Letter: Classic Climate-Denial Tactics
To the Editor:
Susan Sylvia’s recent letter, “Party Line on Global Warming,” was a good example of the simplistic views expressed by climate-change deniers. It starts by stating some of the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report, and then goes on to cite one temperature statistic, which she uses as evidence to counter the conclusions of 97 percent of legitimate climate-science researchers worldwide. This is not a new tactic. It’s the standard model for climate-change deniers.
Average global surface temperatures have risen in a stepwise upward direction for many decades. Yet there are 10- to 15-year intervals in that upward climb during which temperatures, when looked at in isolation, seem to show temperature remaining relatively constant or even declining slightly. But scientists who are actually attempting to understand the trend would look at what has happened to temperatures over many years. Over the long term, these leveling-out steps in temperature form a kind of staircase of ever-rising temperatures that have brought us to the highest average global surface temperatures since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. They would also note that this warming trend directly corresponds with the most significant increases in carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere in over 10,000 years — most of it occurring during the last 150 years, as fossil fuel became the energy source of the Industrial Revolution.
Sylvia goes on to cite Nobel laureate Ivar Giaever as a prominent U.S. scientist who has refuted the Intergovernmental Panel’s science. This is another example of a climate-denial tactic — cite a scientist who is not a climate scientist, though possibly excellent in some narrow but unrelated field, who then uses his past reputation to draw intuitive conclusions on global warming without having any in-depth knowledge of this complex field. A review of some of Giaever’s statements on climate change shows his unfamiliarity with climate science, one of the most complex science fields there is and one that integrates many traditional scientific and engineering disciplines.
Chairman, Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club