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Calgary billboard blames sun for climate change, not humanity

Friends of Science billboard stating the sun is responsible for climate change in Calgary.

A turf war has broken out over a Calgary billboard that unequivocally claims humans do not play a significant role in climate change, raising questions about the veracity of the statement and the decision-making process behind what environmental messages are approved in oil-rich Alberta.

The billboard, sponsored by the "Friends of Science" organization, claims that humans are not responsible for climate change, which is a stance not shared by the vast majority of North America's science community.

"The sun is the main driver of climate change. Not you. Not CO2," the billboard states.

The uniquely-named Friends of Science group is a non-profit group that vocally opposes the idea that mankind plays a role in climate change. In a recent statement, it said its Calgary billboard has generated a great deal of international attention for the organization.

“First of all, our message is backed up by peer-reviewed science. Secondly, we’re getting an excellent response from around the world,” said president Len Maier.

Yet the appearance of the billboard has prompted the frustrated Greenpeace Canada to question the politics of the billboard company's selection process.

As Greenpeace's Mike Hudema writes, the group had a "tame" billboard rejected a few years ago by Pattison, the same outdoor advertising company that approved the Friends of Science message this time around.

The Greenpeace billboard had stated, "When there's a huge solar energy spill, it's just called a nice day. Green jobs. No more oil spills"

Hudema says there was no reason given for the billboard's rejection.

"How can Pattison reject a billboard that promotes renewable energy, and approve one that tries to muddy a global scientific consensus and delay action on a growing climate crisis that is already displacing thousands?" Hudema writes.

"It seems like Pattison has a climate double standard and one has to wonder if there isn’t an agenda that they are trying to promote."

As Press Progress notes, this isn't the first time Pattison Outdoor has been accused of holding a double standard. The company garnered headlined after rejecting an ad from Vancouver-based Voters Taking Action on Climate Change in 2011, and last year rejecting a message promoting atheism while approving ads from pro-life groups.

A request for comment has been submitted to Pattison Outdoor.

Maier points out, however, that his group supports Greenpeace's "quest to find a billboard venue for it’s messaging," adding that while Friends of Science disagrees with the group's view it is hoping to stimulate a public conversation about climate change.

Thus far, the majority of the debate has been about the veracity of the Friends of Science billboard message.

The popular blog IFL Science took umbrage with the group itself, taking note of previous investigations connecting the group to donations from the oil industry and questioning their research methods.

But it also claims the billboard's message is not accurate.

The claim that the Sun is chiefly responsible for climate change doesn’t have much merit. Studies have shown that slight fluctuations in solar activity actually don’t affect Earth that much. Of the 1°C the planet has warmed in the last 300 years, a study found that the Sun probably contributed to less than 0.15°C of that. Any data that does point the finger of blame toward the Sun does not fit observational trends as well as humanity’s production of pollution. Claiming that humans and CO2 are not to blame doesn’t comport with the evidence and disagrees with the vast majority of the scientific literature.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's position on the issue is that "human influence" on the climate system is clear.

"It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models," the IPCC states.

Comedic news show host John Oliver recently expressed the disparity in the climate change research by holding a "mathematically representative" debate that consisted of three climate change skeptics and 97 advocates – representing the percentage of the science community that believes humans have played a role in climate change.

It should be noted that Friends of Science has an issue with that "97 per cent consensus" number as well.

Considering the amount of attention the billboard has received, it probably doesn't matter much whether its claim is accurate or not.

If, as the group contests, a billboard in Calgary is generating a demand for bumper stickers in Australia, their point has been made.

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