2019-03-11 19:10:32 UTC
Posted at 4:40 AM
A recent Guest Opinion rightly censures language misdirection in
politics. There is plenty of it, much emanating from the president.
However, it also inaccurately and unfairly accuses scientists of using
language misdirection to hide weaknesses in research related to
climate change, regurgitating a Trump talking point that his own NASA
Administrator once a climate change denier now disavows.
Talking Point 1 suggests that the climate science community in the
1970s was predicting an ice age. Dr. John Cook, Professor of Cognitive
Science at GMU, provides a succinct rebuttal at skepticalscience.com
(see Most Used Climate Myths, Myth 11, Intermediate response). Cook
cites (and provides a link to) a September 2008 study published in the
Journal of the American Meteorological Society by Thomas Peterson
(National Climatic Data Center), William Connolley (British Antarctic
Survey) and John Fleck (Albuquerque Journal) who surveyed the peer
reviewed scientific literature from 1965 to 1979 and determined that
42 peer reviewed studies predicted global warming while only seven
predicted global cooling. Newsweek, Time and some other mass media
publications found the minority view intriguing and gave it widespread
attention, publishing sensational impending ice age accounts that
captured public attention, even though most climate scientists at the
The science behind the global cooling theories were not patently
unreasonable when first offered, Cook notes: They were based estimates
that sulfur dioxide and other atmospheric aerosol concentrations would
quadruple. However, a number of countries enacted limits on such
emissions through Clean Air Acts, and atmospheric concentrations
declined starting in the late 1970s. Flaws in the cooling theories and
underlying assumptions were exposed during peer review and by
subsequent studies. By the end of the decade, the impending ice age
theory had disappeared from peer reviewed scientific literature, and
the global warming consensus had prevailed.
Talking Point 2 asserts that climate scientists began referring to
climate change rather than global warming because there were
years when global warming could not be supported by the data and
climate change immunized the scientists somehow from refutation.
That argument is grounded in skepticalscience.coms Climate Change
Myth No. 9. It relies on Dr. Bob Carters argument that for the years
1998 2005, temperature did not increase.
Carters argument has not fared well in peer review. Reviewers note
that he cherry-picked a starting date in which a monster El Niño
event made the surface and atmosphere unusually hot. He then relied
on estimates of the atmospheric temperatures based upon satellite
records that have since recorded actual (not estimated) temperatures,
which show that there was no hiatus in warming. Skepticalscience.coms
Intermediate refutation of this myth presents the relevant data and
concludes that surface and ocean temperatures have risen [since
1998], as have sea levels, while ice has melted, spring is starting
earlier, and so on. 2015 was hotter than 2010, which was hotter than
2005, which was hotter than 1998.
Climate scientists prefer to use climate change instead of global
warming because (as their science always predicted) the build-up of
greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere will likely result in other severe
weather conditions as well as the additional heat. Along with
wildfires and deforestation and melting glaciers and evaporating
lakes, such concentrations can weaken the jet stream and cause polar
vortex conditions that visit sudden and extreme (if relatively short)
blizzards and icy weather in places unaccustomed to such conditions.
It can cause an increase in wind shears that knock aircraft from the
skies, bigger and more devastating tornadoes, tsunamis and hurricanes.
What we have to fear from greenhouse gas emissions includes global
warming, but also much, much more. Recent peer-reviewed climate
studies indicate that we may well be approaching a tipping point
where solutions to climate degradations are much harder to find.
Inaccurately implying that climate scientists are somehow dishonest
for using the more comprehensive term is an exhibition of ignorance,
Gregory Hill is a resident of Richboro and a member of The
Intelligencer/Bucks County Courier Times editorial board.
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