Issue Date: July 28, 2008
Bush And The Environment
I'd like to thank Rudy Baum for his editorial "Bush and the Environment" (C&EN, May 26, page 3). It takes courage to speak out in a political manner in this way, but his analysis of the Bush Administration's record on science and the environment is spot on.
The world looks to the U.S. for leadership on many important issues. The Bush Administration's backtracking on advances made at this point in time can and will have negative global repercussions. It's easy to succumb to "outrage fatigue" as the Bush Administration takes action after action to degrade the positive momentum on global climate change, pollution control, and the use of sound science in the making of governmental policy. But we absolutely need to keep our eyes on the goal, and editorials such as Baum's are a strong step in that direction.
I enjoy C&EN and find it has many interesting and informative articles pertaining to the chemical industry.
I have noticed, however, that C&EN, and particularly Baum, is in the "consensus" group when it comes to global warming or climate change or however you want to phrase it. I often read editorials or articles looking for a hint of skepticism regarding the "consensus" on global warming. I seldom find any doubt as to the validity of the predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This week I read "Defending Science" (C&EN, June 9, page 5), which refers to an article from the Journal of American Physicians & Surgeons (2007, 12, 79). This is an article that was sent to many scientists and engineers, including myself, as an example of how global warming skeptics are a bunch of crackpots with an agenda. I read the article, and although it was informative, I was immediately skeptical about the journal in which it was published.
Not all skeptics are on the fringe. Being skeptical is what science used to be about, and I would like to think science is still about seeking the truth whether it proves or disproves what we believe to be true. Many articles from reputable journals and many articles written by climate scientists point out areas where the IPCC models fall short of accurate and proven science. I am disturbed that as scientists and engineers, we do not naturally view the IPCC report and model predictions with a high degree of skepticism.
As scientists, we should be welcoming the skeptics and their concerns. How can global warming be proven right or wrong without healthy skepticism? How can we be certain of the IPCC predictions if the math models are not scrutinized and criticized? Are we just to accept that the IPCC predictions are so "true" that we dare not question them? The climate is a complex system, and to state that "there is consensus" when the system is not fully understood is nothing more than pushing an agenda without proving the science.
Theories are meant to be proven or disproven, not accepted because they sound good or are what we want to believe. Marginalizing skeptics does not address the problems with the IPCC predictions, nor does it improve the science behind them.
Eagle Lake, Fla.
Letters in the June 23 issue criticizing Baum's editorials are unwarranted (page 3). They would be laughable if the ignorance they represent were not so dangerous.
If indeed more than 30,000 "Americans with formal degrees in science" signed a statement that no convincing evidence of global warming exists, according to Arthur and Noah Robinson, then this is a sad statement of collective ignorance. These people either lack the degrees in the appropriate fields to assess the evidence, or they willfully misrepresent the expert consensus.
Baum's statement that numerous Environmental Protection Agency scientists have experienced political interference is no "insult," as Heinrich Brinks thinks. Indeed, there are frequent complaints from EPA scientists virtually every time the Bush Administration comes out with an environmental report. I have heard personally from EPA scientists with such complaints.
Jesse Sabatini's notion that "immediate drilling" in pristine wilderness areas will do anything to "remove us from foreign oil dependency" is not even supported by hard data from the Bush Administration. Once our few years' worth of oil is gone, our pristine wilderness will be gone, along with our oil. The time to develop replacements for our oil economy is now—not waiting until our natural resources are despoiled.
Joan L. Slonczewski
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