Tuesday, November 23, 2010

US climate scientists fight back after year of scepticism

The fight is on. After a year of attacks, climate scientists in America today launch a new website aimed at closing the gap between scientific knowledge and public understanding of global warming.

Meanwhile, a few Republicans are beginning to question the new party line on rejecting any evidence that humans are changing the climate.

Friday's Washington Post features a very important op-ed by NRDC Action Fund board member and former House Science Committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert, a Republican who represented New York's 24th congressional district for over two decades before retiring in 2007. Surveying the incoming class of Republicans, Boehlert worries that a stance of global warming denial has become all but synonymous
with his party's identity. He issues a resonant plea for a change of course:

In a letter to the Washington Post, Sherwood Boehlert,(right)
wrote: "I call on my fellow Republicans to open their minds to rethinking what has largely become our party's line: denying that climate change and global warming are occurring and that they are largely due to human activities."

Boehlert cites the trio of reports released in May, in which the
prestigious and nonpartisan National Academy of Science concluded that "a strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems." Our nation's most authoritative and respected scientific body couldn't make it any clearer or more conclusive. Boehlert concluded by pointing out the fact that the National Academy of Science reports concluded that "scientific evidence that the Earth is warming is now overwhelming." Party affiliation does not change that fact, Boehlert asserted.

The new climate change website by the new rapid response team of climate scientists promises to connect reporters and editors with a team of experts. In the build-up to today's launch the three scientists behind the project – John
Abraham, Scott Mandia, and Ray Weymann – have come off almost as climate science super heroes, which in a sense they are.

Today's initiative comes just over a year after the world of climate science was shaken by the controversy over emails stolen from scientists at the University of East Anglia, and the discovery of false assertions over Himalayan glaciers in the UN climate body's 2007 report.

Meanwhile, the next Congress is expected to be heavily biased against climate science and action on climate change. More than half of its
newly elected Republicans deny the existence of global warming, according to an analysis by Think Progress, a blog run by the Center for American Progress.

"Over the last year or two there has really been some backsliding in public concern about this issue," said Abraham. "We hope that if we do a better job communicating and getting the scientists more engaged in speaking to the public we can turn the dial on public opinion. We think the science is compelling."

Abraham may be familiar to some readers for dissecting – and
comprehensively debunking – global warming denier Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (left), in 126 slides, called A Scientist Replies to Lord Monckton. But he admitted he and his colleagues could potentially be taking on much bigger opponents, given the highly charged politics around climate and energy policies in America.

The website offers an online form where journalists can put in a request for climate scientists. The three founders will then locate someone
from their list of 50 volunteers with the right expertise. So far, they are getting about five media requests a day.

But Abraham and others are bracing for the Republicans to launch a whole new series of investigations into climate science after their takeover of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections. In his piece in the Washington Post, Boehlert asked Republicans to rethink their position.

He said that as a Republican he understood opposition to government regulations for dealing with climate change. But he added: "What I find incomprehensible is the dogged determination by some to discredit distinguished scientists and their findings."

Boehlert's piece follows an outburst by a South Carolina Republican,
Bob Inglis, who lost his seat to a Tea Party conservative who denies man-made climate change. In an exchange carried on the Think Progress blog, Inglis told his colleagues: "I would also suggest to my Free Enterprise colleagues – especially conservatives here – whether you think it's all a bunch of hooey, what we've talked about in this committee, the Chinese don't. And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century. They plan on innovating around these problems, and selling to us, and the rest of the world, the technology that'll lead the 21st century."

Inglis in Congress talking Climate Change

The Guardian,"US climate scientists fight back after year of scepticism", accessed November 23, 2010
Huffington Post, "Republicans for Science!", accessed November 23, 2010
ThinkProgress, "Republican Rep. Bob Inglis Blasts GOP For Denying Global Warming", accessed November 23, 2010
Washington Post, "Science the GOP can't wish away", accessed November 22, 2010

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