Recent columns of mine have considered the evidence for anthropogenic climate change. Though overwhelming, this evidence is doubted by a significant number of Americans, the result of a diabolically clever, well-funded marketing campaign.
On one side is the scientific community; on the other is the entire Republican Party, some Democratic lickspittles from fossil fuel states, and corporate interests that include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Big Coal and Big Oil. Distilled to its most basic elements, this is a case of truth being double-teamed by money and ideology.
So impressive is the ability of marketers of climate denial to defile the truth that the planet is heating, if they so desired these spin doctors could make Americans believe the Twin Towers still stand. And the press has abetted this mockery of reality by giving significant attention to deniers' falsehoods in the interest of "balanced" reporting.
For those of you who still prefer facts, here is a summary of the evidence for climate change, all of which has withstood the rigors of scientific peer review, a layer of validation with exponentially more credibility than the deniers' claims, which simply carry the endorsement "Approved by Fox News or Exxon."
The Greenhouse Effect is a well-established and understood scientific principle.
The sources of carbon dioxide (burning of fossil fuels, deforestation) are undisputed.
Solar and volcanic contributions to the recent warming are minor.
Climate models are unequivocal in demonstrating that human input of carbon dioxide is the most significant driver of climate change.
And finally, alternative explanations that withstand the test of scientific rigor are lacking.
Models, the most misunderstood aspect of the anthropogenic climate change argument, are computer-analyzed mathematical representations used to project future scenarios based on current and past data and ongoing trends. Governments use models to estimate tax revenues or demographic trends. Scientists use models based on well-understood laws of physics to explain the workings of natural systems, for example, to predict the height of tides, which they do with high accuracy.
How do scientists test climate models? They look to the past, plug in the data, and test whether the model reflected reality, say the mid-Holocene heating of 6,000 years ago I referred to in my last column. Models are also tested on recent climatic events to assess if they can reproduce observations.
These climate change models have withstood the rigors of these tests and are credible pieces of the fabric of evidence supporting global warming. They are not, however, without gaps. Thus, while models of global temperature trends have been spot on, global precipitation patterns, or the importance of water vapor feedback, require further refinement.
Those denying that humans have changed the climate are simply wrong. Their "facts" are irrelevant or fabricated. They reprehensibly rely on the power of money to make their case. They heinously seek to intimidate and discredit scientists.
Why am I so passionate about this issue? First, as a scientist I am offended when my profession is wrongly discredited and the good work done by my colleagues, dedicated servants of truth all, is attacked and misrepresented. Second, climate change denial equals human misery and suffering, on a scale unparalleled in the experience of our species. We have nothing to gain and everything to lose if we continue to behave as lapdogs to the fossil fuel industry and their climate-denying sycophants.
Abel is a local college professor, environmentalist and author.