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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Opinion: Climate skeptics' claims are indefensible

Friday, May 7, 2010

A 2005 news release from the National Academy of Sciences opens with the words, "Climate change is real." The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report dubbed warming of the climate system "unequivocal." Since then, the evidence for climate change continues to accumulate. All major scientific bodies with relevant expertise agree that the climate is warming and humans are contributing to the problem. Sadly, this is not the impression that the average American gets when he or she picks up the paper or turns on the television. Behind the scenes, a disinformation campaign is being waged against the facts about anthropogenic climate change and what needs to be done to address it.

Shortly after Earth Day 2010, the Southeast Missourian published Dr. Richard Lindzen's opinion piece in which he reformulates and repeats his long-refuted argument of doubt among climate scientists regarding climate change. Lindzen rails against University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit scientists and other climate scientists subscribing to the consensus for "the unethical suppression of information and opposing viewpoints, and even data manipulation." Although these stolen e-mails do not paint a flattering picture of these scientists, a parliamentary investigation and a university investigation both exonerated the scientists of any professional wrongdoing. Dr. Lindzen chooses to dismiss these investigations with the absurd and undocumented claim of a conspiracy of unprecedented and epic proportions.

Lindzen ignores the data available in peer-reviewed journals that contradict his conclusions. Since he lacks supporting evidence, he uses the time-tested technique of launching personal attacks against the credibility of researchers in an attempt to undermine their science. The astute reader will note that Lindzen fails to refer to any refereed scientific evidence in his article.

Although the science remains unshaken, it doesn't convince the skeptics. So one must wonder why a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would continually advance such patently false claims. Applying the tactics used by the skeptics against the East Anglia research institute (without stealing e-mails, of course) might shed some light on their approach.

First, in 2001, Lindzen co-authored the National Academy of Science review of the IPCC analysis that concluded, "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities." This seems to run counter to the opinions he expresses in popular media.

Furthermore, Lindzen has unapologetically asserted that there is not a scientific consensus regarding climate change, referring for support to a deeply flawed, unpublished article by Benny Peiser. Numerous published articles have refuted Peiser's claim, some going so far as to call his work "dishonest." Refuted, unpublished study in hand, Lindzen applies his illogic to his campaign of mass media attacks on climate science, as evidenced by his recent piece in the Southeast Missourian.

Many skeptics have argued that they are denied grant funding as a result of their contrarian views. Dr. Lindzen, however, doesn't seem to have this problem. He undertakes consulting work to the tune of $2,500 a day for major players in the fossil-fuel industry. In fact, one of his (in)famous contrarian papers was underwritten by OPEC. Surely, a scientist who receives substantial funding from energy-industry proponents of skepticism must answer serious questions regarding conflicts of interest. Furthermore, Lindzen's occasional journal publications that support his position have been shredded by other climate scientists. The climate science research literature is where the debate would occur if there were one, but it is simply not happening.

As a member of the prestigious National Academy of Science that was charged with evaluating earlier IPCC reports, Lindzen seems to have supported the current scientific consensus. However, while consulting, traveling with and testifying for the energy industry, he seems to sing an entirely different tune. He wears both hats quite well, managing to become one of the most revered hired guns for the skeptic disinformation campaign. Perhaps it is time for Lindzen to reflect more objectively and explain the discrepancies in his writings as a scientist and his writings as a contrarian commentator on behalf of the energy industry.

Despite the skeptics' attempts to tear down the mountain of evidence, the scientific consensus regarding climate change is unshaken. If we hope to address the challenges posed by climate change, we must recognize that the skeptic's claims are indefensible, unintelligible, incoherent and lack support from scientific evidence and the preponderance of climate scientists. We should reject the contrarian claims for the illusions, distortions, and deceptions they are.

Finally, it is important to note that for the climate change contrarians, any small failing in the climate change argument, however trivial, destroys the entire theory. On the other hand, no flaw, however huge and profound in their own argument or the evidence (or lack thereof) that they conjure up, elicits any reflection or questioning of their own position.

Adam Gohn of Cape Girardeau is a student at Southeast Missouri State University.

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Your letter is well written, informative, and I think you make some good points. Regardless of whether climate change is real or permanent, I encourage you to keep on speaking out about what you believe. But always stay open-minded. Expect certain people to react with condescention, name calling, and a know-it-all, paternalistic attitude. It is usually clear to the objective casual reader who the lesser informed, "mushy headed" ones are. Always leave room in your mind for a shadow of a doubt and a tad of healthy skepticism, lest you become like the others. And keep on doing what you believe.

-- Posted by 2times2 on Fri, May 7, 2010, at 6:02 AM

Well then, why not just release the "hockey stick" data so the skeptics can replicate the results? Oh yeah, it's "lost." How convenient. Oh and how about the manipulation of data stations by making a lower proportion of them rural? Oh, and if CO2 is causing global warming, why has the earth been cooling for 10 years now with higher than ever levels of CO2?

PS. Consulting is not grant funding.

-- Posted by rh3a on Fri, May 7, 2010, at 9:17 AM

This is a well written article. I'm glad that there are informed and passionate students at SEMO that are not swayed by the ill-informed rhetoric. If you, indeed, read the comments following your article please try not to be discouraged by ad hominem attacks. They are the first sign that someone has no substantive rebuttal. The words of 2times2 are wise and you'd do well to listen to them.

