"No change whatsoever" in scientists' conviction that climate change is occurring

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
February 22, 2010



Despite some politicians and TV personalities claiming that climate change is dead, a panel of influential US and European scientists held a press conference at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to set the record straight on the state of the science and the recent media frenzy against climate change.

"There has been no change in the scientific community, no change whatsoever" in the consensus that globally temperatures are rising, said Gerald North, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. Recent data has shown that the decade from 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record.

The scientific theory of climate change has been battered in the media lately by a scandal involving leaked emails from prominent climate change scientists, the discovery of errors in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, and, most recently, unusually large snow storms on the US's east coast. Yet, scientists say that none of these 'scandals' diminish the science of climate change.

"The reporting on this has been truly abominable," said ocean scientist James McCarthy of Harvard in regards to the snow storms on the east coast. While media outlets, some politicians, and well-known figures—such as business-mogul and TV personality Donald Trump—have stated that the record snowfalls have proven climate change wrong, the science behind climate change has in fact predicted larger precipitation events due to a warmer atmosphere, and therefore increased evaporation.

The heightened backlash against climate science began when emails were hacked from the East Anglican University server last fall. While the scientists admit the emails were embarrassing, they have explained time and again that sentences in the emails were in fact taken out of context. For example, the media jumped on the use of the word 'trick' in one of the emails, but the word trick in scientific parlance simply means a shortcut or clever way to fixing a problem.

Next came the revelation that the IPCC report had a number of mistakes in it, including a prediction that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035. Although, the mistake has been flaunted in the media, McCarthy said that such mistakes were "careless", but minor in the big picture. The IPCC report spans thousands of pages, but has been undermined in the media, according to McCarthy, by "two sentences on glaciers".

Still, McCarthy added that IPCC should have done a full and public examination of how the errors occurred: “The names of the authors, who was on the review, what happened—it all should have been up there, and it wasn’t done. And I think that the institution was hurt as a result,”

"The greater the stature of the institution," McCarthy added "the harder the fall."

Climatologists have been taken aback by the forcefulness of attacks against climate change and sometimes targeting researchers personally.

"One guy e-mailed me to say I'm a 'whore for the global warming crowd,'" said climatologist Gerald North. He also pointed out that this sort of hateful rhetoric was seen in mainstream news by showing a quote from TV personality Glenn Beck who suggested that if the IPCC had been run by the Japanese they should have committed mass-suicide by "hari-kari".

"The situation is completely out of hand," North commented.

Part of the problem scientists say is that they do not have the training to be media-savvy nor how to easily convey their findings to the public.

"We are very immature in our public communications," North commented. "We need some coaching."

Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Science and chair of the National Research Council agreed: "A lot of what we need to do is translate basic information into terms the public can understand."

Researchers made a "tactical error" by not responding to the attacks in public and allowing "the situation to get out of control," said Sheila Jasanoff, policy expert at Harvard University. She added: "There is a kind of arrogance—we are scientists and we know best. That needs to change."

Lord Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society in the U.K concluded that while some of the details of climate change were uncertain, "we think despite all the uncertainties...action is justified and indeed imperative."







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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (February 22, 2010).

"No change whatsoever" in scientists' conviction that climate change is occurring .

http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0222-hance_conviction.html