Letters to the Editor

Climate reality

May 18, 2010


To the editor:

I’m extremely tired of politicians and pundits making broad sweeping statements about climate change research and policy that have little to do with reality. In Sunday’s Journal-World, Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, is quoted stating the following: “Instead of supporting sound science and common sense, the EPA has chosen to take the radical path of attempting to regulate carbon dioxide and methane.”

The only thing radical about regulating greenhouse gas emissions is standing in the way of its implementation. A 2009 survey of 3,146 earth scientists from around the world, conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that 97 percent of the climatologists surveyed agreed that human activity is a significant factor in global warming. Earlier this year, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a statement calling for swift and deep cuts to GHG emissions that was endorsed by over 2,000 scientists and economists (including eight Nobel Prize winners).

In our own state, some of the consequences of inaction include increased aquifer depletion and flash floods, decreased crop yields and livestock productivity, increased agricultural pests, increased air pollution, along with increased allergies, asthma and other lung conditions, all occurring in our lifetimes. Increased flooding alone could cost Kansas farmers an additional $150 million annually by 2032, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Relying on fossil fuel industry-backed studies and ideologically driven denialist propaganda to guide one’s decisions on climate change is a poor substitute for real leadership that demonstrates independent thought. Kansans deserve better.


Flap Doodle 5 years ago

There's no paper over here. Could somebody pass me a carbon credit?

SnakeFist 5 years ago

Gore is a messenger, not a climatologist, so his phrasing is understandably less nuanced. Some want to argue that the issue of climate change was created by Gore and launch ad hominem attacks against him to avoid the reality of the situation.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

The "Union of Concerned Scientists" is nothing but Greenpeace operating under another name. They routinely conduct "surveys" to prove the truth of a particular facet of the radical environmentalist agenda, allegedly interviewing what at first appears to be a large number of "scientists" in order to attempt to prove one point or another. Many real scientists who have spoken out against the massive, worldwide hoax of "Global Warming" have done so precisely to counter the propaganda disseminated by this group. At the core of UCS's agenda is the notion that because human activity "might" cause global warming (note the reference to "significant factor" in the finding reported by the letter writer), radical steps are necessary to stem the tide of what is nothing more than what most of their own alleged surveys admit are a mere possibility. This organization's surveys are given a virtual free pass by the media, and gullible individuals invariably fall for them.

kernal 5 years ago

Cato, I'd really like to read some of the works of the scientists you are referring to. Would you please provide a couple of names and/or links? Thanks.

SnakeFist 5 years ago

This is a typical conservative tactic: attack the integrity of anyone who disagrees with you, and substitute your own uneducated opinion for that of experts in the field.

AaronHuertas 5 years ago

Our group exists to help scientists weigh in matters of public policy. Statements like this are important for policymakers to understand what scientists in their states and district think about a topic. They don't "prove" anything on their own and we don't pretend they do. They just express the sentiments of the signers.

Climate change is about managing risk. This is a helpful visualization of the relative risks associated with a low and high-emissions scenario: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/climate-change-1002.html.

Aaron Huertas Press Secretary Union of Concerned Scientists

AaronHuertas 5 years ago

UCS doesn't take government or corporate money. I've never understood this "financial motivation" argument. Working for non-profits and in scientific fields is not exactly lucrative.


gr 5 years ago

Marci dear, All you talked about was surveys and percentages of people's opinions.

What about sound science and common sense do you not understand?

SnakeFist 5 years ago

The opinions cited are of "3,146 earth scientists". Do you suppose the opinions of scientists reflect sound science?

I can't believe the arrogance of conservatives - you think your uneducated "common sense" trumps the data and opinions of experts in the field! The scientists may be wrong, but I'll trust their informed opinions over yours any day.

gr 5 years ago

Do you also trust financial "experts"?

What about political "experts"?

gr 5 years ago

And do you think "opinion" of anyone, no matter how much you elevate them on a pedestal, constitutes science?

SnakeFist 5 years ago

When you have an illness do you go to a doctor, i.e., an expert in medicine, or do you rely on common sense to restore your health? When you have been wronged, do you go to an attorney, i.e., an expert in law, or do you rely on common sense to get you through the legal system?

