Much Ado About Climate Change: What’s Real and What isn’t?


FactCheck.org has a great summery of the misinformation spouted by both Sarah Palin, and by Al Gore which highlights the level of the debate in the country – rarely as much about science as it is about hype and fear. 

We find that both engaged in some distortions and have been rightly called out by experts in the field.

  • Gore said that 40 percent of the polar ice cap is already gone. That’s an outdated figure — it has recovered in the last two years, and is now about 24 percent smaller than the 1979-2000 average.
  • Gore’s claim that all Arctic ice would “go completely” over the next decade is greatly exaggerated. The scientist he is citing was actually talking about nearly ice-free conditions, and only in the summer months.
  • Gore and Palin both left out information when discussing the economic impact of climate legislation. Gore dodged a question about job losses, and Palin ignored the potentially severe effects of doing nothing.
  • Palin misrepresented the contents of the leaked e-mails from the Climate Research Unit, saying that they show “fraudulent scientific practices.” That’s not the case.

But don’t be fooled into believing that just because there are bogus facts in the air, that climate change isn’t a concern.  In response to the recent uprising over hacked emails of a few climate scientists, FactCheck.org wrote:

Some critics claim that the e-mails invalidate the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world scientific body that reaffirmed in a 2007 report that the earth is warming, sea levels are rising and that human activity is “very likely” the cause of “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century.” But the IPCC’s 2007 report, its most recent synthesis of scientific findings from around the globe, incorporates data from three working groups, each of which made use of data from a huge number of sources — of which CRU was only one. The synthesis report notes key disagreements and uncertainties but makes the “robust” conclusion that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” (A robust finding is defined as “one that holds under a variety of approaches, methods, models and assumptions, and is expected to be relatively unaffected by uncertainties.”)

Bottom line: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  There are problems in the presentation of climate data to the public, and there are some problems among scientists themselves.  But, the power of science lies in its decentralization.  For every bad apple, there are thousands of good ones doing good work.  It is the synthesis of the work of these good apples that matters. 

Climate change is here to stay … unfortunately.

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