Little scientific dissent over climate change

The author of Friday’s letter “Climate change: Definitely not settled science” tells us that the science of global warming is in serious dispute. That’s a half-truth at best. When you look at the number of “scientific” articles that deny that global warming exists or that the rise carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is mostly due to humans burning fossil fuels, you find few dissenters.

Among the people who actually work on climate-related issues 24/7 in the course of their careers (the actual scientists with expertise, as opposed to the politicians, publicists and attorneys for large fossil fuel companies with expertise mostly in running for office, law, or public relations) disputes are mostly about the details of global warming, not the issue itself. A 2004 study of 928 scientific papers dealing with the subject published between 1993 and 2003 found none that disputed human-caused global warming. A more comprehensive review of papers published by scientists in the period 1991 to 2012 found only 24 papers of 13,950 (far less than 1 percent) that claimed to present evidence that global warming was not taking place or that human activity was not largely responsible.

The letter writer pointed to a retired member of Western Washington University’s geology department, Don Easterbrook, in support of his views that global warming is a fraud. However, it should be pointed out that the current faculty of the WWU’s geology department found it necessary in an open letter to the Bellingham Herald (March 2013) to repudiate the views of their “long-retired” faculty member. It seems that Mr. Easterbrook not only badly twisted data to support his views (in one case representing century-old data from 1855 as “present temperature”), but also seems to be enamored of totally unfounded conspiracy theories in which he accuses the rest of the scientific community of deliberate data falsification and misrepresentation.

It is not without interest that Don Easterbrook has been heavily involved with the Heartland Institute that is heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry (including the billionaire Koch Brothers and Exxon Mobil), or that Heartland played a similar role in misleading the public on the smoking-cancer connection when heavily financed by the tobacco industry.

It’s too bad that climate change has become such a political football. The public has been badly misled by a sophisticated and well-funded marketing campaign. Carbon levels in the atmosphere are higher now than they have been at any time since biologically modern humans have been around. Politics and propaganda aside, it is a simple fact that we face a serious and dangerous threat from climate change in the years ahead. Anyone wanting clear “factual” information on global warming and its controversies can get a good start at this website:

Donald McKim lives in Lynnwood.

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