Monday, April 4, 2011

"...instant ostracism for a climate skeptic who was actually willing to change his mind in the face of evidence"



Retreat of Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies, 1919-2005 (photos from different angles, but most of the foreground of the recent picture was covered by ice in 1919)


The quote in the title comes from a column by economist Paul Krugman, and it is well worth a few moments of your time. Briefly, Republicans in Congress held a hearing on climate change and global warming in which they invited a lawyer, an economist and a professor of marketing, and an actual scientist known for being involved in climate skepticism. The professor, Richard Muller of Berkeley, has been working with a study called the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which (with some funding from conservative groups including the Koch foundation) was to review and perhaps dispute the findings of global warming studies by NASA and NOAA.

One of the leaders of the skeptics/denialists of global warming, Anthony Watts, was "prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong". Unfortunately for the manufactured doubt/denialist crew, Muller said that the preliminary results of their work finds that there is a global warming trend “very similar to that reported by the prior groups.”

As Krugman reports, the denialists, including Watts, have predictably not changed their minds. Still, this is huge development; imagine if back in the 1960s and 1970s if a researcher from the tobacco industry had reported that cigarettes did in fact cause cancer. There should not be any argument that global warming is occurring. One needs only to look at what is happening to glacial ice across the planet.

The problem is that if energy companies and car manufacturers and others were to admit the reality of global warming, they would have to take responsibility for their role in producing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. They don't want to do that, so they will continue their efforts to muddy an issue that is clear to climate scientists, but is a difficult issue for those uneducated in the earth sciences.

I posted the pictures above just over a year ago in a blog about who accepts the findings of science, and who doesn't.