Climate deniers have reason to retract

KAREN ELIAS

Lock Haven

It’s certainly possible that David Rothbard and Craig Rucker, the climate deniers who authored an op-od piece published in The Express on Jan. 12 entitled, “Climate skeptics have reasons to question manmade global warming,” are nice people, maybe with a dog and even grandkids at home.

In contrast to the reasonable tone they take in their article, however, the leaflets their organization (CFACT) distributed at the Climate March last April were anything but. The leaflets claimed that the scientific consensus that climate change is human-induced is “bogus,” that reports of record-setting temperatures are “the hottest lie” being told, and that “C02 is not the ‘control knob’ of the climate.” In addition, Craig Rucker himself, the executive director of CFACT, has stated that we face a threat today “not from man-made global warming, but from man-made hysteria.”

An Internet search reveals that CFACT has received donations from Exxon Mobil, the Koch brothers, other free enterprise organizations, and dark money sources.

Their article makes use of half-truths to posit three deliberately confusing points, with no evidence other than reference to the work of obscure Scandinavian researchers, who are not climate scientists, to back them up. Throughout their article they continually make reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), selecting only partial information from the panel’s assessments in supposed support of their points. The IPCC was established in 1988 to assess climate change based on the latest science. Every 5 to 7 years, it puts together a report from climate experts around the world. The Fifth Assessment, the most comprehensive to date, concludes that “(h)uman influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic (human-sourced) emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history.”

Nevertheless, Rothbard and Rucker shamelessly call on the IPCC to support their claim that “C02 loses its ability to absorb heat as its concentration increases,” implying that at some unspecified future date temperatures will stabilize and we won’t have to worry about carbon dioxide any longer. Here is what, in fact, the IPCC report states: “It has been suggested that the absorption by C02 is already saturated so than an increase would have no effect. This, however, is not the case.” The report goes on to say that while C02’s “middle band” may indeed be saturated, the entire band width is only partially saturated, meaning that increases in C02 emissions will indeed continue to warm the planet, in what is called “logarithmic dependence.”

Climate models, as well as direct measurements, indicate that, unless we begin serious mitigation efforts, we are well on our way to raising Earth’s temperature 3 degrees by mid- to late-21st century. The second point introduces further confusion by insisting that clouds have a cooling effect because they “reflect solar radiation back into space. . . .” The truth is more complicated. In fact, low-lying clouds do have a cooling effect, but clouds that form higher up in the atmosphere have the opposite effect, warming the Earth by trapping heat. The claim that clouds will serve as Earth’s thermostat is an oversimplification; if clouds could counteract warming, then our planet would not be heating up. Climate models and direct observation in fact predict a future reduction in low-forming clouds that will lead not to cooling but to a slight amplification of Earth’s warming.

The third point, that “it’s the sun, stupid,” resorts to the tired assertion that the cause of global warming is not the burning of fossil fuels, but an increase in solar activity, solar output, solar irradiance, solar magnetic field, and/or solar wind — any one of which could influence “ionization in the troposphere and cloud formation,” whatever that means.

Interestingly, the field of study of one of the scientists the authors use to support their points is the effects of the moon, not the sun. Where is the evidence that these solar events have a direct effect on the warming of the climate? In fact, science is clear: The evidence shows that although fluctuations in the amount of solar energy reaching our atmosphere do influence our climate, the global warming trend of the past six decades cannot be attributed to changes in the sun. In its Fifth Assessment, the IPCC published the results of climate model studies in which a variety of heat-producing factors, including solar variability, volcanic eruptions, and other natural climate drivers, were introduced.

None of those variables were shown to be responsible for the current warming. It was only when human-induced heat-trapping gases were included that they accurately reproduced the warming we have observed during the 20th and 21st Centuries. Rothbard and Rucker’s opinion piece, which ends by calling for “greater study of the issue,” is just the latest example of the effort on the part of fossil fuel interests to muddy the waters, thereby delaying action on mitigation, and to frame climate change as a “debate.” There is no debate.

Close to 98 percent of publishing climate scientists agree that we are experiencing human-induced climate change resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. But don’t take my word for it. Read (carefully) the findings of the IPCC, and see for yourself.

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