The Watering Hole, Monday, May 19th, 2014: Deniers vs Debunkers

In a recent thread on ThinkProgress, State Representative Mark McCollough of Oklahoma, one of eleven members of the Oklahoma House Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee, used the typical climate-change denialist’s talking points to support his vote against new standards for Oklahoma’s science education. From TP [bold emphasis mine]:

On Monday, the Oklahoma House Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee voted 10-1 to reject the Oklahoma Academic Skills for Science, a set of academic standards that had been developed by a committee of teachers, community members, as well as business and industry representatives over the last year and a half.

“One of the things brought up in the House Committee meeting was concern over teaching climate and weather subjects in early grades.

Oklahoma Rep. Mark McCullough expressed his concern over the sections in the standards that deal with climate science, sections he said make references to “human impacts on the climate” in third, fourth, and fifth grades. He also said he thought references to human activity related to the environment focused on negative aspects of human involvement, such as the over-spraying of pesticides, and said “positive” examples of humans intervening in the environment to produce a change, such as flood control, weren’t as common, a focus that could end up leading to an “agenda-driven curriculum” that teaches students that “people are the problem.”

“There’s been a lot of criticisms, in some sectors, as to maybe some of the hyperbole — what some consider hyperbole relative to climate change. I know it’s a very very difficult, very controversial subject,” he said, going on to ask, “do you believe that those sections specifically relating to weather and climate particularly at the earlier ages…could potentially be utilized to implicate into some pretty young impressionable minds, a fairly-one sided view as to that controversial subject, a subject that’s very much in dispute among even the academics?”

The Oklahoma Science Teachers Association (along with just about anyone with half a brain) disagree. The OSTA’s blog reports that, “[A]ccording to teachers who were present at the hearing”, one of the two “dominant concerns expressed by members” was:

“Weather and Climate being placed in early grade levels – It appeared to observers that committee members believe standards that reference climate at all might be utilized to direct students to being forced to subscribe to climate change theory. ([Blog Archivist]: Isn’t it ironic that a state so dependent on weather and climate might be lead by elected officials who are afraid that science teachers might broach the topic in 3rd or 4th grade?)”

Okay, climate-change deniers, enough is enough. Let’s start the debunking.

May 16th’s Bill Moyers show featured Canadian scientist and environmental activist David Suzuki discussing the topic of “The War on Climate Change Scientists.” It’s a fascinating – and frightening – interview, which can be seen (here. (The transcript of the interview is available via the link just below the video.) The Moyers & Company website then provided Eight Pseudoscientific Climate Claims Debunked by Real Scientists,” by Joshua Holland. Here’s just a couple of excerpts:

Under “No, the Earth Hasn’t Stopped Warming Since 1998 (or 1996 or 1997)”:

“But the idea that the climate stopped warming at some point goes back even further. In the 1990s, two climatologists, Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen, published a series of papers hypothesizing that global warming had stopped. Spencer and Lindzen are among the few climate contrarians with real scientific credentials, and have been widely cited by climate skeptics; Spencer has testified at a number of Republican congressional hearings on climate science.

Spencer also dismisses the theory of evolution, and has written: “I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.”

“But according to John Abraham, a professor of thermal and fluid sciences at the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering, “It turns out that they made three serious errors in their data…It took years, and it took a lot of time from other scientists to find these errors in their calculations. In fact, they switched a positive sign for a negative sign in one of their equations.”

Under “Yes, There Is a Scientific Consensus”:

“There have been three studies, using different methodologies, that have shown that almost all working climate scientists — 97 percent — accept the consensus view.

“But what if those three percent who reportedly reject the consensus are like Galileo, who challenged the 16th century view that the sun revolved around the Earth? John Abraham and five of his colleagues published a study earlier this year which found that studies authored by climate contrarians “were often found to be unsubstantiated by the data,” resulting in “criticisms, corrections, and in some cases, resignation of editors.” They add: “the same fate has not befallen the prominent consensus studies.”

Under “Yes, It’s Been Warm Before”:

“Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech, says…“Just because something happened before for one reason, doesn’t mean that when it happens again it’s for the same reason.”

““Our planet is running a fever,” says Hayhoe, “and I can think of six or seven reasons why it could be running hot. As a scientist, you don’t just jump to conclusions. You do the tests. You say, ‘OK, could it be a natural cycle this time? Could it be the sun? Could it be volcanoes? Could it be orbital cycles and ice ages?’ We run those tests and we see if it could be any of those things that caused the climate to change naturally in the past. And in this case, we’ve run those tests and the answer to all those questions is, ‘no.’ In fact, if our temperature were controlled by natural causes right now, we’d be getting cooler, not warmer.”

Let me finish with one of the most influential people in environmentalism’s history, the ‘mother’ of environmentalism, Rachel Carson. The Moyers & Company site has an article honoring “The Bravery of Rachel Carson”, which reminded me of Carson’s influence on my mindset. In high school (early ’70s), we were treated – if that is the right word – to a viewing of the documentary “Silent Spring”, an account of Rachel Carson’s research and writing of the book.

“The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world — the very nature of its life. — Rachel Carson

I remember the tears in my eyes watching the documentary, tears of sympathy for the land, the animals, the environment being spoiled by pesticides. And here I am, 40+ years later, seeing a similar disaster-in-the-making, with Monsanto running/ruining crops, with GMOs with who-knows-what effects yet on humans, and with climate-change deniers trying to blind people to the fact that our planet is already suffering the consequences of man-made global climate change. And I still weep.

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