Its you, in your arrogance, who have put yourself on a pedestal. If I the "'opinion' of anyone" consitituted science, then your opinion would constitute science. The letter doesn't cite the opinion of just anyone - it doesn't cite a public opinion poll - but rather the informed scientific opinion of SCIENTISTS.

gr 5 years ago

I don't recall going to a doctor because of an illness. But, you are missing what I'm saying. If I were to go to a doctor, go to an attorney, it's not because I have blind faith in them. I go for their opinion. Then I use common sense whether as to whether it should be followed. Just because someone has a degree doesn't mean they don't make mistakes. Nor does it mean the majority of them don't make mistakes. As a side point, and one that has been proven faulty in the past is that who is being blindly believed? Is it some climate scientists or is it someone who writes in the media? For example, is it true there are 3,146 scientists who said what? Or should we just have faith that they said something?

You and you alone are responsible for your health. Blindly trusting what a doctor tells you is more foolish than blindly following what politicians tell you about global warming. Otherwise, it's not a situation of arrogance, but of ignorance, on your part. Or of following those who aren't doctors (It's still not too late to get your 2009 flu vaccine...)

I didn't hear if you trust financial experts. How about religious experts? What if religious experts should tell you that the reason birds and bats are being killed around wind turbines is because God doesn't want us to develop wind power. Would you blindly believe them?

BigPrune 5 years ago

If the climate is changing and the sea is rising, why did Al Gore just buy an $8,875,000 ocean front mansion? I think I'll apply for a government grant for a 5 -year study as to his reasons why.

independant1 5 years ago

UCS is not just organization of scientists.

UCS has an environmental agenda, politicizes science by fear mongering, vicious ad hominum attacks (Bjorn the climate skeptic), distorts and miscontrues facts.

an anti capitalism pro socialist bent group born out of dissent of Vietnam war

But good letter!

AaronHuertas 5 years ago

That's patently untrue. UCS supports market-based solutions to many environmental problems. Regarding its founding and purpose, see comment above and see UCS's founding document here: http://www.ucsusa.org/about/founding-document-beyond.html.

Aaron Huertas Press Secretary Union of Concerned Scientists

jayhawklawrence 5 years ago

It is not the fact that humans are damaging the planet and each other. We know that.

The idea that we have already found a solution to the problem through a scheme called cap and trade is the problem.

One side with it's head in the sand (Republicans) who want to protect the status quo and the other side (Democrats) who are going to exploit it for all it's worth.

The common denominator here is that they are all politicians.

Proceed with extreme caution.

jafs 5 years ago

Yes, it would be better to simply set serious limits on all emissions, rather than allowing businesses to "trade" them.

melott 5 years ago

The American Physical Society made a statement on Climate Change in 2007. Just recently, they revised it and added commentary. Some may be interested in reading this: http://www.aps.org/policy/statements/07_1.cfm

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Thanks for the informative link, which, despite all of the hoopla questioning the scientific community's veracity, firmly reiterates that the empirical data more clearly than ever indicates that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases is shifting our climate in ways that can have catastrophic impacts not only on our ways of life, but also on the lives of whole classes of other living organisms through ocean acidification, local climatic shifts, etc.

I suggest that this link be shared far and wide.

Chris Golledge 5 years ago

I have a concern that the regulation of greenhouse gases will be argued over points that don't really matter. It's possible that there will be a failure to distinguish between emissions that change the composition of our air and sea and those that don't. For example, livestock emissions don't matter. All the carbon that livestock emit in the form of CO2 or methane was only recently taken from the air by plants anyway; the net effect is nothing. In contrast, burning fossil fuels puts carbon into the biosphere that hasn't been there for 10s to 100s of millions of years, adding carbon to the mix. CO2 has relatively low chemical energy; so, additions to the sea and air stay there for a long time. Cap and trade looks like a way to allow polluters to circumvent the system; a tax on fossil fuels would be simpler and encourage development of other sources. But, I'd take cap and trade over business as usual if that is the choice.

It will take a diversion of energy from pure consumption to investments in sustainable energy production in order to get to a point where we can produce the energy we need, without harming the environment in which we live. It would seem that the time to make that investment would be before we either run low on oil or have reached a level of climate change where continued use of fossil fuels becomes prohibitive.

