Climate change science is solid

Michael Barone's recent editorial (Daily Tidings, Feb. 5) is a reckless and uninformed criticism of climate change science.

His first charge comes from examining 13 years of stolen e-mails from British climate scientists and taking them out of context to show global warming has been overstated. On close inspection the charges are false; you can find details at under "Climategate." Scientists are accused of "hiding a decline in temperatures" when they are really referring to recent tree ring data being less accurate than instrument-measured temperatures, which continue to rise.

If Barone wants to find "corruption" in the climate change debate he should look at the campaign started around 1990 by the industries whose huge profits depend on fossil fuels. This is detailed by Sharon Begley in the Newsweek article "The Truth About Denial" (Aug. 15, 2007), by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ross Gelbspan in his 2004 book "Boiling Point" and by Al Gore in his recent book "Our Choice."

Pundits, politicians and the press have been fed distortions for so long that they can hardly admit their errors in this grave matter.

Compared to their profits, it has been a bargain for giants such as Exxon to sow doubt by giving a mere $20 million to disinformation groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Information Council on the Environment, the Western Fuels Association and the American Petroleum Institute. Exxon continues to support more than two dozen disinformation groups, even after pledging to stop.

When we see the "Climategate" slander break right before the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, we know the denial machine is still undermining our best source of knowledge: science.

Scientists constantly critique each other's work and the most solid ideas survive. This makes scientists conservative in their claims. The reliability of this process and the importance of this issue at hand was recently recognized when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize.

But Barone knows better. He goes all the way back to an uncorrected typo in a 1996 report and unsubstantiated claims by a Canadian analyst to claim the IPCC does not correct mistakes or rely on peer-reviewed journals.

Does Mr. Barone rely on science to build his computer, car or office building? Does he rely on medical science when he faces illness? Science is a tool we use to handle complex problems. Without science we attempt to solve difficult problems with bad information.

As California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "If 98 doctors say my son is ill and needs medication and two say, 'No, he doesn't, he is fine,' I will go with the 98. It's common sense — the same with global warming. We go with the majority, the large majority."

The vast majority of climate scientists see the earth inevitably warming an additional two degrees Celsius. Above this level we face a totally unmanageable situation that will take humanity back to the dark ages. It may be tempting to ignore this reality and rake in millions while you can. A more mature response would be prompt action guided by science.

Jim Hartman is a local high school science teacher who has been teaching about global warming for more than 20 years. He has lived in Ashland since 1992.

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