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Debate on Climate Change Goes Personal



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.

Carl Gable in Manang, Nepal

Carl Gable in Manang, Nepal

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.


10 Responses to “Debate on Climate Change Goes Personal”

  1. climate change solution

    I was googeling for climate change solution and came across your Debate on Climate Change Goes Personal – CeleryEllen page. My biggest concern is green energy, unless we end using nuclear the planet is going to be in bad trouble.
    I am surprised people are not looking at using more renewable energy like Marine Power like Crowd Energy. If we dont fix this problem now its going to get bad.
    Have a nice day, Luera

  2. David

    The one thing that got me thinking after reading The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich is when the author said when Hitler took over.. one of the first things he did was to take control of the media. The German people only heard the lies Hitler was feeding them and because they had no other sources to listen or read he brained washed them into Poland was attacking the German people…which Poland was not…that is why he invaded.. the people believed him. The author ..who was there..said if they had other sources of media World War 2 probably would not have broken out..The German people did not want another war.

    What is real troublesome is you Progressives want to do the samething. You want to get rid of Fox and Conservative radio because you want people to be brainwashed to hear only one…your..side. The media here in Santa Fe only gives one side of climate change to brain wash and scare people about the hoax. History repeats itself and here is an example

    Now that is more scary then Global Warming!!!

  3. joe buchanan

    It is hard for me to decide where to start. It is disappointing to see that you discuss the so-called 97% consensus of scientists where warming is concerned. No such consensus exists, although a vocal element is trying hard to convince us.

    The alarmists were dealt a severe blow with the release of the Climategate memos and emails in 2009. If this is only the work of outliers, why is it so important to silence any research which does not agree with the alarmist position? Phil Jones and Michael Mann and their friends worked to suppress any studies which were inconvenient. Almost no one denies that the climate is changing since climate is not static. Many scientists doubt that change is caused almost entirely by people. Jackie mentions the reliability of the climate models, she is wrong about them being accurate. These models have consistently predicted more warming than has actually occurred. Most can’t use prior history to predict the current environment.

    Much of the media has tried to convince the world of the alarmist position by ignoring any studies which do not agree. We had lots of reports on Artic ice when it was low, but not when it is above normal. Antarctic ice is at record levels. Fortunately, polls show that people don’t seem to believe the misleading hype. Anyone who believes that no credible scientists disagree with the “consensus” are wrong. Look up Patrick Michaels, Roy Spencer, Judith Curry, and a host of others.

    I have much more to say, but I’m starting to ramble. I have read at least 15 books on this subject, about half be scientists. Remember, Al Gore and Bobby Kennedy Jr are not climate scientist either.

  4. Jackie Shane

    I forgot to say wildfires (now that we are in the fire season early again this year).
    Hey if you ride a bike to work, the we are on the same side. Wish everyone road their bike or took public transportation instead of driving. And had fewer kids. And ate lower on the food chain. Cheers.

  5. Cary

    Good points all. Tell Al Gore , Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford, for starters, because their energy consumption dwarfs mine. I ride a bike to work, btw.

  6. Jackie Shane

    In response to your cousin, climate change is not theory at this point (since you discuss Keynesian economic theory), though the scientists that predicted the change, did so with the help of models that have proven true, now that we have the advantage of hindsight since the 80s. Forget publications and forget what the pundits say. Go and see for yourself the rate of change that is happening to our climate. If you want evidence take a look at how our glaciers on this planet looked as few as 50 years ago and how they appear now. Look at the temperature of our oceans now and compare them for just the last five decades. Look at the floods that are overtaking places like New Orleans and New York. Look at the relationship between greenhouse gases in our atmosphere in the last two centuries and see how it correlates to the industrial era. Anyone who still denies the severity and the cause of climate change at this point is simply unwilling to give up their traditional energy consumption. Ellen, I like your cancer patient analogy. Well written.

