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Climate science still trumps skeptics

The Reply

August 03, 2012|By Michael D. Lemonick
  • Demonstrators form an imaginary tide line at Manhattan Beach to show the potential for rising sea level due to climate change.
Demonstrators form an imaginary tide line at Manhattan Beach to show the… (Los Angeles Times )

My Op-Ed article on climate science and climate hype provoked plenty of online responses -- as pretty much anything touching on this very touchy subject inevitably will. Also quite predictably, several of the comments repeated critiques of mainstream climate science that have been raised and thoroughly debunked literally hundreds of times. Here’s a sampling, along with my responses:

"theblooms" writes:  "Anthropogenic Global Warming is FAR FROM PROVEN.  If the evidence is so damn clear-cut, then why did the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit cook the books and falsify the data?"

Response: The East Anglia researchers didn’t cook the books. Any suggestions otherwise are based on taking fragments of emails completely out of context. Several investigations have cleared these researchers of any scientific misconduct whatsoever. The were reprimanded only for failing to respond with enough thoroughness to a barrage of freedom-of-information requests from climate skeptics.

"forparity" writes: "What we do know, is that after some 70+ years of supposed AGW:  Hurricanes/cyclones have not gotten more frequent nor more powerful. Tornadoes have not gotten more frequent nor more powerful. The rate of sea level rise has not accelerated (just confirmed that w/ NOAA a month back)....

Response: Climate scientists have made no definitive claim that hurricanes, cyclones or tornadoes would have gotten more frequent or more powerful, although they have speculated that warmer ocean water could have that effect on hurricanes and cyclones (the current thinking, as indicated in the Op-Ed and also not claimed as definitive, is that Atlantic hurricanes are likely to become less frequent but more powerful). As to the rate of sea level rise, you must be referring to a different NOAA than the one I'm familiar with. Here's what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says: "Since 1993, global sea level has risen at an accelerating rate of around 3.5 mm/year."

"for parity" also writes: "To date, I don't believe that there have been any peer reviewed scientific studies that actually confirm any global climate change -- or regional -- caused by CO2."

Response: To date, no peer-reviewed scientific study has definitively confirmed that any single case of lung cancer was caused by smoking. The causal evidence that puts warnings on cigarette packages is based mainly on statistics and on a scientifically plausible chain of biological events.  As to climate change, there are thousands of peer-reviewed papers linking CO2 and global warming; you can find them synthesized in every IPCC report. Forparity’s assertion doesn’t pass the laugh test.

"jhklat" points out many times in many ways that without a falsifiable set of hypotheses -- in essence, scientific predictions (though "jhklat" doesn't seem to recognize that these qualify as falsifiable hypotheses) -- that can be tested in the real world, the theory of human-caused global warming isn’t science, it’s religion.

Response: That's absolutely correct. When I first started writing about the topic in 1987, there was no clear evidence that the planet was warming or that the climate was changing. For that reason, many serious scientists took the whole thing with a grain of salt. Shortly thereafter, the warming signal appeared from the background noise of the data, and the vast majority of those (completely legitimate) skeptics were gradually won over.

By now, the list of predictions that have been vindicated is quite extensive.

"justwrite3" has thoughtfully pointed to this useful list.

As to one more issue, alluded to by "TO Perspective" -- that Climate Central and I make money by pushing the notion that there is human-caused climate change (and therefore cannot be believed) -- there is this reality check: The site exists to report whatever the science turns up.  I would presumably make more money, because there would be more interest in my writing and the site, if I could report that the science reversed itself and showed global warming to be false.  

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Michael D. Lemonick is a senior writer for Climate Central, a contributor to Time magazine and a coauthor of "Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, and the Weather of the Future."

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