The 16 scientists who signed the Wall Street Journal editorial are a minority, but they're not outliers. They're not "flat earthers." They're not "scared of science." They are, quite simply, distinguished scientists with a dissenting opinion.
And their opinion deserves our respect.
Following are the scientists and engineers who signed the WSJ editorial.
Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris
J. Scott Armstrong, co-founder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting
Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University
Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society
Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences
William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton University
Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge
William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meterology
Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT
James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Tech University
Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences
Burt Rutan, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne
Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former US Senator
Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service
Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva
Hi. Just to clean up a few points. Except for our ancient ruins, our cities average less than 100 years. Mostly a lot less. Look at it as replacement time. Most or our buildings are used for around 50 years, then torn down and replaced with bigger and better. Ignoring all the many other variables, we could just raze and rebuild gradually as the sea rises. Some sites will be more exposed to wave and storm action and there will surely be important costs for that, but I would not want to oversell the size of the calamity. Most of us are not now living where we were born, so I think as long as the rate slow, the world as a whole would hardly notice. Not as important as war and famon.
Yes we are massivly dumping CO2 into the air. We are also making major changes to the distribution and temperature of surface fresh water, the range and distribution of plants and animals, and airborn aerosols (smokes and the like). Think of the world wide impact of warming the fresh water over large regions, replacing trees with grasses, and grazing grasses to bare soil, and nitroginating the oceans. The Algae bloom from the end of the mississippi by itself may seem ignorable, but add enough such stimulus from our many farms/yards in many rivers and streams, and we are contributing much more than just CO2. In fact some of these effects may be balancing the effects of the CO2. If that balance should run out of steam at the extreemum, we will get a period of much more rapid change. That scares me. I like to eat, and I do not want to have to pay $5 for an ear of scraggly corn.
On the good side of all this, we are wicked smart and can figure out how to survive and even live well under much more dificult conditions. Will we? That is a nasty hard question. I wish I was more confident in our good sense, but I do not see any good reason to take it for granted.
One more thing to consider is that this may be part of that wonderful process of evolution that so many people love and worship. If the ocean level rises a bit then folks will need to move inland a bit. And the good news is that the rise will not be that very fast so as to cause any loss of life, at least not among entities able to walk away from it. Trees and plants will surely suffer though. Consider the benefits of not having to deal with storm damage to those areas just barely out of the water. When they are under water it will no longer be a problem. Certainly things will be different, but will it be worse? or just different? What about all of those fools who are always telling us how good change is, never regarding that not all changes are an improvement. So possibly some will learn something.
POssibly at some level there will be more reflection of the sun's enegry, and things will cool off. That is another possibility.
How long ago was the presently exposed ice laid down ? Is that the case in the 3 major regions ?
Someone suggested that the ocean currents significantly push continents. I find this VERY hard to believe. The momentum and drag of the water is miniscule in comparison to the momentum and friction of the turbulent mantle
My problem with the "Global warming causes increased CO2" argument is that most people simply don't understand the scale of Anthropogenic carbon emissions as compared to "natural" ones. Or as Sarah Palin one famously tweeted, "How arrogant is man! Only G-d can change the climate". This sounds reasonable to some religious people. It is, also, completely wrong.
if you take the amount of fossil fuels burned since 1750 and determine the released carbon, which is a well understood number, and take out the amount of CO2 that was taken up by and caused short term acidification of the oceans (short term as in 100s to 1000s of years), you come pretty close to today's levels. So much for the "Warming causes CO2" argument.
William, you are absolutely right that much of the complexities of the climate is not well understood. We only became aware of greenhouse gases as a significant climate issue in the 1970s, in part because a Russian Venera probe found that Venus has a surface temperature of 900 degrees (F) when they were expecting more like 100F based on Venus' distance from the sun. So this whole science is very young.
While we may not understand the complexities, we do know - for sure - that we have doubled CO2 levels and that causes an added 4.7 watts/m2 of solar insolation. We also know that large scale, long term changes have already happened in the places most sensitive to climate - the glaciers near the poles, polar sea ice, and mountain tops like "Glacier National Park". And finally, we know that every year we add even more carbon to the atmosphere than the year before due to "economic growth" worldwide.
We also know that plants are budding earlier. Animals are changing their ranges. Some species are in trouble because the exquisitely orchestrated dance between plants germinating in spring and insects & birds bearing young to feed on those plants is now out of sync by as much as 2 weeks in some parts of North America. These are all well understood, well documented observations, published in peer reviewed journals like AAAS Science.
And it seems obvious that on a planet with 200 ft of sea level rise locked up in ice, and most coastal cities 30ft or less above sea level, that we ought to proceed with caution. It took hundreds, in some cases thousands, of years to build those cities. The notion that we can just pick NYC up and move to higher ground is the height of hubris. Yet they are already talking about building a sea wall across Hudson Bay. But how high?
So why don't we act? My opinion is that oil, gas, and coal interests have succeeded as the tobacco interests succeeded for a time 35 years ago, turning a scientific issue into a political one. In part that is because unlike past environmental warnings that were heeded (ozone hole, smog, water pollution, lead paint, you name it), this one is extremely difficult and expensive to correct. But just because we can't or won't do anything, that does not make the science wrong.
