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Writer Wrong On Climate Change

You have recently published op-ed pieces casting doubt on the very existence of global warming caused by human activity, the most recent being that by E. Thomas McClanahan on Jan. 25.

Your readers should be aware that the national scientific academies worldwide (not the governments) of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the 11 other G5+8 countries all agreed in 2009 that “Climate change is happening even faster than previously estimated; global CO2 emissions since 2000 have been higher than even the highest predictions, Arctic sea ice has been melting at rates much faster than predicted, and the rise in the sea level has become more rapid.”

We hope McClanahan would agree that his dissent from the mainstream science merits close intellectual scrutiny. We therefore offer these critical observations.

♦ McClanahan’s assertion that “global warming” has been renamed “climate change” to cover for real warming “stopping” in recent years is ludicrous on many levels.

Predictions of global warming from human emissions of carbon dioxide date back to 1896. The expression “climate change” appears in physicist Gilbert Plass’s landmark 1956 article “The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change,” while the term “global warming” was coined somewhat later (Wallace Broecker, “Climatic Change: Are we on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” 1975).

It was the Bush strategist Frank Luntz, in a 2003 memo, who suggested that GOP politicians refer to “global warming” as “climate change” to make it sound less frightening. It also proposed making a supposed lack of scientific certainty a “primary issue” in the political debate on climate.

♦ McClanahan attempts “guilt by association” by conflating “greens” with “scientists.” Certainly, not all scientists are environmentalists, but the great majority of scientists actively researching and publishing on climate change agree that humans are causing most if not all global warming by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

♦ McClanahan says that the so-called “ClimateGate” scandal was a “major blow” to the theory of global warming. What happened was that the technical jargon used by one scientist at one small university in one stolen email was claimed to be evidence of “fraud,” but only by those who already believed that “climate change is a myth.” Numerous investigations by state and national agencies on two continents have cleared the scientists involved of any scientific wrongdoing.

♦ McClanahan says there has been “no significant warming since 1998.” This is simply wrong — there has been significant climatological warming since that year. The word “climate” refers to a multi-year average, and the climatic average temperature is significantly higher now than it was in 1998.

McClanahan appears to have a connection to the journalism business. He should be aware that both scientists and journalists have a professional obligation to check facts, and to tell the truth. His claim that “global warming seems to have ceased” is factually false.

If you want to believe that climate change is just a “liberal hoax,” then you will only find validation in the pseudoscience put forth by pundits like McClanahan. If you would like to know why real scientists are worried, go to a meeting like the American Geophysical Union, where the debates over the details are fierce and passionate, but where deniers of the reality of human-caused global warming are virtually non-existent.

Our professional colleagues who study the earth’s past and present climate are very alarmed by what they see happening now. Those who are currently traveling to the Arctic, Greenland, and the Antarctic are bringing back worrisome observations of increasing large-scale glacial melting and calving. The climate crisis is every bit as real as our current economic doldrums, and potentially far more costly in the long run.

This column was co-signed by 17 members and officers of New Mexicans for Science and Reason.