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Climate change: focusing on the evidence

November 18, 2009

polar bear on ice-1-WBy Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl

President and Vice President

Illinois Renewable Energy Association

In 2007, we were honored by our high school alumni committee as outstanding graduates for our work on environmental and renewable energy issues. In 2009, we attended our class reunion, were honored guests for our work, and were seated with the principal.

The coordinator of the reunions had asked us several times to give a presentation about our lives and the interesting projects we had undertaken, but we never accepted the offer.

When the expected speaker for this latest event failed to arrive, we volunteered to take his place. To our surprise, the very person who nominated us as famous graduates turned down the offer with the ironic comment that we would probably lecture the group about global warming.

After dinner, another former classmate who became an engineer informed us that global warming was a hoax, and he was dedicating the remainder of his life to fighting the alleged deception.

Others have expressed similar doubts. A respected park district director informed us that global warming was not occurring. When told of the collapse of the winter bird tourist industry in southern Illinois and its possible connection to global warming, a professional with environmental interests replied that an isolated event like that did not indicate global warming but probably reflected a normal cycle and that the geese and ducks were likely to return to over wintering in southern Illinois when the climate cooled.

A Pew Research Center poll released Oct. 22 documented a dramatic decline in the percent of respondents who believe there is strong scientific evidence that human activities contribute to climate change. The percent of Americans who believe there is solid evidence that the world has been warming has fallen from 71 to 57 percent over the past 18 months. In his book, Heat, George Monbiot presented the scientific evidence in support of global warming and pointed out the financial support given to climate deniers by fossil fuel interests. Monbiot fears the deniers are winning the debate. He portrays climate change denial as existing in a sphere that cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument.

In our long careers in ecological, environmental and energy concerns and as landowners who work outdoors to restore native habitats, we have observed many changes in the composition of our local ecosystems consistent with the expected shifts that would result from climate change.

Native populations living in Arctic and low-lying ocean islands in close contact with nature also report dramatic changes in climatic conditions adversely affecting their lives.

More sophisticated observations by reputable scientists document the impacts of climate changes in a variety of ecosystems around the world. Their studies conform to scientific protocols and procedures to ensure the quality of their work. Prior to publication, their studies are reviewed by a committee of their peers qualified to judge their merits to determine whether they are worthy of publication.

The scientific case makes it clear that human activities are inducing climatic changes. To refresh your understanding of the scientific basis for global warming, you may read the presentation by Dr. Anders Carlson posted on the Illinois Renewable Energy Association Web site, www.illinoisrenew.org.

From the November 18-24, 2009 issue

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