Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 25, 2012

Forum: Planet Death is not acceptable

By Robert E. Marshall
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---- — As time goes on, particularly after our recent long, hot summer, our disastrous winter storm in March, multiple forest fires, high tides and Hurricane Sandy, more and more people have begun to believe that global warming is real and is a serious problem. Our current warming is about 1 degree C. Recent polls indicate that the percentage of people who now consider this to be true runs about 75 percent, after a long period of declining belief.

The period of decline seems to be due to well-funded contrarian reports in the news and various media presentations. The most flagrant and effective of these reports was made in publication of a survey purporting to show that some 30,000 scientists consider global warming a hoax. This has been given credence by various opponents of established climate science. The study first emerged in April 1998 and was organized by Art Robinson of the self-proclaimed "Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine."

The survey has been reviewed and analyzed by Kevin Grandia in the Huffington Post with collaboration of a number of climate scientists. He says that "To say that the oft-touted "30,000 Global Warming Petition" project stinks would be the understatement of the year ... The Petition Project website offers a breakdown of the areas of expertise of those who have signed the petition. Of these signers 0.1 percent have a background in climatology." That's about 30. Not 30,000. Of these 30, none show any publication in a peer-reviewed journal of climate science.

The petition statement was so misleading that our National Academy of Sciences issued a news release stating: "The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists and to rally them in an attempt to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science."

That humans are causing global warming is the position of the Academies of Science from 19 countries plus 27 scientific organizations that study climate science. More specifically, around 95 percent of active climate researchers actively publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position.

Scientists need to back up their opinions with research and data that survive the peer-review process. A survey of all peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject "global climate change" published between 1993 and 2003 shows that not a single paper rejected the consensus position that global warming is man-caused (Oreskes 2004). Seventy-five percent of the papers agreed with the consensus position while 25 percent made no comment either way.

Our alternative is to replace the use carbon-based gas, oil and coal with fuels which do not add CO2 to our already warming atmosphere. This will be costly. But it is already costly. Hurricane Sandy's costs are estimated at 50 billion.

But is it more costly than destroying our planet? Can we afford this alternative?

This is the trade-off we now face.

Planet death is not acceptable.

About the author: Robert Marshall is a retired research engineer formerly with the University of Michigan Remote Sensing Laboratories and longtime member of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council. He is a collaborator in the energy programs of the League of Women Voters, and the Grand Vision energy project.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.