Saturday, September 15, 2012

Climate Controversy

Mark Twain’s old saw “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it” is not an accurate description of today’s world. An army of climate scientists, government legislators, and journalists has, indeed, set out in recent years to do something about it. It is one of the most discussed issues of our day. Their science interpretations and motivations for remedial action are as diverse as the weather itself. Those interpretations clearly point in several different directions. Scientists are intensely confident in the certainty of their results. Non-scientists view this scenario with bewilderment when strident voices confidently proclaim science should not be challenged. Science and truth should prevail, we are cautioned. But whose science and whose truth should prevail?

A variety of factors has gradually propelled climate awareness into the realm of major life changing legislation. The most ardent advocates of government involvement acknowledge the cost of implementing such mandatory carbon-inhibiting regulations may ultimately cost our societies trillions of dollars. Stakeholders on both sides of this matter cite science as the primary driver. Beyond this, many advocates on both sides hold that the findings of climate science are indisputable. Our trust in the rectitude of climate remedies has been firmly grounded by trust in science. What we hold as true is subservient to what school of science we embrace. In view of the truth that science is a distinctly human endeavor, we are faced with a difficult, even dangerous dilemma. Whose science do we believe? Common sense and reason are sometimes held hostage to science.

Steven F. Hayward, Weyerhauser Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, published a piece in The Weekly Standard in 2010. Hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia had recently provoked a worldwide stir. Hayward claims the consensus on anthropogenic climate change is crumbling, to put it mildly. He states “The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), hitherto the gold standard in climate science, is under fire for shoddy work…The U. S. Climate Action Partnership…is falling apart in the wake of the collapse of any prospect of enacting cap and trade in Congress.” Cap and trade was a major centerpiece of sweeping legislation for regulating future man-made carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The legislation passed the House, but not the Senate.

The movement toward legislative activism on climate change solutions, however, is far from dead. Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee on June 19, 2012, addressed congress with a lengthy address entitled, “An Honest Assessment of Climate Change Challenge.” The spirited nature of the senator’s presentation dispelled any notion that the matter has faded into oblivion.

Sen. Kerry robustly defended the position that global warming is fully supported by science. Kerry said “when it comes to challenge of climate change, the falsehood of today’s naysayers is only matched by the complacency of our political system.” He denounces “the silence that empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail.” Kerry decries “the simple appeal to the lowest common denominator of disinformation.” He believes “climate change is one of two or three of the most serious threats our country now faces, if not the most serious…” The senator disdains “those who look for any excuse to continue challenging the science…” Finally, Sen. Kerry argues “there’s not a single credible scientist that will argue climate change isn’t happening,” a statement conforming to fact.

Climate scientists understand climate change happening now is similar to the climate changes of the eight major climate oscillations of the past 4000 years. Each of the four cooling and four warming episodes was unrelated to human causation. Climate scientists would agree that climate change has occurred naturally throughout Earth’s long history.

In April 2012 web articles reported on a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden. Seven former Apollo astronauts were included among a group of 49 NASA engineers and scientists who oppose global warming alarmism by federal agencies. The letter condemns the extreme position that carbon dioxide is the major cause of climate change. They state such statements are endangering “the reputation of science itself.” The group contends the claim “that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change” is “not substantiated.”  

What is the truth on climate change? Which scientists speak the truth regarding climate change? God’s people in science or in any other profession must search out and apply truth concerning the natural world. The discovery of truth is an achievable goal of awesome responsibility. When scientists disagree on a matter of great import to humanity such as the multidimensional global warming issue, the stakeholders share responsibility and culpability for searching out what is true and what is false and acting accordingly.