Liberty275 5 years ago

researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that 97 percent of the climatologists surveyed agreed that human activity is a significant factor in global warming

In other news, 97% of used car salesman agreed we all need another car.

MyName 5 years ago

And yet, according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures a significant number of used car salesmen don't think we need another car. Since there's such a huge controversy, maybe we should postpone any decision regarding automobile purchases!

gr 5 years ago

Excellent point! Just because the majority of car salesmen experts say we need another car is no reason we should purchase another one.

Well done!

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Dare I add a few pieces of new information, hot off the press from the National Climate Data Center:


"Selected Global Highlights for April 2010 The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for April 2010 was the warmest on record at 14.5°C (58.1°F), which is 0.76°C (1.37°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F). This was also the 34th consecutive April with global land and ocean temperatures above the 20th century average.

The worldwide ocean surface temperature was 0.57°C (1.03°F) above the 20th century average of 16.0°C (60.9°F) and the warmest April on record. The warmth was most pronounced in the equatorial portions of the major oceans, especially the Atlantic. The April worldwide land surface temperature was 1.29°C (2.32°F) above the 20th century average of 8.1°C (46.5 °F)—the third warmest on record.

For the year-to-date, the global combined land and ocean surface temperature of 13.3°C (56.0°F) was the warmest January-April period. This value is 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average. "

And if you think this is cherry picking, I suggest you go to the same site and start looking at the data.

gr 5 years ago

Well Doug, like you I picked and chose and chose March. It showed Kansas was normal, but Florida was much below normal. Maine was warm. Looks like maybe the temperatures are averaging out with less extremes and therefore will lead to less hurricanes.

Less picking and choosing as you did showed Jan-Mar with a below normal for much of the nation with record coldest for Florida.
You are right. It does depend upon how you pick and choose.

I noticed on the site that it said the "sun is the primary source of earth's weather".

But what is most interesting is that a .76°C change would cause the lizards to die! Or not.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

I did not pick locations, gr; I picked the entire planet. These numbers are combined land and sea temperatures for the entire planet, not the locations you are referring to. It's the global temperatures that count, not regional variations.

The "picking" I was referring to was the time, and, once again, if you looked at the global data, you'll see that this is not just a one month phenomenon, rather it is a global trend.

And yes, the sun is the primary source of earth's weather. Nobody ever said anything different. Does that mean that the massive greenhouse gas releases by humans has no impact on the amount of the sun's heat that is retained? Of course not. That's precisely the point. We'd better hope that the sun keeps shining!

SnakeFist 5 years ago

A lot of science is funded by grants, that doesn't mean there's no objectivity.

Surely corporations (and the republicans they own) have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, and yet you don't give the same scrutiny to their assertions.

Boston_Corbett 5 years ago

Cancer research must be a scam too, eh?

Liberty275 5 years ago

Does cancer research redistribute wealth with carbon credits?

jafs 5 years ago

So you believe that the massive amounts of fossil fuels that we're burning, and other activities of human beings that pollute our earth, water and air have no significant impact on the planet and other living beings?

melott 5 years ago

If you think a minute, you'll realize that climate scientists would serve themselves the most if they said we don't know whether anthropogenic climate change was real--more research is needed. That would give them the most justification for funding. Instead, they are saying there is a real problem. We need different energy sources, conservation, etc. That puts money in the pockets of people who do different kinds of research--not climate change research.

Liberty275 5 years ago

If I walk in and tell my boss I don't have the answer, he'll fire me and find someone with the answer. I get paid to say what my boss wants to hear and so do scientists.

notajayhawk 5 years ago

Perhaps instead of listening to a bunch of people who call themselves the Union of "Concerned" Scientists we should try to find some Objective Scientists.

The conclusions drawn from research are often self-fulfilling prophecies, particularly those that rely heavily on computer modeling instead of controlled experimentation. When a group calls themselves "Concerned" right from the get-go, how do they expect to be taken seriously as being objective? They went into this with the mindset that anthropogenic factors were causing global warming (oh, wait, we meant climate change, not warming), and any conclusions they draw from any data are going to reflect that belief.

jafs 5 years ago

Perhaps they became concerned after doing the research.

