Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A challenge to the Gazette on climate change

The Cedar Rapids Gazette, whose coverage of many issues (including the economy and health care) has been responsible, is creating a misleading impression of the state of debate on climate change. For years the predominant view among climate scientists is that human pollution is accumulating in the atmosphere, and that this accumulation has begun to affect the climate of the Earth. If unchecked, these changes will lead to irreversible damage to the ability of the Earth to support life as we know it. (This is popularly known as "climate change," or by an earlier and less accurate monicker, "global warming." 97 percent of climate scientists endorsed this view in this NASA survey).

The only scientific voices on this subject that I've seen in the Gazette, however, represent the small minority of skeptics. Last Sunday, the International Climate Science Coalition presented its third op-ed column since June by my (non-systematic) count, arguing that "the idea that we can cause [extreme weather events] and can prevent them from occurring is science fiction." Opposite them was a column by a North Liberty woman who has participated in the Great March for Climate Action and is a member of the Iowa City-based 1000Grannies.org. Her commitment to this cause is undeniable and admirable, and I find little to object to in her column.

I object to the impression created by the Gazette that hard-headed science is skeptical about human impacts on the climate, while environmental activists are pushing the view that we humans are playing a dangerous game. Seriously... scientists vs. grannies? This is not even close to being accurate.

So, my challenge to the Gazette: In your circulation area exist a nationally-known Research I university, another state university of considerable size, and at least three private colleges with highly-reputed science departments. The Gazette circulation area is, quite obviously, hip-deep in scientific experts. If there's a debate on climate science, we shouldn't have to go to Toronto to find one side of it. We ought to be able to find it here. Ask the scientists, and report what they say. Tell it like it is.


  1. "Pollution" may be a little too strong of word. What is happening is we are putting more carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane into the atmosphere than the Earth's natural removal system can remove. As an example, we remove locked up carbon from under the Earth's surface (oil, gas, coal) and release it into the atmosphere. We depend on the trees and soils and oceans to suck up the CO2 and lock up the C (carbon, i.e. wood) and release the O (oxygen). We accentuate the problem when we mine trainload after trainload of coal out of Montana and then truck-train-boat-train-truck the material to China so they can burn it in power plants with no pollution controls (i.e. carbon scrubbers) and then send the products back to us by truck-train-boat-train-truck so we can buy cheap goods at the Dollar Store. The Earth's natural resources cannot remove the C fast enough and it remains in the atmosphere increasing the density of our atmosphere basically increasing the thickness of our shell on our little terrarium floating around in space we call planet Earth. The heat gets trapped and the whole system gets out of balance. Droughts, floods, gigantic tornadoes, hurricanes are just Earth's way of trying to clean herself. So, if we are going to argue the subject, shouldn't we really be talking about the excess of materials we are sending up into the atmosphere that the Earth cannot keep up with removing. How can you even debate that "scientific" fact?! Now, don't even get me started on methane... Cows, deforestation, Americans' meat-eating habit, GMO corn... Ouch!!!

  2. Thanks for the clarification, Bill. I was looking for a verbal shortcut... "pollution" may not be it.

    Bruce N.

  3. "We ought to be able to find it here. Ask the scientists, and report what they say. Tell it like it is." Novel idea! I would like to see that, too.


Summer Reading from Island Press

  When Island Press has a sale, I'm interested, especially if they're $5 each, and even though they're e-books. Founded in 1984...