To the Editor:
Charles Boyd recently submitted a letter in response to an earlier piece by David Barnhill in which Barnhill noted the existence of the scientific consensus on global warming issues. In his response, Boyd savages Mr. Barnhill, accusing him of a “desperate attempt” to retain his job as a college-level Director of Environmental Studies, referring to Barnhill’s position as “bogus” and all but accusing him of shilling for the lunacy of global warming advocates. Then, setting Barnhill aside, he goes on a rant about the illegitimacy of that consensus and claims that warming advocates such as James Hansen, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Joe Fromm are threatening the lives and careers the global-warming naysayers.
First, Charles Boyd owes Mr. Barnhill an apology if for no other reason than claiming to know Barnhill’s motivations in writing his letter.
In addition, although the climate literature is full of references to a scientific consensus on matters of warming, etc., Boyd insists upon a semantic attack on the word itself.
So, since Boyd has difficulties with the word “consensus,” seeing its use as some ideologically driven attempt to stifle debate, let us merely substitute phrases like “majority opinion” or “substantial agreement” in place of the offending word. It is a simple statement of fact that the majority opinion of scientific inquiry is in substantial agreement with certain basic facts of global warming/climate change; that the preponderance of evidence strongly suggests that increased CO2 emissions (along with other “greenhouse gases”) over the past 150 to 200 years are warming the earth, and at an increasing rate; human activity (i.e. the burning of fossil fuels) is a primary contributor to these emissions; and if left unchecked, the warming of the earth will have serious consequences for human habitability on this planet
The modern scientific process depends upon constant experimentation and review and the realization that there are no “final” answers. No one disputes that. But there is nothing false about the current general consensus on this matter. To equate this to ancient debates like the Ptolemaic vs. Copernican world views, or to claim that climate change skeptics are somehow (like Galileo and Bruno) being persecuted for their contrary positions is grossly misleading. Selectively choosing colorful quotations from the likes of Robert Kennedy Jr. and Joe Romm, or likening Obama supporters to a “private army of brownshirts” does a disservice to honest skeptics of global warming, while making Charles Boyd seem shrill and unreasonable.
Furthermore, this general agreement is not solely dependent on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC.) Obviously, Mr. Boyd has some serious problems with this organization, and makes a point of including various comments critical of it. Fair enough; the IPCC is not without its detractors. But fairness also should dictate that Boyd attribute these quotes to actual people, if only to allow a more thorough sense of context and accuracy.
Mr. Boyd’s focus on the IPCC ignores the literally hundreds of other organizations and research facilities that do, in fact, agree with the basic consensus (and the IPCC, for that matter.) No individual or organization holds a monopoly on truth, nor does a “consensus” guarantee as much; but it does beg the question: if there exists such widely shared agreement on the scientific basics, isn’t it reasonable to assume at least a high level of competency and diligence in these findings? That ought to be the starting point for discussion, not the assumption of hoaxes and intimidation.
In order to bring Mr. Boyd to a better understanding of this, here is a very partial list of some of those organizations that do agree with the majority opinion (from wunderground.com): American Meteorological Society, NOAA, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, NASA, EPA, American Geophysical Union, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Royal Society of the United Kingdom, and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.
Of course I omitted the IPCC in order to assuage Mr. Boyd’s sensibilities. Also, the state of California (Ca.gov) provides a listing of nearly 200 international organizations that support the consensus. It is really quite easy to find this information, and from many sources that do not include the likes of Bob Kennedy, Al Gore, or even Wikipedia.