Issue Date: October 15, 2007
Science of Global Warming
Dennis Malpass' views notwithstanding (C&EN, Aug. 27, page 3), the preponderance of scientific evidence demonstrates that the climate is changing owing to global warming, which humans are contributing to, as determined by countless observations and analyses of the peer-reviewed scientific literature by organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Climate Change Program, and the World Meteorological Organization.
Consider this quote from a recent official statement on climate change by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) at http://ametsoc.org/POLICY/2007climatechange.html: "Despite the uncertainties ... there is adequate evidence from observations and interpretations of climate simulations to conclude that the atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; that humans have significantly contributed to this change; and that further climate change will continue to have important impacts on human societies, on ecosystems, and on wildlife through the 21st century and beyond."
Neither AMS, of which I am a member, nor the other aforementioned organizations are in the business of making doomsday prognostications. They are highly respected scientific societies that address scientific issues objectively.
I have not read the references that Malpass cites; however, sources that I am familiar with and that do not accept anthropogenic climate change have disseminated pseudoscientific misinformation denying any human contribution to climate change. These have included people who had ties with an oil lobbying group, George Marshall Institute (whose president was a lobbyist for ExxonMobil), and scientists whose research was funded by the American Petroleum Institute.
If we make the same kind of national commitment that enabled us to put a man on the moon, I'm sure we can successfully attack the problem of global warming without harming the economy.
Claybourne C. Snead
Malpass would have us believe that the global warming we are now experiencing is identical to that which "has occurred episodically for millions of years, long before man walked the Earth." He continues, "It is futile for humankind to try to legislate its way out of global warming." To prove his point, Malpass admonishes us to "keep an open mind regarding literature published by accomplished climatologists who do not accept anthropogenic climate change."
Notice that Malpass does not say "peer-reviewed literature," like the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that were prepared and signed by thousands of "accomplished climatologists" worldwide.
Instead, Malpass recommends that we read three books by four global-warming agnostics. Bjørn Lomborg has a Ph.D. in political science; Christopher C. Horner is a practicing attorney who publishes in legal and industrial trade journals and opinion pages; Dennis T. Avery is an agricultural analyst; and S. Fred Singer holds an electrical engineering degree and a Ph.D. in physics. Singer is the closest to an "accomplished climatologist" in this group, but even his main expertise is in satellite measurements of cosmic radiation, interplanetary dust, and ozone.
On the one hand, many bona fide climatologists are telling us in peer-reviewed publications that a substantial portion of current global warming stems from human activities. On the other hand, there are three non-peer-reviewed books authored by a political scientist, a lawyer, an agricultural expert, and an electrical engineer who assure us that human beings are not to blame.
I appeal to Malpass and to our readers as scientists: Whom should we believe?
Todd P. Silverstein
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