The environment is probably the singularly most talked about issue today; it is a topic that is not new to most but is still novel to others. In past decade’s scientist, diplomats and world leaders have traded ideas, accusations and opinions about the significant contribution of Human activity on the environment and the actual existence of the Global-warming phenomenon. This essay focuses on two polarizing opinions to the most recent report authored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body established in 1998 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme to study rising global temperatures and general views on this ‘burning’ topic. In a Time Magazine article “Global warming: What now?”, Science editor Jeffrey Kluger writes that the IPCC report released in Brussels this spring supports an earlier assertion that human activity indeed contributes significantly to planetary warming, in stark contrast however climate researcher Hans von Storch and a public attitude sociologist Nico Stehr in their commentary aptly titled “Exaggerated Science: How Global Warming Research is Creating a Climate of Fear”, opine that the claims supporting the global warming trend were more alarmist than factual.
Kluger states the claims by the IPCC report that mentions the causes of climate change and their effects as seen in various parts of the world and how the effects of global warming can be countered and corrected in the future. He notes that disconcerting groups who are not aligned with the global warming theory still exist and but reports that more scientists favour taking action on greenhouse gas emissions than those who still oppose them. Kluger discusses solutions proffered by scientists especially as relating to include a gradual change from using fossil fuels to the more ‘environment friendly’ bio-fuels from sources like ethanol.Hans von Storch and Nico Stehr in dismissing the planetary warming opinions claim groups are using less factual methods to highlight their theories by creating false impressions and painting a rather catastrophic picture of events. They claim that scientists have resorted to defending their “dramatization of climate shifts” as a tool for public enlightenment and education. The pair point to the use of a ‘hockey stick phenomenon’ to illustrate their point. They buttress this point in their write-up that the methods used to highlight the environmental challenges posed by global warming trends are fictionalized and constitute an “overselling to get attention” of the public, by their collusion with writers, filmmakers and politicians to present their gloomy picture of the phenomenon. Storch and Stehr also accuse scientist of self censorship and decry their unwillingness to accommodate views and opinions at variance with their positions. They advice these environmental groups to corroborate their predictions with hard data and facts that can withstand any scrutiny and allow a debate on issues to thrive. Their article concludes that scientists are succumbing to a form of fanaticism and attribute this to the fact that these experts oppose any criticisms of their methodologies in arriving at their hypotheses about global warming because they see these differing opinions as a conservative think-tanks misinformation campaign by oil and coal lobby groups.
In both articles, the authors’ point out that there are skeptics and supporters to their individual standpoints. While Kluger bases his thoughts singly on the recent IPCC report, the pair of Storch and Stehr provide further basis to their point of view. They compare issues raised in their respective resident countries and in other foreign nations. Both however make reference to the IPCC document with Storch and Stehr disagreeing with the methods used in arriving at the conclusions of the report, claiming they were rashly rationalized and flawed. Kluger underscores the solutions and remedies prescribed by the IPCC report highlighting a two-pronged response of mitigation and adaptation to reverse the trends of global warming, while Storch and Stehr simply focus on these scientist using more conventional methods, analytical methods to propose their deductions without the use of so-called alarmist ways and means stating in their article the aim of correcting impressions and “turn back an era of exaggeration without calling into question the core statement which is that human induced climate change does exist”.
The fact that both essays acknowledge global warming as an issue but fail to agree on the level of human culpability and IPCC report is an indication that all varying opinions need be taken into context before reports like the IPCC’s are published. Kluger’s scenario is more compelling as it outlines the problems and prescribes solutions. In essence the cases, theories and hypotheses of all groups (pro and anti-global warming) should be published with all the criticism and objections noted and included so they are balanced, fair and reflect a consensus. Any insinuations that the issues are based on various agendas depending on individual’s or groups’ political ideology should be played down as it only distracts from the daunting task of preserving the world as we know it for future generations.
Kluger, Storch and Stehr in their own ways have contributed to this debate and brought to fore that no opposing opinion is inferior. Whether they acknowledge we have a “climate catastrophe” or not it is pertinent that our earth needs some attention. Just as former United States Vice president, and author of the best selling book 'The Inconvenient Truth', Al Gore warned recently, "We do not have time to play around with this."