Climate Change Cross Currents

An update on the good, the bad and the ugly in the fight against Climate Change

Climate change is a hot topic around any dinner table. Anyone who follows current events in science knows these three key facts about global warming:

1. It’s happening.
2. We’re causing it.
3. It’s an emergency..

You may hear dissenting voices on these three truths but those voices come from the lunatic fringe. Readers will know about the 97% consensus among climate scientists on these three basics. Four major studies, all using different methodologies reached he same conclusion. Climate deniers have tried to challenge the 97% consensus for one reason. They know that for the public, this statistic is compellng evidence for anthropogenic climate change. That’s becaue it’s true.

We hear from all the usual suspects that the 97% figure is invalid. John Cook has been the most popular target. The journal Environmental Research Letters published a study Cook led on the expert consensus. He was the first to quantify the 97% statistic.

The climate denial crowd trotted out their usual pseudoscience, which Cook and his peers thoroughly debunked. Even if Cook’s paper had been flawed (it wasn’t), as mentioned, four independent studies reached the same conclusion.

Then, there was an interesting plot twist. You can probably guess what happened. Researchers asked, “what about that 3%?” A study led by Dr. Rasums E Benestad (and contributed to by John Cook among others) followed the scientific method of trying to replicate and verify the findings in those studies in the 3%. They found methodological flaws, common mistakes, ideas taken out of context and data being ignored if it didn’t fit the pet theory.

This means that the consensus is even stronger than researchers thought. When we allow for the flaws in the 3% studies, we can toss them all aside and declare that the consensus is 100%. The science is settled.

What is frustrating is that the politics is not. Expert consensus has never been clearer. Even so, the Guardian reports that the Trump administration is taking still further steps to undermine climate science.

The administration has told government agencies that they can no longer create or publish “worse case scenarios” on climate change. Trump also won’t let agencies make climate projections beyond the year 2040. That happens to be the year when climate projections start looking catastrophic.

The Washington Post has uncovered even more disturbing news. Trump is planning to set up something called the Presidential Committee on Climate Security. I know that sounds like a good thing. Wait until you find out who will lead this panel.

His name is William Happer. He has denied that humans cause climate change. He has claimed that the world needs more carbon dioxide, not less. The fossil fuel industry pays him to tell these lies. The best argument he has been able to manage about the 97% consensus is ““97% of scientists have often been wrong on many things.” No, they have not, and now it’s 100%.

Remember, this man is Trump’s choice to lead something called “The Presidential Committee on Climate Security”. He is not merely unqualified. He is hostile to the committee’s purpose. Of course, so are the committee’s terms of reference. The Washington Post has obtained the proposal for the panel. It says current studies “have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security.” That’s a lie.

We can always hope. One of the great strengths of American government is that power is never centralized. Institutions have checks and balances everywhere you look. This means that people have all kinds of ways to work around both the president and Congress. For example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and Governor Jerry Brown of California have formed a nationwide coalition to do the president’s job for him.

America’s Pledge is an alliance of non-national actors who are working to “drive down their greenhouse gas emissions, consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” America’s Pledge studies non-national climate action, publishes the results and drives further action. Zig Ziglar once said, “when obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”

Speaking of the Paris Agreement, that’s not a lost cause either. The accord includes a withdrawal period should a country decide to rescind it. In Trump’s case, that period ends on January 21, 2021, which is the day after Inauguraion Day in the US.

A recent Quinnipiac Poll found that 54% of Americans “definitely won’t vote for Donald Trump” in 2020. It looks like the inauguration won’t be for Trump. Out of all the countries in the world, one pariah rejects the Paris Agreement. That outcast is the United States. Any new president will want to bring the US back in line with international norms.

As I’m writing this, we are all getting mixed signals on US climate policy. Even though the science has been settled for decades, partisan politics is still a roadblock. Trump makes things worse.

Even so, the tide has turned. Movements like America’s Pledge show that where there’s a will there’s a way. Sanity will prevail.