By Donald Rodbell
As Earth scientists, we were torn. The College Republicans and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) were hosting Lord Monckton, a globally recognized climate skeptic, on Mon., March 5, and we were not quite sure how to respond. Frankly, the sentiment vacillated between utter disgust and sheer anger. On one hand, it seemed ludicrous to give Monckton a second of time or thought. On the other, however, dismissing him and allowing his speech without rejection risked that he would have an impact, and a dangerous one at that.
And thus, the college environmentalists – including Environmental Club members, the leaders and members of U-Sustain, concerned citizens, and renowned Earth scientists with PhDs from prestigious research institutions – decided to oppose the presence of Lord Monckton on our campus. We collected en-masse before his presentation to make it unambiguously clear that we would not allow such erroneous discourse to go unnoticed.
Firstly, it must be made adamantly clear that we applaud and thank the College Republicans and CFACT for granting the campus the opportunity to discuss this issue. There is much to be debated with regards to global climate change, and a lot remains unknown. What is certain, however, is that the world is warming, climatic patterns are changing, and humans are a driving force.
Lord Monckton does not stand alone in his beliefs on this issue; however, 97 percent of scientists overwhelmingly oppose his viewpoint. He kept asserting that this debate must follow a rigorous, science-based approach, and that the consensus of experts is, by itself, an insufficient basis on which to decide the veracity of the evidence for significant human-induced global warming.
We could not agree more that the scientific method is critical to determining the rate of current warming, the extent to which this warming exceeds the natural variability of the climate system, and likely rates of warming for the remainder of the 21st century. However, without wading through the numerous inaccuracies and misstatements made by Lord Monckton, which would likely exceed the space allotted for this article and the interest level of the reader, we will point out that, in fact, Lord Monckton has no interest whatsoever in pursuing a truly scientific approach to examining the question of global climate change.
Most readers know that the fundamental building block of all science is peer-reviewed publications. It is through the peer-review process that details of the methodology, results and interpretations are scrutinized, and, at the very least, that these details are included in the final published work so that readers may fully understand, and, if necessary, repeat the procedure. Peer reviewed publications are the building blocks of all the pillars of scientific knowledge, and, to be sure, these publications also occasionally require the wholesale modification or replacement of such pillars in order to accommodate new evidence presented in peer reviewed publications. The peer review process is, of course, not infallible and occasionally bad science does get published and good science is rejected, but by and large the systems works well at providing the criticial “checks” that Lord Monckton states are so important.
Lord Monckton has combed through the published literature, including the latest (2007) IPCC report, and carefully cherry picked data sets or sections of data sets that suit his thesis that global warming is not a significant problem, and that we should not therefore spend significant resources in combating it. Regardless of his thesis, what is fundamentally nonscientific about his approach is his unwillingness to publish his own analysis of the global warming. It is impossible to scrutinize his methods, calculations, and conclusions without a complete and detailed peer-reviewed publication that presents the important details. Given the rather substantial errors that were pointed out to him, any reasonable person should have serious doubts about the soundness of his conclusions.
Serious scientific debate cannot be carried out in the blogosphere, nor in highly charged and politically motivated presentations either by Lord Monckton or by Al Gore. The fact of the matter is that science has spoken, the overwhelming bulk of the evidence has shown very, very clearly that global warming is occurring and is at least mostly caused by humans. While scientific consensus can be wrong, it most often is not.