The way that scientists working on the atomic bomb became concerned about the implications of it.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

OK, then, how about the statement of the American Physical Society, that Melott provided a link to that I have conveniently provided for you to read: http://www.aps.org/policy/statements/07_1.cfm

Are these folks somehow not objective enough? Sure, you can find some oddball climatologists who poo-poo the role of humans in climate change, just as you can find biologists who reject evolution as the basis for biodiversity, or medical experts who still deny the link between smoking and lung cancer.

It's interesting that you say that folks have a predetermined bias that they reinforce, because the IPCC originally did not make the human-climate change. It was not until 2007, I believe, that they shifted to stating that this link was undeniable, and they did it due to the incredible amount of data that makes that link clear to anyone who cares to look carefully at the data.

And show me a model that can explain the temperature data WITHOUT incorporating the influence of the massive emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that humans inject into the atmosphere. It's not that we are the only player here, it's that without us playing, global temperatures wouldn't be acting the way they are.

Liberty275 5 years ago

Are these folks somehow not objective enough?

"advocacy tools" http://www.aps.org/policy/tools/index.cfm

Yeah, that's really objective. What does "advocacy" mean?

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Yes, they advocate, as responsible citizens and as scientists. Here's their position paper on that theme:

"08.1 CIVIC ENGAGEMENT OF SCIENTISTS(Adopted by Council on November 15, 2008)

Many of the complex problems our society and its public officials face require an understanding of scientific and technical issues. Basic scientific knowledge is critical to making balanced policy decisions on pressing issues such as climate change, energy policy, medical procedures, the nation’s technical infrastructure, and science education standards.

Increasing the representation of scientists and engineers in public office at the federal, state and local levels, and in positions of responsibility at government agencies, can help ensure that informed policy and science funding decisions are made. Scientists and engineers in public office - including school board members, mayors and legislators - have made significant contributions, not only on specific scientific issues but also by bringing their analytical and problem-solving abilities into the arena of public service. Additionally, many have found that civic engagement has contributed to their professional development through exposure to the broader implications of their work.

The American Physical Society recognizes that its members elected to public office or who hold key scientific and technical positions within government effectively serve both the physics community and the broader society. We strongly support the decision of members of the scientific and engineering communities to pursue such positions."

jafs 5 years ago

If you know there's an objective danger, it makes sense to want to deal with it, not just pretend it's not there.

gr 5 years ago

Negative change? Possibly.
Human activities can cause all possible changes. Nope.

"Note that many people have quit saying "global warming" and are now saying "global climate change". "

Why do you suppose that is so? Is it because we know it's changing just not which direction, up or down? And that makes sense, somehow, to you?

"I for one would rather the United States be a leader for change in a positive direction." But you just said you didn't know which direction it is going so how could you know which direction is a positive one?

Tell me, have you aligned your treadmill with the equator? Better before it's too late. Better safe than sorry.

Tipping point? Have we reached the point of no return where our economy is going to tank from the moronic tax levies for things that aren't true? If not, will our great grandchildren be able to afford it? Think about the kids. Do you want cause absolute and definite harm to them for something which you don't even know which direction it is going let alone whether it is better or worse than present or even what the earth's current temperature even is?

Liberty275 5 years ago

Could one of you global climate experts tell me what the proper temperature of the Earth should be? Maybe if you were to enlighten us morons on that, we could help you get the temperature to the correct reading.

One of you mega smart scientific fellows must know what the proper temperature should be. I'll be waiting for your answer... but I won't be holding my breath.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

As responsible citizens who participate in a democracy it is our responsibility to advocate for what we feel is right, which in this case means that as citizens, scientists have a civic obligation to advocate for objectivity and clear eyed analysis when addressing complex problems that confront our society.

Once a conclusion is reached in this manner, it is not antithetical to objectivity to advocate for the conclusion arrived in this manner. Of course, objectivity is never final, and is based on sets of assumptions, but the challenges to those conclusions should still strive toward a conclusion that is even more true based on objective measures, and based on sets of assumptions that are even more representative of the whole picture. Too often the public forum is used to manipulate and bias fellow participants from the well reasoned, clear-eyed conclusions that an organization like the APS strives for in a complex topic like climate change. Show me a more objective, comprehensive approach that comes up with the opposite conclusion.

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