This is, as someone said, like not buying fire insurance because you never had a fire. Only this "fire" won't just burn down your house. It will burn down everybody's house. Even in an audience made up largely of college trained engineers, why do so few seem to understand the concept of risk and its mitigation??
The real problem does get mentioned occasionally, but seldom gets the attention that it should be given. That is, that the climate is a very complex system and not really understood adequately. Some facts appear to point in one direction, but then other information is found that invalidates the first conclusion. One real problem is the inability to tell the difference between cause and effect. Whatif we discover that global warming is the cause if increased carbon dioxide? Whgich would be very logical, by the way. It is a case of inadequate understanding driven by intense emotions, coupled with a long time opinion that "we are living too comfortably here in the USA". And I am certain that many of us have heard that assertion. So we should also consider the source.
I'd like to add one more thing. A friend, who is a global warming denier, stated that it is hubris for us to think that our activity could change the weather, that we are not that powerful. I think the "ozone hole" that could have grown to cover the Earth, it we had not acted in time, counters this point of view.
On the contrary, I think it is hubris to think that we can do anything and the Earth will take care of our mistakes.
I had a professor in college who always told us to "consider the source"
Take a look at the credentials for these esteemed scientists, and you will learn much about the realities of the climate "debate" in America. Based on their titles, only three of these guys are even remotely involved with climate research, and two of those are meteorologists. Of the rest, we have a former conservative Republican Senator and astronaut trained as a Geologist, several journalists who write about the climate but do not study it, and the remainder are a jumble of technologists, physicists, astrophysicists, and science federation presidents. And finally, my personal favorite, Burt Rutan, who, while being a great engineer, admits on his Wikipedia page that he is not a scientist at all, but rather a "climate change hobbyist" who refused to be interviewed by Scientific American because of their "climate change bias". Distinguished scientist?
Yet Mr Murry ends his article with, "They are, quite simply, distinguished scientists with a dissenting opinion..." Perhaps they are distinguished and competent in their studied fields, but climate change is not the field of expertise for most if not all of this group. This makes their opinion of no more value than anyone else's.
You will note the complete absence of anyone who does actual climate change research from this list of scientists. Why? Because in fact there is NO significant scientific debate on climate change in the climate research community and there has been little to none for years. According to an article I read in "Science News" last year, 97% of articles published in the scientific press in the previous few years did not dispute Anthropogenic global warming. But some 70% of articles in the general press do. Thus the "debate" is political, not scientific.
I am old enough to remember the Nicotine debate in the 1960s. This is identical, they even use the same tactics. Even the same words, it's uncanny. "There is no scientific proof", "High level scientists say...", "it's only natural", and all of the other FUD we heard last time. And it will likely end the same way, only when the preponderence of evidence becomes so large that it can no longer be ignored. Like, say, when they have to permanently evacuate the first major coastal city due to sea level rise.
So you might ask, how is it that this gaggle of scientists, journalists, and engineers got a highly politically charged opinion published four weeks before a presidential election in the Wall Street Journal, that stalwart of American conservatives, in such a way that it sounds like climate research scientists are in horrible disagreement? Gee, I wonder.
This political crap is something I expect from the Wall Street Journal. But I don' expect it from Design News. This is an engineering publication, Mr. Murray. Please spare us the politics.
The problem in a nutshell is: Are these scientists climate scientists? You can be a professor, a Nobel Laureate, a scientists with a raft of PhDs it doesn't matter. You have to be a student of climatology and plugged into data and the climate models to grasp what is actually going on. These naysayers are biting around the edges. Some may not care if many pacific islands disappear, along with half of Florida and the flooding of many coastal cities. There will be gainers from global warming including Canada and Russia which will end up with more agriculture. All indications are that global warming is happening faster that predicted. This is largely due to climate modelers being conservative in their predictions to be more believable. Unfortunately that has come back to bite them giving credence to the naysayers that their models are not accurate.
There is one piece of the argument that has to be granted to the naysayers and that is our star, the Sun, is a variable star and we can only make an educated guess what its output will be in the future based on past performance. We have no control over the Sun but we do have control over our burning of fossil fuels and it is quite clear from the data that fossil fuel burning has had a bigger effect over time than the Sun's variability even though we haven't a reliable record of the Sun's performance in the last couple of hundred years. In the area of climate change the Earth's weather system has positive feedback so trends tend to get amplified. As the Earth heats up ice, that reflects sunlight back into space, melts and no longer serves that function, permafrost melts releasing methane, eventually oceans heat up, methane hydrate melts and more methane is released, and so on.
I'm an electrical engineer and not a climatologist so what I've said should be taken with a grain of sea salt.
Fine, burn wood from sustainable forests. It is the release of millions-of-years-worth-of-laid-down-carbon that I see as the main problem. Many places aren't getting warmer, but many are, all round the weather is getting less predictable, and pushing records. The places that are warming fastest are the places that help stabilise the weather systems ... the ice masses that don't move much, and we really don't know what the result will be. I lean to caution. I want to breath clean air, and I don't want my grandchildren to say "if only my grandparents generation had been more careful".
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