A new opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal attacks the 97% scientific consensus on man-made global warming while completely missing the point on what scientists are actually saying about climate change. Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute and Roy Spencer can try to obscure the consensus by nitpicking over details, but it won’t change the facts: climate change is real, human-caused and dangerous.
The following is a guest post by Climate Nexus:
Shoot and a Miss: WSJ Op-Ed Attacks 97% Climate Consensus
The Heartland Institute’s Joseph Bast and serially corrected Dr. Roy Spencer have a new opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal attacking the 97% scientific consensus on man-made global warming. The bulk of their argument amounts to nitpicking over the meaning of words like “dangerous” and “catastrophic,” completely missing the point on what scientists are actually saying about climate change.
The evidence is solid: 97% of climate scientists agree that warming is real and human-caused. The scientists’ assessment of whether warming is dangerous or urgent is not covered in the 97% surveys, but the dangerous nature of warming is well-documented in other comprehensive sources.
97% of climate scientists agree that warming is real and human-caused. Multiple studies with differing methodologies have reached this conclusion, a few of which are named in the WSJ piece. The surveys do not attempt the task of gauging exactly how dangerous scientists believe warming to be. This would be difficult as it is a much more complicated question and not typically discussed in the abstract section of peer-reviewed papers.
While complaining about the omission of questions about the harmfulness of warming, Bast and Spencer prove just how universal the consensus is. They say that even scientists who are skeptical of “catastrophic” global warming would agree with the surveys’ statements. Scientists who actually dispute the human contribution to climate change are apparently a smaller group of outliers every day.
Bast and Spencer even reference the IPCC, implying that a “key question” remains: humans might have caused some warming, but just how much? Bast and Spencer may have missed it, but the IPCC actually answers that question. The scientists’ best estimate is that humans have caused ALL of the observed warming since 1951. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
Attempts to refute the consensus have been widely discredited. Bast and Spencer reference one thoroughly debunked “Petition Project” with 31,000 supposed signatures. The project contains numerous false signatories and its organizers have admitted “there’s no way of filtering out a fake.” The project is run by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which in the past has argued that nuclear weapon dangers have been exaggerated and that the Y2K bug would end the world. Its leader Art Robinson is skeptical of evolution, HIV-AIDS and believes that nuclear waste should be used to “enhance” Oregon’s drinking water.
Widespread consensus also exists that warming is harmful. The 97% surveys do not reference the harmfulness of warming, but plenty of other authoritative and comprehensive sources do. Bast and Spencer directly quote the IPCC as saying climate change “poses risks for human and natural systems.” Risks to human systems are not a good thing. Elsewhere the IPCC details impacts of human-caused climate change that are happening right now, including increased heat waves and extreme precipitation, which are not particularly positive developments either.
The National Climate Assessment further confirmed that climate change is here and now, and that its impacts “are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and beyond.” In their climate overview “What We Know,” the American Association for the Advancement of Science stated that climate change impacts will be “highly damaging.”
Bast and Spencer’s tactic of conceding the basic science but disputing its implications is increasingly popular, as evidenced by the rise of the “delayers.” But this just shows that climate contrarians are grasping at straws. They can try to obscure the consensus by nitpicking over details, but it won’t change the facts: climate change is real, human-caused and dangerous.
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Also see this excellent post by Dana Nucitelli in The Guardian: The Wall Street Journal denies the 97% scientific consensus on human-caused global warming
Earlier CSW posts:
Interview with Stephen Schneider on climate science expert credibility study (July 2010). Expert credibility matters.
Recent Climate Nexus guest posts: