How many studies do we need?


The U.S. National Research Council released a new study last week confirming that the earth was at its warmest in at least 400 years, and that human activity – specifically our greenhouse gas emissions – is a major culprit.

We can file this newest study with all the others under "Duh", next to all the existing studies showing that carbon dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere are at the highest level in probably hundreds of million years, or that glaciers and ice caps are shrinking while ocean and air temperatures are getting warmer. It’s really a pretty thick file already.

How many people out there are still in doubt that global warming is real, that climate change is likely already happening, and that humans are part of the problem?

How many studies or opinions from the world’s leading scientists (including most of the living Nobel prize winners), or documentaries and news pieces are necessary to convince those holdouts?

The worst skeptics of all are all the pundits who finally admitted that global warming is real, but now doubt we can really do anything about it – a group that currently includes our prime minister and the U.S. president, as well as the heads of several oil companies.

The thing is, we’re not exactly helpless. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper unilaterally decided to pull funding for the previous Liberal Government’s climate change program, he raise the ire of dozens of Canadian companies that were hard at work on technologies to help us meet our Kyoto commitments – which most expect Harper to one day abandon because of a perceived impact on Canadian industries. Harper, Bush and friends believe that offering tax and research incentives to businesses will eventually get the job done.

They’re partly right – innovation got us into the climate change mess, and innovation has to get us out. But because we don’t have a lot of time to turn this around (some scientists think we’ll be hitting a tipping point within the next few decades, while other argue that we’re already toppling) it’s important to use a few sticks as well as carrots to get individuals, companies and countries to change their pollutin’ ways. Hence Kyoto and its strict deadlines and penalties.

Reinforcing the "sticks" idea, another new study by the International Energy Agency found that we could cut our energy consumption by half just by adopting existing technologies.

As individuals we’re not entirely helpless in this mess, and can accomplish a lot on our own with or without our fearless leaders.

For starters, check out the climate change section on the David Suzuki Foundation website at

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