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Like a deadly hot car, climate change is real

An automobile parked in the sun collects heat like a greenhouse, becoming a death trap. The exact rate of heating is difficult to predict because it depends on the color and design of the car, the angle it’s parked, whether the windows are tinted or slightly open, and unpredictable effects of wind and clouds.

Even with uncertainty, the science is settled. The inevitable and dangerous warming of a parked car is governed by basic laws of physics. The expert consensus remains: leaving pets or children inside can lead to a catastrophe. Anyone who ignores this advice is criminally negligent, if not depraved.

As a physics student in the ’70s, I learned how to estimate the Earth’s equilibrium temperature without heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The answer was about 1 degree F, far short of the actual average surface temperature of 59 degreeš. The difference – nearly 60 degrees – is due to the greenhouse effect.

In 1975, a landmark scientific paper was published, titled “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” The prediction: “…the exponential rise in the atmospheric carbon dioxide content will tend to become a significant factor and by early in the next century will have driven the mean planetary temperature beyond the limits experienced during the last 1,000 years.”

1970s environmentalists worried about the “greenhouse effect.” I was skeptical then that it was a serious problem because I’d just learned that the greenhouse effect was normal, and “early next century” seemed so far away.

But here we are in the 21st century. All the predictions have come true, and our understanding is much deeper. We skeptics are convinced.

Responsible media outlets have stopped providing a forum for depraved voices to express opinions equivalent to this: “Since computer models cannot predict the exact temperature history of your car, go ahead and leave the kid and dog inside”.

The LA Times was among the first to adopt a responsible, fact-based letters policy in 2013. According to the editor, “Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.” This month, NBC’s Chuck Todd finally took a similar reality-based stance, saying “We’re not going to give time to climate deniers. The science is settled even if political opinion is not.”

Todd’s rejection of demonstrably false claims did not sit well with political pundit Cal Thomas, whose Jan. 11 column “Temperature is down, climate rhetoric heats up” includes one such incorrect assertion right there in the title.

Thomas says that meteorologist Roy Spencer wrote, “2018 marked the second straight year when global temperatures declined and that last year was the sixth warmest year globally since El Nino peaked in February, 2016.”

There are many problems with this quote.

Climate is defined as a 30-year average, which has continued to increase every year.

Thermometers consistently show faster warming than Spencer’s calculated temperatures.

There haven’t been six years since 2016.

Searches of Spencer’s blog and the source cited by Thomas fail to turn up this quote. Did he even say it? In reply to my request for confirmation, Spencer wrote, “that wasn’t my quote… I guess (my blog) got mashed together with someone else’s factoid about recent cooling, and the whole thing was attributed to me by Cal Thomas.”

Spencer himself would seem to disagree with Thomas. In 2015, he signed an open letter that began by stating this: “Human-induced climate change, also known as anthropogenic global warming (AGW), is real.”

The professional journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences just released the peer-reviewed paper, “2018 Continues Record Global Ocean Warming.” The oceans absorb more than 90 percent of heat trapped by human-enhanced greenhouse effect. The last five years are the hottest on record. Unlike the Thomas’ alleged, nonsensical fake quote, these claims are in the archived scientific literature, and the authors stand behind them.

When you consider whether to leave Junior and Fido in your car on a sunny day, please heed the experts and ignore any deniers. Likewise, listen to warnings from scientists about the greenhouse effect. Otherwise the global death trap we are creating will have far more victims.

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