George Monbiot published a great article in The Guardian yesterday. It was a pretty devastating salvo aimed at anybody who is still trying to ignore Climate Change, anybody who refuses to trust the environmental scientists who overwhelmingly point to anthropogenic sources of Global Warming and, more personally, aimed squarely at David Bellamy.
A few weeks ago Bellamy had published a letter in New Scientist which claimed that an often quoted symptom of global warming, glacier recession, was in fact a fallacy. In fact, the truth according to Bellamy was that glaciers are not shrinking but in fact are growing. ... 555 of all the 625 glaciers under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich, Switzerland, have been growing since 1980.
Such a well-known figure as Bellamy stating quite the opposite position worried Monbiot enough for him to want to get to the bottom of things and work out where Bellamy's numbers came from.
So last week I telephoned the World Glacier Monitoring Service and read out Bellamys letter. I dont think the response would have been published in Nature, but it had the scientific virtue of clarity. This is complete bullshit.
Having tracked the source of the "555 increasing" data to a single person citing a report published in a 1989 edition of Science, that didn't actually exist, Monbiot was ready to publish and ready to come on live tv and battle it out with Bellamy on last night's Channel4 News.
It was a fun encounter, not least because that quote from the Glacier Monitoring Service gave them an excuse to say "bullshit" four or five times in various tones and with varying emphasis. "Bwuuuuuuul-shit" from Bellamy for instance.
Jon Snow barely had to say anything at all, Bellamy just kept digging, refusing to admit that he was negligent in failing to check his facts with more than a quick Google search.
But the thing is, Monbiot didn't really win the battle. The thing that sticks in the back of your head is that Monbiot couldn't answer the question "where is the evidence that shows its us that's responsible?"
It annoys me that I can't answer it either. As a scientist there's no way, that I know of, to say "this 0.5 degree rise in North Atlantic sea temperature is directly caused by the massive increase in carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere following Industrialisation". I can't because it could just be a natural oscillation. I can look at the "radiative transfer equation" and at the carbon-oxygen bond energies and say that "yes, carbon dioxide does let solar radiation through but traps the heat that would otherwise be lost - the 'Greenhouse Effect'" but you could still say that its volcanoes. Or farts or whatever.
Maybe we need to stop wasting energy trying to persuade people that it is us and start shouting at everybody who doesn't want to listen, "its now or never. Either we make dramatic changes to our environmental policy, our energy usage, our attitude to recycling, or the Earth is just going to give up on us."