Words on Weather & Climate

A Political Agenda 


Meteorologist Craig James, new Squire columnist

The most vocal proponents of the theory of human-induced global warming lay claim to understanding the “scientific truth” about the supposed catastrophe that awaits if we don’t do something now to alter the way we live. The skeptics of such a catastrophe, who claim that real science shows no such catastrophe headed our way, are called “climate heretics” or “climate deniers,” with the same connotation as holocaust deniers.

How can two groups of educated people so strongly disagree on what are supposed to be “facts” of science? I firmly believe one of the few things we know about climate that can truly be called a fact is that “climate changes.” There is such inherent natural variability in the climate, which we don’t yet understand, that we are currently unable to know with any certainty how greenhouse gases will affect that variability. It seems to me that climate change has become not a scientific question but a political agenda. How did we get to this point?

Dr. Judith Curry, a world-renowned climate scientist and chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has had the courage to suggest that both sides get back to science and out of politics. Staking out a position smack dab in the middle of those who warn of global warming’s existential threat to humanity and those who call it a hoax, Dr. Curry has made herself a target of both camps.

In the wake of the release of the Climategate e-mails, which she credits as changing her perception of the IPCC and the way it operates, she has written a wonderful article on her blog site, “Climate, Etc,” explaining how she has “been trying to understand the crazy dynamics of climate science and policy and politics, and how things went so terribly wrong.”

She writes, “The enviro advocacy groups saw the climate change issue as an opportunity to enlist scientific support for their preferred energy policy solution.” A solution many politicians believed because they were told the science was settled.

“The policy cart was put before the scientific horse.” Instead of open scientific investigation, “the entire framing of the IPCC was designed around identifying sufficient evidence so that the human-induced greenhouse warming could be declared unequivocal, and so providing the rationale for developing the political will to implement and enforce carbon stabilization targets. National and international science programs were funded to support the IPCC objectives. What should have been a political debate about energy policy, environmental quality, and reducing vulnerability to weather and climate disasters, became a debate about the nuances of climate science, with climate scientists as the pawns and whipping boys.”

“…at the heart of the IPCC is a cadre of scientists whose careers have been made by the IPCC… Not only has this brought some relatively unknown, inexperienced and possibly dubious people into positions of influence, but these people become vested in protecting the IPCC, which has become central to their own career and legitimizes playing power politics with their expertise.”

The IPCC has established a religious dogma around “this cadre of scientists; they will tolerate no dissent, and seek to trample and discredit anyone who challenges the IPCC… Eager for the publicity, high impact journals such as Nature, Science, and PNAS frequently publish sensational but dubious papers that support the climate alarm narrative.”

“…these publications and the media attention help steer money in the direction of these scientists, which buys them loyalty from their institutions, who appreciate the publicity and the dollars. Further, the institutions that support science use the publicity to argue for more funding to support climate research and its impacts. And the broader scientific community inadvertently becomes complicit in all this.”

Way to go, Dr. Curry. I heartily support her effort of encouraging the alarmists to listen to skeptic’s criticisms and to have the courage to admit to the uncertainty in the science of global warming. Dr. Curry has clearly explained how we have gotten so far off track. “The role of scientists should not be to develop political will to act by hiding or simplifying the uncertainties.”

Craig James has been retired since July 1, 2008, after 40 years of broadcasting television weather. He was chief meteorologist at WZZM-TV for 12 years and chief meteorologist at WOOD-TV for 24 years. He is a graduate of Penn State University, where he received a Centennial Fellowship Award. He was also honored as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

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