Post 3 of 12: A Brief Guide to the Climate Debate
Climate Fact of the Day: 2011 was the 35th year in a row that the global temperature was above average (1880-2011). That means half of all Americans have never lived through a year that was below average temperature.
Post No. 3 in this 12-part series on climate change discusses the so-called “debate” and the successful attempt to “raise doubt” about one of the most studied and widely accepted scientific principles in the history of science.
Previous and upcoming posts are listed below for reference. Former post titles link to back to the original posts.
3: A Brief Guide to the Climate Debate: a look at the “Climate War” and who is saying what
4: The Arguments: The most common arguments and responses
5: On Our Watch: Science tells us that climate change is happening now
6: Yep, We Did It: Science tells us that this climate change is from OUR activities
7: What It Means to Missouri: How climate change will likely impact our region
8: Save Money, Save the Climate!: Simple ideas that save money while reducing CO2 emissions
9: Our Choice: What we can do to limit further harm while adapting to the changes to come
10: Lead!: Climate Change is happening. The United States can lead, or get left behind
11: If We Don’t? Geo-engineering the climate. What is it and why we don’t want to go there
12: Final Thoughts. Ethical considerations
The Climate “Debate”
“Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public.“
–Unnamed tobacco executive, Brown & Williamson (1969)
If you think there is still debate among top scientists over whether the climate is changing, or whether man has influence on the climate, then the attempt to convince you these remain controversial questions has been successful (read “Merchants of Doubt”).
“What? I hear/read opposing arguments from all kinds of experts on the TV, radio or the Internet.”
Of course you did!
The reality is that the “experts” you might have seen on TV or the Internet are not practicing climatologists, or if they are, they are far, far outside of the scientific agreement and might even be on the payroll of oil or energy interests or free market “Think Tanks," such as the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute or the American Enterprise Institute. (Read: The Inquisition of Climate Science)
There is good publicity, and good money, in dissenting from the accepted mainstream views. The organizations that fund these “dissenters” stand to gain considerably by promoting climate change misinformation. (Read: “Climate Cover-Up”)
The reality, as I indicated in post No. 1, is that human caused climate change is accepted by every National Academy of Science in the world as well as all of the most respected scientific organizations dealing with climate or atmosphere, including NASA, the American Geophysical Union, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), UCAR and NCAR (Atmospheric Research organizations)
Additionally, over 97 percent of practicing climatologists agree with the IPCC assessment—that the earth warming, it’s caused by man and that the consequences will be harmful.
There are also many interested organizations outside of science that agree with the consensus of climate/atmosphere science organizations and the 97 percent of climate scientists. Here are a few that you may have heard of:
- The Pentagon, US Army, US Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard
- All the Major Oil/Energy Companies, including Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP
- All the Major Global Insurance Companies
- All the Major Automobile Manufacturers, including GM, Ford, Honda and Fiat/Chrysler
- The Christian, Jewish, Islamic and religious institutions, including the US Catholic Church
- 70 of the largest companies in the world, including Coca Cola, Microsoft and Wal-Mart
Okay, that’s one side of the argument, who’s on the other?
There are no scientific organizations that hold dissenting views
There are plenty of political or ideological organizations that hold dissenting views, but no scientific organizations. If you disagree with this claim, please post a link to the climate related scientific organization and the statement that indicates dissent.
Okay, but what about other organizations or people that disagree?
Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition? Your plumber about your tax situation? Your chiropractor about that funny noise your car is making?
Whether the climate is changing, and the cause of the change, is a scientific question that is best answered by experts in that field – which are climate scientists (climatologists).
What do the climate scientists say? Here is a recent statement published in the NY Times that was signed by 38 of the top climate scientists in the world:
“Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade. In fact, it was the warmest decade on record. Observations show unequivocally that our planet is getting hotter.”
The climate scientists also wrote:
“The National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. (set up by President Abraham Lincoln to advise on scientific issues), as well as major national academies of science around the world and every other authoritative body of scientists active in climate research have stated that the science is clear: The world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible. Impacts are already apparent and will increase. Reducing future impacts will require significant reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases
This expert opinion is supported with an overwhelming preponderance of evidence from the real world - like receding glaciers, shrinking polar ice caps, and increasing levels of severe storms, droughts, forest fires and floods.
“But what about “climate gate” and “hide the decline” comments in the emails between climate scientists? Are they hiding something?
This is best answered by Mark Twain who wrote:
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”
See this 9 minute video to explain “climategate” and this 17 minute video that explains “hide the decline”
In my opinion, these types of attacks on science and the deliberate campaign of misinformation are best described by Donald A. Brown, Associate Professor, Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law, Penn State who wrote the following:
“Words fail us about how to characterize the magnitude of the harm that is being done in the name of ideology. It is too absurd on its face to think that any reasonable observer can seriously conclude that climate change science is a hoax or that the consensus view that humans are causing climate change has been debunked.: in fact we are looking for the right metaphors to simply describe the sheer harmfulness of what has been happening.. We would appreciate ideas on this issue. Only poets can approach this task until we come up with the right metaphor.”
The next post in this series (No. 4) will consider some of the most common “arguments”, several of which you will see in comment replies made to this blog series, that are used by those that think the National Academy of Science, NASA, NOAA and every accredited climate/atmosphere related science organization in the world is somehow wrong.
Author's Note to commenters:
This is sure to be a controversial topic and I’m OK with that. I only ask that you keep your comments civil, respectful, informed and related to the particular subject matter discussed. As you can see from the topic list at the beginning of this post, there are plenty to topics to be talked about over the summer.
If your comment doesn't meet these reasonable standards for civility, or is off topic, don't expect a response. I’ll also flag the comment as inappropriate.
I also ask that if you dispute a claim, that you provide a link to a reputable source supporting your claim.
Disclaimer: I am not a climate scientist, nor do I claim to have scientific expertise in this subject. Scientific claims made in these posts will be sourced only from highly respected and accredited scientific organizations.