Gang bang: Tribune letter writers condemn my global warming column

The condemnation in the Tribune's Voice of the People was unanimous. Not a single letter of support.

My column (Global warming alarmists piss on science) was "surly and ungracious." It was "shoddy logic and loaded language." ...ax-grinding, spleen-venting...." "embarrassing and recklesss."

None, however, address the central point of the column. It challenges as unscientific the assertion that "the "time for debate is over" because "all the evidence is in." It disputes the certitude  that mankind's carbon dioxide emissions are the cause of global warming. Yes, the evidence is weighted to one side. Yes, the scientists who dispute the certitude are in the minority. But the science supporting the manmade hypothesis is piecemeal and speculative--a little here and a little there. The unifying theory rests many individual, narrow studies that leaves important missing pieces, such as cloud formation. If you don't understand cloud formation, you don't understand the mechanism that leads to climate change.

My column called for a greater respect for science, not because I "deny" global warming (As the column said, I don't). Before we pursue public policies that could be quite destructive, we need to fill in the gaps in the grand hypothesis that posits that mankind is causing the global to warm to catastrophic proportions.

Until then, much of the response to my scientific doubts is expressed with  the same certitude that condemned Galileo's challenge to the popular notion that the solar system centered on Earth. True belief is a matter of faith, not science.

Comments

Leave a comment
  • fb_avatar

    No, Dennis - I think they're complaining about your critical thinking skills. Your column in no way challenged the support for the theory that humans are the cause of the recent warming trend (roughly .17C per decade for the last 30 years -- Foster & Rahmstorf (2011)). You said a lot of stuff, but you didn't give evidence. Is CO2 not a "greenhouse" gas? Has the Earth not been in general carbon equilibrium for the past 10k years, right around 270ppm, until about 1870? Are we not now at 395ppm? Even if the Earth was in a long-term cooling trend, Dennis, there would be little challenge to the ideas that CO2 is not a positive forcing and that humans are responsible for the recent and unprecedented rate of increase in CO2. We'd just be looking for a greater negative forcing. Of course, we're not in a long-term cooling trend, are we? Solar has slumped for forty years, and temp has risen.

    At some point, people have to question your integrity. I won't, because I, like a fool, like to give people the benefit of the doubt -- that when they are faced with overwhelming evidence, they'll eventually modify their beliefs. It has yet to become a high-probability proposition that your beliefs and integrity have been compromised by your position within the economy. I won't say there's no evidence, though. You've read Michael Fumento and Jonathan Adler on AGW, yes? If your integrity is for sale, I wonder who has bought it. I don't wonder very hard, though.

    Oh, and you're not a modern-day Galileo. That is a juvenile and pathetic position to take.

  • fb_avatar

    Oh, you know I forgot to say something about clouds. AR4 does indeed express uncertainty about cloud feedbacks. There has been research on the subject since. Dessler (2010) finds cloud albedo feedback is probably trending positive (adding energy) but there is a negative feedback possible. The key finding of Dessler is that either way the effect is not likely to be significant. And why would it be? The paleoclimate record would be quite different if clouds were a strong negative feedback -- strong enough to significantly counter any kind of global warming (solar, orbital, or human).

  • If you believe that one paper by Andrew Dessler settles the question, then it is hardly worth carrying on a conversation with you. Because you have not closely examined the literature or you have chosen to ignore technical disagreement:

    http://climateaudit.org/2011/09/06/the-stone-in-trenberths-shoe/

    http://www.c3headlines.com/2011/09/spencer-cloud-research-uses-ipcc-gold-standard-hadcrut-data-but-new-dessler-study-avoids-gold-standa.html

    Again,the obstinate insistence that manmade CO2 is certain to lead to catastrophic global warming is as ignorant as the obstinate insistence that manmade CO2 has no impact on the climate. I'm not for either extreme position.

