Popular Science Proves Itself Again

I would like to thank the graduate students from UC Irvine’s Earth System Science department who wrote an article on Feb. 12 titled ‘Global Warming Grounded in Science’ in reaction to my Feb. 5 article titled ‘Global Warming Not Proven by Science.’ I appreciate their effort for a number of reasons, but especially because academic debate is too often absent from the modern university.
Interestingly, their response demonstrates my underlying argument that popular science has become assuming, defensive and media-driven. In saying so, I would like to respond to them.
During World War II, a letter was signed by 100 university professors in Nazi Germany saying that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was incorrect. In response, Einstein stated, ‘If they were correct, one signature would have been enough.’
I am surely no Einstein, but it is fascinating that out of the 22 graduate students that signed their name criticizing me for questioning just how responsible human activities are for causing global temperatures to rise, not one of them provided information that could be used to confirm that mankind is responsible for global warming.
They state, ‘The Earth’s climate has fluctuated naturally over its history on both long and short timescales,’ which is quite true; unfortunately, that is about where their logical thought process ends. I will hereby attempt to refute their other claims.
1. They first argue that global temperatures are rising by stating, ’11 of the last 12 years have been among the 12 warmest years since 1850.’ Well, that’s fantastic. I never argued that temperatures were not rising. If you want to play the year game, however, please remember that global temperatures have actually been on an overall decline since 1998.
2. They cite the United Nations’ IPCC Fourth Assessment Summary, released in January 2007, which ‘confirms with 90 percent confidence’ that human activity is the cause of global warming. Firstly, they might want to look into the reasons behind that 10 percent of uncertainty. Secondly, didn’t this report come out just a few months after a different U.N. report that said cows are now considered the greatest cause of global warming? It sounds to me like there is still quite a debate going on. Perhaps you subscribe to the notion that ‘scientific consensus’ is not an oxymoron, as you claim that controversy ‘no longer exists among scientists.’ In such a case, I pity your research.
3. They claim that I reference unreliable sources. I’m not sure how much more ‘scientific’ I could get than citing the United Nations, the IPCC, the University of California, National Geographic, the USDA Forest Service, etc. Give me a break.
4. They claim that I reference outdated sources. I didn’t realize that reports and interviews from 2006 and 2004 were considered outdated. Furthermore, my point was to compare historical trends in the climate science community, so quite expectedly, I would cite a variety of sources that aren’t all from the last few years.
In regard to criticisms from other UCI students that appeared as letters to the editor in the Feb. 20 issue of the New University:
1. The claim that the Kyoto protocol was rejected under Clinton because of the Republican majority in the Senate: I’m not sure how you make this conclusion when the Senate vote was 99-0. A better argument would call upon economic incentives and a sprinkling of rationality.
2. ‘Why don’t we need an SUV that can seat four people and get 11 miles per gallon of gasoline?’ Once again, cars are the least of our worries from a global warming point of view. Ironically, recent tests by BMW on their Hydrogen 7 series showed that the cars put more strain on the environment than diesel trucks due to the incredible process needed to produce reliable hydrogen fuel.
3. The article title was misleading. Fair enough sir, but I didn’t choose it