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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/4/09

On Climate Science Denial

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There is so much misinformation on climate science. It is important for the scientists to set the record straight. The book review from Michael Ashley, an Australian astronomer and Professor of Astrophysics at the University of NSW, which appeared in The Australian (click here) is one contribution toward that end.

In addition, Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute was on MSNBC this morning saying more. Mainly that the recent e-mail releases of inconsiderate ramblings by a few formerly reputable climate scientists is not a scientific forum but private-talk without serious content. Real science is done through peer-reeviewed scientific publications that are very carefully researched and written, then reviewed by other reputable and trained scientists, then discussed by other scientists, possibly challenged and counter challenged, until the facts and conclusions are proven or disproven and the result remains in the archival records of all the world's scientific journals.

There is no way e-mail ramblings can refute the huge body of legitimate work published in refereed scientific journals by thousands of reputable climate scientists over the last hundred years. More from Sachs, as I remember it: Looking to geologically recent history at the climate fluctuations which the Earth has experienced is perhaps interesting and helps us understand the natural changes of the past, but to spend much time on that is a red herring on the current discussion of the observed and expected adverse impacts resulting from escalated pumping of massive quantities of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by the U.S., India, and China, among many more countries. If the Wall Street Journal's campaign to discredit this science, and by implication all of science, were to be successful, it would be disastrous for the position of the U.S. in the world.

Now back to me: I think that all this mumbo jumbo about global warming being a hoax is little more than wishful thinking turned into anti-scholarship. Denial of clear scientific evidence reigns supreme in financial circles and on the blogosphere. Certain people don't want global warming to be real and human-caused, because they'd have to make some huge changes in their ways of doing business, so they grab at any little "evidence" that there are problems with climate science, then jump up and down saying it's not real, it's a hoax, and we have nothing to worry about, so we can go on growing and building and advancing technology and society, all fueled in large part by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas. Pig feathers! (My version of "hogwash.")

(By the way, Sachs attended Obama's Jobs Summit and came away with an interesting observation. The summit was attended by many business leaders, from CEOs of large companies to those and others from smaller companies. Nearly all said the unemployment at their firms is mainly that they cannot find qualified workers for their jobs. They are ready to hire, but can't find properly trained U.S. workers. Most of the unemployment is by relatively young people, many in school and working part-time, a large proportion of which are underskilled for the jobs American business has to offer. What we should be doing, said Sachs, is pushing education and job training for these people, but we are not.)

Before putting in the article that prompted this message, there was a recent hubbub on the blogosphere about NASA images of the Arctic Ocean revealing an expansion of sea ice or some other such apparent "evidence" that climate science is all wrong. I was asked, "How could there be multi year ice formed if it almost all melted recently and just reformed last winter? It would seem that would be impossible. If it all melts again next summer, then that would be an event." In response, I wrote this:

The arctic ocean is not completely all frozen or all melted. There are regions that don't melt, especially in shallow areas with little or no warmer water inflow, but I would have to research it more carefully to find out more about this. What I do know is that historically the Arctic ocean freezes each winter and parts would melt in summer. In recent years, the melted area has increased. And in winter it would not freeze all the way.

There are two measures of the viability of the sea ice to support the polar bear population (an indicator species, like the canary in the mine). One is the area of coverage. Two is the depth of the frozen ice. I've been hearing stories before this one that the ice was thinning as well as not covering as large an area, and in summer the open ocean areas have increased significantly (though not opening up the whole ocean).

So what this story apparently is saying is that when you look deeper into what's going on, more than what space images of the area of coverage show, you find that "the thick, multi-year frozen sheets crucial to the northern eco-system have been replaced by thin 'rotten' ice that can't support the weight of polarbears." I take this to mean that the ice that remains in the NASA images is no longer thick, multi-year frozen sheets known to exist (and routinely measured for decades by under-the ice nuclear submarines, data recently made publicly available to scientists) but thinner stuff, another sign of problems with the Arctic Ocean sea ice.


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For 30 years Dr. McCluney was principal research scientist at the Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida. He holds B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in physics and has published over 60 popular and (more...)
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