  • Dennis, I missed your original column. But a couple of points, as I too believe global warming is taking place, but am also bothered by the fact that no one dare question the data or the conclusions:

    1. The Trib likes to print VOP letters that support their bias. They'll bury opposing opinions.

    2. My college-student daughter will be taking a class called "Global Warming" next semester to fulfill a physical science req. NOT "Climate Change," but "Global Warming..." sounds like there's probably a little political investment there. It's no surprise, though, as the South Side university in question is noted for its extreme liberal agenda...that, and having employed the current POTUS as an adjunct. I'll be interested to see what text is assigned.

    3. OK, not to open a can of worms, and maybe I misunderstood your reference, but the Galileo issue is one of my pet peeves. Galileo got into hot water because he insisted on calling his theory FACT, not theory. Moreover, strictly speaking, he was wrong: he said the sun was the center of the universe, which of course is an overstatement. A lot of G's contemporaries, including religious, embraced heliocentrism but felt it needed more evidence. Don't forget that Copernicus was a heliocentrist AND a priest, and he pre-dated Galileo. The problem was with Galileo, not his idea.

    If the Church had to weigh in on the global warming controversy in exactly the same spirit as it responsed to Galileo, the Church would also say it's too early to shut down continuing study on human-generated global warming and that it is still no more than a theory....one that makes sense on many levels, but may have to be revised (or replaced) if scientific inquiry and the data lead elsewhere.

    Anyway, Dennis, thank you for having the courage to challenge your readers to think beyond sound-bites and popular opinion.

  • In reply to icefalcon58:

    Thanks, Icefalcon. You make some very interesting and informative points. I hope your post gets widely read.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    First, a point about the Galileo comparison,

    Galileo was supported by the mainstream scientific community, when they were not cowed by threats, and opposed by non-scientific interests who supported the status quo.

  • In reply to unicyclegeek:

    I believe that you are rigging the game by insisting on certainty before we take any political action. Most political actions are undertaken based on imperfect information. There are risks to foregoing actions to reduce warming. As a former Peace Corps volunteer in the South Pacific, I am very sympathetic to islanders who are concerned about rising sea levels, to give one example. I do acknowledge that there are also costs to taking action when they would be ineffective.

    Personally, I do not advocate action to completely halt global warming, but I would like to see it slowed.

    One of the letter writers pointed out that we took action to invade Iraq based on imperfect information that turned out to be very flawed. There were many important voices who expressed this concern at the time, though some conservatives like to pretend that there were not. I would argue that the evidence for anthropogenic global warming is much stronger than the evidence at the time for the main justification of the Iraq invasion.

  • In reply to unicyclegeek:

    This is an edited re-post of a comment I made on a previous string. My theme, again, is that waiting for scientific certainty is the wrong basis for action--instead we should focus on the best available theories.

    All scenarios about the future climate are predictions. We need to figure out which is the best rather than just throw up our hands and say "it's too difficult", because the consequences of mistaken judgements are severe.

    All predictions are not equally valid. And there aren't just two, or three--there's a continuum. None of us would argue that we should give equal consideration to the hypotheses that the temperature is going to increase two degrees per year over the next forty years, or that it is going to decrease three degrees per year over the next decade. It would be foolish to spend money preparing for the probability that the earth is going to cool down significantly as if it was an equally serious hypothesis.

    The theory that climate change is anthropogenic and will continue over the next few decades is the strongest available theory. Unlike your contention that deniers are not taken seriously, scientists have investigated alternative hypotheses such as the sunspot theory and have found them to be much weaker.

Leave a comment

  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Advertisement:
  • Subscribe to The Barbershop

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

  • Dennis Byrne’s Facebook Fan Page

  • Like me on Facebook

  • google-site-verification: googlefdc32e3d5108044f.html
  • Meet The Blogger

    Dennis Byrne

    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

  • Our National Debt

  • Twitter

  • Categories

  • Tags

  • Recent Comments

  • Monthly Archives

  • /Users/dennisby/Desktop/trailer.mp4
  • Latest on ChicagoNow

  • Advertisement:
  • Fresh Chicago News