• 59°

Touched a nerve

Apparently my guest column, Musings of a Climate-Change Skeptic, has touched a nerve over at Longwood eliciting a response from Professor Ross, and then a tag-team column by Professors Labosier, Leech and Fortino. I appreciate their opinions as they have confirmed many of my conclusions. I would like to elaborate on a few of the points.

Professor Ross says, “Good science is a peer-reviewed and slow process where results that cannot be duplicated by others are discarded.” I could not agree more, but global warming projections are based on modeling of climate systematics, and we will never know if the results can be duplicated until 100 years from now. Considering that climate models have been shown to dramatically over project temperature increases, we should use Dr. Ross’ standard for good science and doubt the credibility of climate change “science.”

In my column, I said, “…consensus about any scientific theory is ludicrous.” In his response, Professor Ross said, “In my mind the very idea of a scientific theory is an idea that has been widely accepted and never shown to be wrong.” But, then Dr. Ross goes on to explain how Isaac Newton’s laws of physics were altered centuries later by Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. This supports my conclusion that science is never settled, but an ongoing pursuit.

Dr. Ross agrees that “water contributes to most of our warming,” but he says that the amount of water vapor is controlled by the temperature. The same can be said about CO2 because the historic record clearly shows that increased atmospheric levels of CO2 have always followed periods of warming.

Professor Ross “seriously questions” my conclusion that scientists are often driven by political motives. I find that ironic since he refers to a political hit piece in Vanity Fair in a thinly veiled attempt to discredit my credentials as a policymaker, and he further tries to impugn my politics with a ridiculously tenuous link between my former boss, Dick Cheney, and alleged pollution by Chinese oil companies in Ecuador.

Professors Labosier, Leech and Fortino point out Roger Revelle’s work on CO2 levels in the atmosphere. I was fortunate to have received the education I did at UC San Diego, where I had several Noble Prize winners for professors. Most importantly, we were always told at UCSD that we were not being taught skills; we were being prepared to think critically and analyze the facts or science of any issue.

Professors Labosier, Leech, and Fortino say that “…the basic tenants of climate change have been tested and retested by these skeptical scientists.” The basic tenants on which so many agree, including me, is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that causes warming, and that humans have contributed to the increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. After that there is plenty of debate about: How much of climate change is caused by CO2 in the atmosphere, versus solar activity? How much of climate change is due to natural cycles or variations? What are the mitigating effects on warming caused by cloud formation? What is the perfect average temperature for planet earth? How much can mankind actually affect climate change and at what cost to society? On a planet where, at one time up to two miles of ice covered much of North America, including the Upper Midwest and New England, is all warming a bad thing? Do we really want to put our trust in models that have over projected warming over the past 30 years and completely missed the current 18-year pause in warming?

Professors Labosier, Leech and Fortino point out that “We cannot address each of the scientific points that Hoffman asks us to consider…” They are correct in that a guest column hardly affords one the space to thoroughly document or address all the questions regarding climate change. I freely admit that I may have overstated some points for effect in my column, however, I have read many books and scientific papers on climate change, I have visited personally with many experts in the field of climate change, and I am prepared to back up all of my arguments.

All these professors have deeply held beliefs, as do I. What makes our nation unique is that we all have the right to express those beliefs. We could do even better if we could all sit down together and discuss our differences in a civil discourse and in an atmosphere of mutual respect. I would welcome that opportunity.

Paul Hoffman retired as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior and has lived in Elam since 2008. He can be reached at paul@pauldhoffman.com.