Climate change is real. It is here now. The cause is man.
Carl Gable, Ph.D.
As of 2010, 98% of the most published climate scientists attribute global warming to human cause. That percentage has probably gone up as more data has come in, but it is not convincing to everyone, including my cousins.
During the last week, I went into heated, email debate with them on this subject. They are very intelligent and highly educated Southern conservatives, so you can immediately deduce their orientation in this politically polarized nation. They generally accept the idea of climate change but are skeptical of the research by “alarmists.”
One of the cousins sent me a list of 28 scientists who deny human responsibility for climate change. He acknowledged that he had not read any of their work, but he had heard about one of the men, the principal research scientist at the university in his hometown. In deference to my cousin, I looked that gentleman up first.
Ironically, what I found on Wikipedia actually fortified my position, at least in my own mind. The scientist had signed “An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming”. That suggests to me that scientific judgment may be compromised by a religious orientation.
Also very far off of the science track was a Fox News interview with columnist Charles Krauthammer that someone had just sent me. He referred to climate science as ancient superstition, the belief that “human sin” of carbon pollution would cause the retribution of severe weather events.
I tuned into the issue of climate change years ago and follow developments closely. Because doing anything constructive about it depends on accepting a degree of human responsibility, the aggressiveness of contrarians kind of drives me crazy. Before I could continue the conversation, however, I needed more information, and I knew where to go.
The list of scientists my cousin had sent me identified most of them as geologists. I thought geology was about terrain and wondered how that could include climate science. So I sent an email asking about that to Carl Gable, a geophysicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory whom I had met at the gym. Carl is not only a scientist but also an endurance athlete. Earlier this spring he competed in the Yak Attack in Nepal, the highest mountain bike endurance race on earth.
Carl responded quickly and generously. The recent release of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) has enlivened the discussion about climate change, and having gotten the picture on my debate, he had ready comment. He said that the NCA report had only confirmed what the people he works with already know: “The things that have been predicted for years can be shown to be here. The future has arrived. It is not ‘The climate will change.’ It is ‘The climate has changed.’ ”
And with regard to scientists who say climate change is not real or not caused by human activity, he referred to them as “outliers.” He went on to say that “Now of course there are people who want to believe them who will say the fact that they are outliers is what gives them credibility. They are independent thinkers. They must see what the masses don’t see. They must be pioneers. NOT. They are wacko.”
I chuckled and my tension dissipated. As I read on, many of the claims of contrarians were addressed. It is warmer in some places and colder in others, Carl wrote, but the overall effect is warming. Extreme weather will become more prevalent, and it will be harder to predict because “the past no longer tells us what to expect.”
There was more, and he gave me links to the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society, both of which have position statements on the reality of climate change caused by human activity. As it turns out, their membership under the umbrella of geology, which also encompasses earth science, covers many areas of specialty including geophysics, seismology, hydrology, meteorology, climate science, ocean science, etc.
As I pored over the material, I kept thinking about Fox News and the inordinate influence it has in this matter. How do you put this in simple terms? For me, there is a very clear difference between wanting to hear something you will like and wanting to hear the truth. I thought of a metaphor.
Say there are two different patients with alarming symptoms who make appointments with doctors. The first goes to a family practitioner and says, “Tell me I don’t have cancer. That’s all I want. Just tell me I don’t have cancer.”
The second goes to an oncologist. After describing his symptoms, he asks what kind of tests the doctor will run to determine whether he has cancer. If it’s early enough, what can be done to treat it? And also, what kind of lifestyle changes can he make to enhance his health?
The second patient is a very intelligent man with good prospects of survival. If I were a conservative of this man’s orientation, I would not be happy with Fox News.
I would say that the issue of climate change is way too important to be left to outliers and irrelevant expertise. Charles Krauthammer is a psychiatrist (M.D. Harvard University) but makes a living from relentlessly biased conservative commentary. His elevation as an expert on climate science is ridiculous, and he actually did look a little uneasy in this role.
Now back to Carl Gable. At the end of his email, he humorously listed his credentials—in the event that they might be needed for credibility. At Los Alamos, he is Group Leader, Computation Earth Sciences Group, Earth and Environmental Sciences Division. His Ph.D. in Geophysics and his M.S. in Applied Physics are both from Harvard University. He has a B.S. in Geophysics from U.C. Berkeley.
If Fox News is going to do right by its viewers, these are the kind of credentials they should be looking for in an individual who can credibly challenge the 98% of climate scientists who publish on human cause. Anything short of that I think would be a good reason–at least in regard to this matter–to turn Fox News OFF.
As for me, as I continue to track reports of odd and dangerous weather events, I hope that they will serve as a wake-up call. It is time to take action on the change afoot, whatever the cause.