    • David

      Abaque had a glacier 18,000 yrs ago…alligator bones were found in Alaska…whale bones were found on a mountain in Chili…there was the little ice age along with the medevil warming peroid…the earth was once called the snowglobe because the majority of it was covered in snow…read up on the 1315-1317 European famine..one of many famines…caused by two plus yrs of cold..The Johnstown flood…in 1877 Cal. reached 112 degrees. I could go on..So how come in the 1980’s it is suddenly manmade? Mars is warming…If we get rid of the nonpollunt life sustaining gas (the human body is five percent c02…130 times more then in the atmosphere) do you really think we make a bit of difference changing the climate?It could be worse because the thought then is we are going to cool the earth which is worse then having it warm What is normal? As long as we have the solar cycles and volcanoes the climate will be continuing it changing.

    • David

      Two other points..New Orleans is actually below sea level. It had levies for protection just for that purpose. The problem…the levies were in need of repair. The Gov. gave money for repairs and corrupt mayor and city counsel used the money for themselves So the levies were not up to snuff.

      From1910-1940 there was a heat wave…in fact 1930 was warmer then now. The Industrial rev was not so much…1940-1980..during WW2 big industrial rev. the temps went down..explain that. In the 70’s Time Mag. and NYT said we are all going to die because of an iceage.

      What predictions ever came true??

      • celeryellen

        With regard to your latter question, David, I kind of hope to live to see that more advanced science on climate can be trusted.

  7. Cary

    I am one of those cousins Ellen mentions, and I know she is sincere in her beliefs. But hey, Ellen, why don’t you just identify me as a Southerner, a conservative, a non-Keynesian economist who thinks Paul Krugman has become an embarrassing public nuisance, and you won’t even have to get into actual empirical evidence — your case for global warming will be made! You repeat the questionable finding that 98% of climate scientists accept man-made global warming. That number actually comes from counting the number of publications that explicitly or implicitly accept man-made global warming and in most instances go on from there to an analysis of the possible effects of warming. Counting the number of publications on the (mostly future) consequences of global warming to find a consensus about the reality of global warming is rather like counting the number of articles on the implementation of Keynesian economics to discover a consensus on the validity of Keynesian economics. You’d find a bunch of Keynesians agreeing with one another, citing one another’s papers, and publishing one another’s manuscripts in a bubble-world of smug, self-congratulatory academic elitism. That, I know as an economics PhD, is what happened in the halcyon days of Keynesian activism before Keynesian theory was found to be … oops… a mistake. Be that as it may, I’ll assume that the great majority of climate scientists believe humankind’s activities are causing, will cause, have caused, global warming. I’ll assume that because a very learned conservative, Roger Scruton, undertook an exhaustive review of everything experts recommended to him, on both sides of the argument, and came to that conclusion. And he accepted their (scientists’) conclusions, albeit tentatively in some instances, and consequently wrote a very level-headed book, How to Think Seriously about the Planet. The concern for the environment, the caution on the side of conservation, and the need for responsible stewardship are, he argues, essentially conservative ideas. He’s right, but the green movement, going back at least to the early European socialists, has been championed by those whose motivation was very different: the desire to transform people and society into something new and better. In this way the green movement has been something very non-conservative, even radical, since the beginning of the 20th Century. There is no better description of this than Malcolm Muggeridge’s recollections (in “A Socialist Upbringing,” Chronicles of Wasted Time: Book I, The Green Stick) of the “green” activists who would gather at his parents’ home and discuss, always from an elevated societal point of view (nothing new about today’s elitists) how the masses beneath them ought to behave in matters of nature, earth, the environment — and how they are just going to have to be forced to behave, if they don’t come around soon. If one can generalize, Ellen, about the conservative resistance to the green movement, it is that conservatives generally are grounded in a more traditional understanding of stewardship, and tend to distrust those who would turn things upside down on the basis of truths (Truths?) published only recently in esoteric academic journals. As for myself, I’d just say that we need to be cautious about “activist” political solutions to climate change without careful deliberation on what, exactly, is to come next, in the wake of the overturning that some say must happen soon. Who will end up doing what to whom, how much will it wind up costing, and what will it benefit us when all is said and done? This, to me, is always the problem with “activist” politics: It never gives measured and sensible answers to the the question, “What, then?” I hope some of this helps you with the conservative response to environmentalism gone activist/statist.