To the editor:
In response to Tom Harris’ letter: Little evidence warming climate leads to forest fires”, Sept. 25 Kelowna Capital News.
“Concerned Citizen” Tom Harris was formerly the director of operations of the Ottawa office of the High Park Group, a lobbying firm for several energy industry clients. He is a mechanical engineer, not a climate or environmental scientist and the executive director of The International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC).
The ICSC is an anti-science group that uses a lofty but misleading name to disguise their true intentions of climate change denial. They promote the use of fossil fuel reserves over alternative energy sources and have financial ties to the Heartland Institute in Texas. The Heartland Institute fought against tobacco regulation and denies tobacco’s links to lung cancer, now they fund climate change denial lobbyists.
Tom Harris and the ICSC quotes portions of old studies out of context to make it seem that other scientific bodies are in agreement with their views, but this would be false.
He first states that the United Nations denies that there is a link between climate change and extreme weather events.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC. They publish yearly reports on climate assessment and make recommendations for government policy.
Their latest report from 2014 states: “Human influence on the climate system is clear.” “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th Century and it is likely that human influence has more than doubled the probability of occurrence of heat waves in some locations.
“Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability (very high confidence).” (Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers www.ipcc.ch)
Increased heat causes increased weather activity. This is basic thermodynamics. As an engineer, Tom Harris should know better.
The science is clear—climate change can cause drought and heat waves which increases the frequency and severity of forest fires. Increased Okanagan, Washington and California fires since the 1990s are an obvious example. As a long-term Kelowna resident, I grew up ice skating on Okanagan Lake every winter during the 1970s. Ice is almost non-existent on the lake in winter now.
An overwhelming majority of climate scientists are in agreement—this is not natural climate variability—it is human-caused.
Tom Harris’ final point is that we shouldn’t be worrying now about a potential impact decades in the future.
In Syria, five years of drought resulted in widespread crop failures, rural population migrations to cities and subsequent government crackdowns. This was quickly followed by civil unrest, war and setting the stage for ISIS to move in. We now have the largest refugee crisis since World War II. This crisis is a direct result of climate change and its human impact. This is happening now.
Matthew Longman, Kelowna