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TAKE AWAY MESSAGES FROM TOM HARRIS' PRESENTATIONS TO STUDENTS AND THEIR INSTRUCTORS
  • We must focus on solving environmental problems we understand and know we cause such as air, land and water pollution. We also must protect species at risk, work to clean up toxic waste dumps and safeguard the ocean. But carbon dioxide (CO2), the greenhouse gas being increasingly controlled by expensive regulations around the world, is not a pollutant. It is odourless, invisible and an essential reactant in photosynthesis, on which all life depends. Increases in atmospheric CO2 levels have enhanced agricultural productivity across the world, allowing crops to grow in areas that are otherwise too dry.
  • Many people want to restrict humanity’s CO2 emissions because they believe it is the major cause of today’s climate change. They believe that these changes will become dangerous in the future if we do not significantly reduce CO2 emitted from fossil fuel burning, cement production and other activities. Indeed, some people even support the notion that “The Earth has a fever,” to quote Al Gore.
  • Climate has always changed—we cannot stop it anymore that we can stop sunrise or gravity. Tom shows students and their instructors the massive swings in climate over the eons, some much faster and more severe that what we have experienced in the past century or are forecast to experience over the coming decades. In contrast to the teaching materials distributed to schools across Canada by the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, Tom uses examples from history to show how cooling is far more threatening to human society and the environment than warming.

Speaking to the 6th ICCC in Washington DC on July 1, 2011
  •  The degree to which humans affect global climate is an intense topic of scientific debate. We do not know the future of climate in, say, 50 years, any better than we know the future of weather two weeks from now – the system is too complex, our understanding too primitive and the data too sparse and in many cases untrustworthy.
  •  This issue will only be resolved if we welcome differing points of view with respect. When studying such complicated science we need to be humble, recognizing that no one ever has the “right answer”. All we can ever hope to achieve is progress towards better understanding what nature is really doing. The science is not “settled”–it is just beginning. Tom explains how ‘negative discovery’ applies to many fields of science and skepticism and healthy questioning are one of the scientist’s most valuable attributes as they work to uncover nature’s mysteries. 
  • Despite the vast uncertainties in the science of climate change, there is no question that climate change can have highly damaging (and positive) effects on human societies and the environment. Consequently, we must continue scientific research so that, someday, we may be able to better forecast climate changes before they occur, thereby allowing us to properly prepare for whatever nature throws at us next. In the meantime, we have a moral responsibility to help vulnerable people throughout the world cope with climate change—warming and cooling, drought and flood, and damaging storms—no matter what the causes of those changes are.