David Suzuki, better known in Canada than in the U.S. and other parts of the world, is a former scientist and modern-day financier of the radical fringes of the environmental movement. In a widely circulated essay, he criticizes media outlets ranging from Canada’s Financial Post to the Washington Post in the U.S. for daring to cover the scientific debate over the causes and consequences of climate change.
He also singled out and attacked three scientists who led a team of nearly 50 scientists who wrote or contributed to a report, titled Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, released earlier this week by my organization, The Heartland Institute.
Why would a former scientist attack scientists for doing exactly what good scientists have always done, which is to question theories and predictions based on fear and ignorance rather than facts and reason? Why does Suzuki criticize the press for doing what good journalists ought to do, which is cover both sides of debates over issues with serious consequences for public policy?
Let me be clear: Suzuki is not speaking as a scientist. He spent so little time looking at the report he criticizes that he mis-identifies the organization that produced it: It is the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), not the International Climate Science Coalition. (The Heartland Institute published the report for NIPCC).
Suzuki mistakenly says the 1,000-page report was not peer-reviewed. In fact it was doubly peer-reviewed. Nearly all of the 4,000-plus sources it cites originally appeared in peer-reviewed journals, and the volume itself was put through peer review by the three lead authors. The reviewers are clearly identified in the report and in its Summary for Policymakers (SPM).
While Suzuki failed to read the report and SPM that are available for free online (at www.climatechangereconsidered.org), he’s happy to endorse without qualification a report that hasn’t yet been written: the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report, which he says “is a review of all the available science on climate change.”
Of course he has not compared the sources cited in the yet-to-be-published IPCC report and those cited in the NIPCC report. So how does he know the IPCC report reviews “all of the available science”? He obviously does not.
David Suzuki epitomizes what is wrong with the environmental movement today. It embraces positions without critical thought and regardless of the actual scientific evidence, so long as those positions appear to advance its political agenda. It attacks and demonizes anyone, even scientists, who dare to point this out. Until environmentalists publicly rebuke and distance themselves from irresponsible demagogues like David Suzuki, the movement will continue to lose the public support it once had.
Joseph L. Bast is president of The Heartland Institute.