Don’t deny warming skeptics’ right to deny
So sea levels are rising at an alarming rate.
So why do we have to deepen Charleston Harbor?
That’s just one of the many questions raised by the ongoing climate-change debate.
Or is the debate over?
The Los Angeles Times proclaimed last month that it will no longer publish letters disputing man-made climate change.
Paul Thornton, the newspaper’s letters editor, conceded “that, aside from my easily passing the Advanced Placement biology exam in high school, my science credentials are lacking.”
But Thornton also wrote: “Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”
And Thornton accurately pointed out that in September “the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a body made up of the world’s top climate scientists — said it was 95 percent certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming.”
So what about that 5 percent uncertainty?
Certainly there’s a widespread consensus in the scientific community that the steep climb in greenhouse gas emissions was a major factor in the significant warming of our planet over the last century.
This non-scientist continues to find that expert assessment persuasive.
Then again, global temperatures have been stable for the last 15 years.
Hot enough for you?
Last month, a research paper from Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, and Marcia Wyatt, an independent scientist, addressed that warming “hiatus.”
Curry warned: “Current climate models are overly damped and deterministic, focusing on the impacts of external forcing rather than simulating the natural internal variability associated with nonlinear interactions of the coupled atmosphere-ocean system.”
Is that clear enough for you?
OK, maybe Curry’s explanation sounds a bit confusing. Yet it also sounds like a scientific scholar’s evidence-based doubt about climate-change forecasts.
That doesn’t mean human activity hasn’t warmed the planet — and won’t do so again soon.
But it does mean that those who liken climate change deniers to Holocaust deniers (as Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman did in 2007) or “an alcoholic father who flies into a rage” (as Al Gore did in August) should cool their blowhard jets.
Some warming deniers also emit overheated rhetoric, branding climate change believers as perpetrators — or merely dupes — of an ideologically driven hoax.
Glenn Beck in August: “Global warming is a pile of crap ... a load of socialist, communist crap.”
Rush Limbaugh in September: “The cult of climate change ... is a leftist, Democrat Party political movement.”
Some local deniers — isn’t “skeptics” a better label? — even objected to learned Post and Courier colleague Bo Petersen’s Wednesday story about a study (“Climate of the Southeast United States: Variability, Change, Impacts, and Vulnerability”) released Tuesday.
That story began:
“More fiercely hot days, more floods and drought — the Southeast already is feeling the effects of climate warming, and it’s going to cause a cascade of trouble, from more disease to fewer trees and crops and less water.”
Head for the hills
Hey, at least we still print letters from both sides.
And at least coastal residents can ponder this insight from Clemson environmental engineering professor Lawrence Murdoch, issued in a Wednesday release from the school:
“Elevation is the key to reliable flood protection. High ground is safe, while low-lying ground will always be vulnerable.”
Gee, why didn’t we think of that before putting the Crosstown on such low ground?
Murdoch, in collaboration with Georgia Tech environmental engineering professor Leonid Germanovich, is touting “Solid Injection to Raise Ground Elevation (SIRGE).” The Clemson dispatch called it a “novel technique” to raise “elevations by injecting sediment-laden slurry into flat-lying layers at depth beneath” flood-prone communities.
So hurry with the slurry.
Meanwhile, it’s nice that academicians from Clemson and Georgia Tech would work together before, and presumably after, Thursday night’s Tigers 55, Yellow Jackets 31 mismatch.
It would be even nicer if more folks, regardless of scientific credentials, could be nicer when arguing about climate change.
And if the Atlantic is really going to keep moving in on us, why not build the new cruise ship terminal in Summerville?
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.