics who are very active on social networks. But there are official sites with popular information to differentiate facts based on science versus those that exist one way or the other [systématiquement biaisée] For the interpretation of the results by people who are not specialists in this field.

One of the conference participants, Cristian Girondo, says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not a group of scientists and that its reports are voted on by people representing different countries who know nothing about it and conflict with the work. of scholars. what do you think

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Philip Gachon: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a group of more than 200 scientists around the world. They make a synthesis every four or five years of scientific knowledge, based on all the scientific literature in the field, to make an inventory of knowledge.

At first, not biased at all. Not affected by political decisions. At first, it is a compilation based on scientific knowledge.

On the other hand, here we must be careful when we talk about the summary for decision makers [politiques]There is a consensus that emerges from discussion between countries, with representatives from each country, who must reach a consensus based on scientific knowledge.

Of course, when speaking to decision makers, there are words to use. Some states, of course, want to mitigate some of the conclusions. So we will avoid certain words, certain terms, that could undermine certain political positions of a country.

But there is in no way any overlap between the political content and the scientific content. It is simply in the way of compiling key messages and making them comprehensible [dans le résumé pour les décideurs].

The powerful messages emerging from the latest report, and the previous one, are unequivocal and there is a consensus that the warming we are seeing is related to human activities.

In conclusion?

Philip Gachon: I’m naive. I believe that scientific knowledge can help change attitudes and modify behavior.

Climate skeptics are very present on social networks, they are very tough and we must not give up situations to them.

Conspiracy and denial have many repercussions in all areas of society, not just on social networks. Now, the more we keep people in certain ignorance, in collective denial, the more it contributes to collective inaction.