-- Posted by SteveM on Fri, May 7, 2010, at 9:19 AM

This subject has become politicized for the enrichment of politicians. Since most politicians are liers, it's difficult to discover the truth. All we can do is read (a lot) and come to a consensus.

-- Posted by Rocket_Surgeon on Fri, May 7, 2010, at 9:26 AM

It's good that you have retreated to replacing the totally indefensible 'global warming' with 'climate change'. That is absolutely true, the climate has been changing cyclically since the beginning - caused mostly by solar activity.

Your statement "All major scientific bodies with relevant expertise agree that the climate is warming and humans are contributing to the problem." ... is just wrong.

-- Posted by blogbudsman on Fri, May 7, 2010, at 10:23 AM

Adam Gohn wrote:

"Finally, it is important to note that for the climate change contrarians, any small failing in the climate change argument, however trivial, destroys the entire theory. On the other hand, no flaw, however huge and profound in their own argument or the evidence (or lack thereof) that they conjure up, elicits any reflection or questioning of their own position."

Actually, that's simply not true. Many 'skeptics' are not refuting the entirity of the science, they merely question various aspects of the methodology, or of the claims they make. For example, the claim that 'greenhouse gases are accumulating' is not generally questioned, as is the claim that the Earth has been 'generally' warming. Some, however, question the connection between the two, which has not been proven conclusively.

Also, the methodology of determing the 'historical' temperature data is in question. These questions go the heart of the question of long-term changes in temperature trends. While accurate data from remote areas is scarce, indications from contemporary sources indicate that temperatures in the 1930s were comparable to those experienced today.

As to the charge that skeptics dismiss contrary evidence, whereas 'scientists with relevant expertise' do not is patently false.

For example, let us consider 'Warming Island', an island off the Greenland coast, locally known as Uunartoq Qeqertaq. Scientists claim that the island was always thought to be a penninsula, and that it has been connected to the mainland by ice throughout known history. However, there is no evidince to support this, only word-of-mouth histories from locals.

But there is evidince to contradict this. In the 1950s, Ernst Hofer mapped the area while doing aerial surveys of the area. In his map, he clearly shows Uunartoq Qeqertaq to be an island. Scientists dismiss the map as evidence, claiming that Mr. Hofer could not have known that it was an island. The area, they claim, was probably enveloped in fog at the time, and therefore Mr. Hofer had to guess at the condition coastline when he drew the map. The fact that he accurately drew Uunartoq Qeqertaq as an island just a lucky coincidence on Mr. Hofer's part.

Thus, it appears both sides are willing to dismiss evidince, even if the supporting evidence is weaker, when such evidence fails to support their own views. It is a human failing, and 'scientists of relevant expertise' are not immune thereto.

-- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Fri, May 7, 2010, at 10:31 AM

Hmm, "skeptics" is used in the plural sense, but it seems only one skeptic has become an intolerable burr in the columnist's saddle.

For what it's worth - 2009 was the lowest year for reported U.S. carbon dioxide emissions since 1998. Some informative reading if one is interested http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/environment/...

A presentation on energy projections, growth, and sources of energy utilized - as well as energy and emissions per dollar GDP. http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/speeches/new.... Some good news in there for the bunny-lovin' tree huggers, as well as for the normal folk.

Winning the game may be the overall goal, but take time to celebrate the scoring events along the way.

-- Posted by fxpwt on Fri, May 7, 2010, at 6:54 PM

Adam Gohn,

40 years of Paul Ehrlich's predictions have made many folks skeptics. Few if any of his predictions have materialized. Though he believed them enough to risk a bet with Julian Simon and lost.

-- Posted by BCStoned on Fri, May 7, 2010, at 10:50 PM

Recommended reading, "Hoodwinking the Nation" by Julian Simon

-- Posted by BCStoned on Fri, May 7, 2010, at 10:53 PM

If Al Gore truly believes in the theory of global warming, and was really being honest in his belief that ocean levels would dramatically rise and flood coastal areas....

....why on earth did he just buy a 9 million dollar ocean-front home?

He's in it for the money. He creates an issue to scare ignorant people, sells those people a product they don't really need as a solution to the manufactured problem, and he laughs all of the way to the bank.

-- Posted by dixietrucker on Sat, May 8, 2010, at 3:56 PM

The 1930s were hot in the US, not globally. The US is only a small percentage of the world's land area. Global mean temperatures have been much hotter throughout the 2000s than they were in the 1930s. Data and graphs from NASA here: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs... .

-- Posted by agathman on Wed, Jun 9, 2010, at 2:05 PM

Al Gore is not a climate scientist. He's not responsible for the evidence or conclusions of the vast majority of climate scientists, who agree that global warming is occurring, is caused primarily by human activity, and is a serious problem.

The climate scientists have nothing to gain from claiming that global warming is happening; they'd get grants to study the climate if their data said that there was no global warming.

Scientists love to poke holes in each other's theories. When you see a situation such as we have now, where virtually every scientific body is on record in support of a particular view, it's because the evidence is unusually strong.

-- Posted by agathman on Wed, Jun 9, 2010, at 2:24 PM

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