Organized attacks on the science of global warming

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117149936213885.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of‘, ‘Jan. 31, 2002—A NASA satellite image of the intact Larsen B ice shelf of Antarctica Peninsula shows melting pools forming.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117149944521252.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of‘, ‘By March 5, 2002—The Larsen B iceshelf, larger than Rhode Island, has disintegrated into thousands of icebergs after only 35 days.‘);

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report on global warming has been released and is available online. Scientific evidence points conclusively that climate change is occurring and is caused primarily by human activities.

Citizens in a democratic society owe it to themselves to visit the web site and read “Slamming the Climate Skeptic Scam” (Jim Hoggan, Dec. 5, 2006). The article could be subtitled “the triumph of disinformation.” He calls attention to a November 2002 memo, Winning the Global Warming Debate, in which political consultant Frank Luntz gave advice to the Republican Party:

“The scientific debate remains open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views on global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue

to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”

A July 27, 2006, ABC News report by Clayton Sandell and Bill Blackmore indicated that leading global warming skeptic and professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia Patrick Michaels received $100,000 from a Colorado electric cooperative that appeared interested in confusing its clients about scientific consensus on the causes of global warming. They feared linking climate change to carbon releases would force them to control their emissions and raise the price of electricity for their customers.

The cooperative’s action was neither the first nor the only taken to confuse the public about global warming. Scientists anticipating the melting of the Antarctic ice shelf watched a 40-mile platform of the Larsen ice shelf collapse into tiny fragments in 1970. According to Ross Gelbspan, a mere four months later, the conservative George C. Marshall Institute released its fourth report dismissing the notion of global warming.

Gelbsban’s book The Heat is On details the battle between those defending fossil fuel use and efforts of scientists to document climatic changes resulting from their use. During the hot summer of 1988, Dr. James Hansen made global warming a public issue in his testimony before a congressional committee. In response to growing concerns, the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. According to Gelbspan, the Western Fuels Association and other groups funded by energy interests, sensing their financial interests would suffer, found scientists willing to cast doubts on global warming and ensured the public heard those doubts through think tank reports and mass media outlets.

From that point on, the public has been bombarded with conflicting news about global warming, and as a result, assumed the scientific debate was far from over. Fortunately, not all energy interests bought into the anti-global warming crusade. Many implemented policies to cut carbon emissions and support renewable energy. Cities, states and businesses continue to implement policies and practices to lessen the environmental impacts of their energy use. Feb. 7, the Electric Power Supply Association announced their support for a mandatory national policy to address greenhouse gas emissions. The group represents about one-third of the electric power produced in this country, much of which is from coal.

Refuters of global warming are unlikely to stop raising objections. A Feb. 2 article in The Guardian by Ian Sample points out that scientists and economists were offered $10,000 by the American Enterprise Institute to write articles emphasizing shortcomings of the most recent report by the IPCC. Sample reports that the AEI received more than $1.6 million from ExxonMobil.

For most scientists, the global warming debate is over. We have already lost more than 15 years debating its existence while expanding our energy-consumptive culture. It is time to work on solutions. Changes in our energy system will take time to implement considering its size. As many writers have pointed out, we are entering a period of a long and permanent emergency involving global warming, peaking oil and gas supplies and resource conflicts in which political leaders will be tempted to circumvent democracy in the name of dealing with emergencies.

We believe as the majority of Americans come to understand the nature of the challenges facing us, they can and will respond in a responsible manner consistent with their democratic heritage. What they need and deserve is the best information available to guide their actions. Deception undermines democracy.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are also active in preserving natural areas. They are retired professors from Northern Illinois University.

From the Feb. 14-20, 2007, issue

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