Saturday, March 08, 2008

Canadian Scientists: No Consensus on Cause of Climate Change

Causes of climate change varied: poll
Engineers plan environmental summit
Gordon Jaremko,
Published: Thursday, March 06

EDMONTON - Only about one in three Alberta earth scientists and engineers believe the culprit behind climate change has been identified, a new poll reported today.

The expert jury is divided, with 26 per cent attributing global warming to human activity like burning fossil fuels and 27 per cent blaming other causes such as volcanoes, sunspots, earth crust movements and natural evolution of the planet.

A 99-per-cent majority believes the climate is changing. But 45 per cent blame both human and natural influences, and 68 per cent disagree with the popular statement that "the debate on the scientific causes of recent climate change is settled."
The divisions showed up in a canvass of more than 51,000 specialists licensed to practice the highly educated occupations by the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta.

"We're not surprised at all," APEGGA executive director Neil Windsor said today. "There is no clear consensus of scientists that we know of."

The only agreement among professionals is "we should do everything we can" to understand climate, adapt structures such as buildings and bridges to change and reduce human contributions to harmful trends, Windsor said.

The survey received 1,077 replies or a sample rated as an accurate portrait of the occupational groups' views to within three percentage points 19 times out of 20, APEGGA reported.

Alberta Environment helped design the poll and will give the results to the provincial government, association spokesman Philip Mulder said.

APEGGA is planning an "environmental summit" with other concerned agencies on Alberta climate change causes, effects and adaptations.

No date is set yet for the event. "We would prefer to have it sooner rather than later," Mulder said.

"These sessions can be structured so that they result in ... a concerted action plan to be directed at policy makers," APEGGA's environment committee said in a report to association members.

Potential actions include devising Alberta climate change forecasts, encouraging greenhouse-gas cleanups like industrial waste carbon disposal, and developing adaptation programs such as water conservation and energy efficiency, the committee said.
Only one-third of engineers and earth scientists polled by APEGGA rated the province's current climate change action plan as adequate.

About two-thirds of the professionals said the government should take on a leading role in developing renewable or sustainable energy sources and promoting energy efficiency among consumers. About half urged the province to make Alberta a world capital of capturing and storing industrial greenhouse-gas waste.

Engineers and earth scientists mostly feel free to speak out about climate change and take it into account in their work.

About two-thirds of the professionals say they feel no peer pressure to take particular stances on global warming, and 70 per cent report they have enough independence to take the issue into account in their professional roles.

But willingness to spend money on long-range climate change adaptations is still rare among employers of the science-based occupations, the survey results indicated.

In the poll of APEGGA's highly educated membership, "66 per cent state that corporate decision making is governed by short-term cost considerations rather than long-term investment."

Only 31 per cent of Alberta engineers and earth scientists say the organizations they serve regard them as valuable technical advisers on climate change. Just 26 per cent of the professionals believe they can influence corporate decisions.

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