Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Scientific Consensus on Global Climate Change?

          Imagine this: Over the period of several weeks you notice a small lump growing under your skin on your neck area. You are uncertain what it is or what it could mean but you know enough to know that it could be a dangerous cancerous lump. What do you do? Should you Google it? Should you ask your friends? Should you ask respected scholars? Should you go see a medical doctor? Or should you just ignore it and hope that it goes away?

          To most outsiders the answer seems very obvious – go see a doctor; He will know best what it could be and what to do about it. However, for those in similar situations, history has shown that each of the above answered have frequently been employed in such life or death choices, sometimes with fatal consequences. Does the doctor know for sure the answer? Rarely, if ever. Does he guarantee his solution will work? No. Does he guarantee it is even the best solution? No. But who better is there to answer those questions than a medical doctor? Surely not your friends or family, not one with a Doctorate of Philosophy in Music Theory, not those who yell loudest, but those who have the most training on the subject. We can apply this hypothetical situation to the current dispute over  anthropogenic climate change, commonly known as global climate change or global warming.

          There is very little debate among informed individuals of whether the earth has been getting warmer, all one must do to observe this is to look at the direct temperature reading that have been taken over the years.  I would assume that our thermometers wouldn't lie to us.   I also believe that most would concede that the potential extreme consequences that are proposed by some would have devastating effects on the earth and it's inhabitants. More in the limelight of the climate change debate is whether or not humans are causing this warming, whether the climate is changing a significant amount, and whether we can stop it. We figuratively have a large lump on our neck - there are vast evidences of climate change in the world today. The real question is: what are we going to do about it? Where can we go to get the best answers? Who are the doctors in this situation? Who are the experts?

          The experts, or doctors, in global climate change are those who are actively studying and publishing in peer-reviewed journals on the issue of global climate change. They are the climatologists , those who are trained and publish within the issues of the climate. Although everyone’s opinion does count if we want the best results and the best answers we must go to those who know the most about the issues. Further, just because someone has a doctorate does not qualify him to speak on the issue with authority. Once again, you would not go to one with a doctorate of philosophy in music to diagnose your potentially cancerous lump.

          So what do the experts in climate change say? In this article I will discuss three of the major measurements of this question:
  1. What is the opinion of individual experts? 
  2. What do the peer-reviewed research papers say on the matter? 
  3. What do prevalent and relevant societies have to say about the matter?  
          I will only examine singular instances and studies.

          In a 2009 poll by Peter Doran and Maggie Zimmerman, in which 3,146 earth scientists responded 75 out of the 77 (97.4%) published climatologists believed humans were a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures. The study’s results also show a general positive correlation between education and a belief in  anthropogenic climate change.

          Naomi Oreskes performed a study on 928 peer-reviewed abstracts between 1993 and 2003 that had the key-word “global climate change” in which she reviewed the abstracts view on the legitimacy of anthropogenic climate change. She found that 20% explicitly endorsed  anthropogenic climate change, 55% implicitly endorsed it, while the remaining 25% did not take a stance on validity. Tellingly, there were no abstracts that explicitly rejected anthropogenic climate change.

          Julie Brigham-Grett stated in 2006, "...the AAPG [American Association of Petroleum Geologists] stands alone among scientific societies in its denial of human-induced effects on global warming." However, since 2006 that organization, AAPG, has changed its statement which, according to Bigham-Grett, means that no scientific body of national or international standing rejects the findings of human-induced effects on climate change.

          My conclusion in review of this and other such studies have lead me to believe that there is no significant debate among relevant practicing scientists about the validity of anthropogenic climate change. While there are people who are very intelligent, knowledgeable, and accredited who oppose anthropogenic climate change, there are also examples of intelligent, knowledgeable, and accredited people who dispute almost every scientific theory in any subject including gravity,micro and macro evolution, and the big bang.

          Will there ever be a complete consensus on global climate change? Probably not. Will the experts always have the best answer? Maybe not. But who would better know what to do than those who have dedicated their lives to this cause? I am content to believe the vast majority of leading scientists on the topics in the field. I am not a scientist, I do not know the majority of science behind global climate change, nor do I really feel a need to learn them to be confident in my choice. Climatology is not my field of expertise. My personal overarching questions are “who would know best?” and “who will I trust with my children’s lives?” With democracy widespread in most all progressive countries we have a personal moral responsibility and stewardship over this earth; our voices count. We need to listen to what the experts are warning us about and move forward with the best scientific knowledge that they have to offer.
Carbon Dioxide(CO2) Emissions by Country per Capita

Works Cited 

Brigham-Grette,  J., Anderson, S., Clague, J., Cole, J., Doran, P., Gillespie, A., ... Styles, B. (2006). Petroleum geologists' award to novelist crichton Is inappropriate. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union 87. p. 36. 

Doran, P., & Zimmerman, M. K. (2009). Examining the scientific consensus on climate change.           Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union 90.3 : p. 22.

Census Bureau (2011) International programs. Census Bureau Home Page. U.S. 

Oreskes, N. (2004) Beyond the ivory tower: The scientific consensus on climate change. Science 306.5702.

Polling Report, Company (2011).

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