Talking back to a climate denier
Lee Mendenhall responds to a provocative oped piece by Mathew Hurwitz:
By Lee Mendenhall
Unpalatable news is difficult for many people to accept. This is a lesson that came to me clearly while I was attending night school for engineering. Being older and more possessed of some life experience than most of the students, I noticed that many had serious trouble with the implicit consequences of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: the irreversibility of many thermal processes and the increase of disorganization that is nearly universal in systems including life itself. It’s probably the underlying cause of many disagreeable conditions like aging, cancer, maybe even household clutter. Another kind of news that brings out the mechanism of denial in many people is the implications of global warming. You see the result of that in things like Mathew Hurwitz’s “Flat-Earthers” climate-change-denial column of March 15.
Of course there are other reasons to promote denial of global warming, chief among them the fears of income disruption among Big Fossil Fuel executives, who finance many pseudo-scientific organizations to spread the lie of there being any real debate among scientists regarding global warming. But any rational intelligent person has no reason to dispute the reality of global warming, its human causes, or the devastating results already beginning to be experienced by millions of those humans. A recent article in “Scientific American”‘s website listed 2,259 scholarly articles written by 9,136 authors, with one -one! – dissenting author, that support the fact of global warming. NASA lists dozens of scientific societies, academies, government agencies, and intergovernmental bodies that agree with 97 percent turnout on the existence and human causation of global warming. How does Mathew Hurwitz get the chutzpah to dispute such overwhelming agreement among those who actually have standing? Because it’s been a tough winter? Or is it his participation in the Koch Bros. $67 million – yes, $67 MILLION – funding of climate change denial organs as innocent-sounding as “Americans For Prosperity” or the Humane Studies program at George Mason University? And those Koch brothers are only two among hundreds of well-financed people working to spread denial propaganda and confusion among citizens, voters, and legislators. You can see the results easily – just search the Internet with terms like “climate change debate” and all sorts of denial trolls will pop up with names like “climate change dispatch” who inveigh against “climatistas” who dare to question Big Energy’s push to drill everywhere all the time.
Hurwitz falsely declares IPCC scientists are “scrambling to salvage their flawed climate change models.” Really? What they have done is to responsibly declare the possibility of a lower level of temperature increase, while still agreeing that the predicted increase is likely. They found several errors (the list is about a half page) and fully corrected them before issuing the final report of several hundred pages.
Here are some of the incontrovertible facts: Temperatures are rising: Even with local fluctuations (like this winter!) U.S. temperatures have posted more average and record highs since about 1996 than all the decades previous. Wildfires and drought conditions are epidemic. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in 2013 reached 400 ppm for the first time in human history, the highest in 800,000 years. Sea levels are rising and the rise is accelerating. The driving force for this is the melt of arctic ice – the Greenland Ice Sheet’s melt has accelerated by a factor of three since 2003. Is it for real? Well, ask the leaders of the island nation of Maldives, who are buying land in case they have to move their country. Look at the satellite views of the Arctic ice cap’s shrinkage since 1984:
Responsible, sober scientists have been predicting and modeling the warming effect of our ever-increasing atmospheric carbon since the 1980s, with ever-growing consensus and alarm. The only failing in their methods is a kind of timidity in the face of the pseudo-science PR assault on the condition, and their lack of vigor in educating the public and our leadership so folks like Mathew Hurwitz won’t have any space for their illusions. And if it isn’t illusions about the fallacious warming “debate,” then I have to think it’s active participation in the concerted evil of lulling people into a careless lack of concern about coming catastrophe. Humanity needs to confront and surmount the challenges of global warming, not foment destructive denial.