Leading scientists say urgent action needed

I’m not one to usually trot out the latest “open letter” or what-have-you from some consortium of Very Important Scientists regarding climate change, but I think this one bears mentioning.

Issued today, the open letter from 20 U.S. climate scientists and experts calls for quick passage of the Waxman-Markey bill. The letter is postmarked from the Woods Hole Research Center which, contrary to appearance, has little to do with woods or holes. Rather, it is an oceanic and atmospheric research center.

My generic distaste for the open letters from “scientists and experts” stems from the fact that these are used so well by the climate change deniers. When John Q. Public takes a look at an ad in his local newspaper and sees a list of people with the all-important Ph.D’s and M.S.’s and Dr.’s strewn about, I think he can be forgiven for thinking that those apparently smart people know what they’re talking about.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The climate change deniers have a particular skill at getting degree-carrying folks to sign on to skeptical pronouncements of climate change, but often those degrees have nothing to do with climate, oceanic, or earth sciences. I’m not trying to say that there are no relevant core, alternative, or “fuzzy” sciences to the problem of climate change. But a degree in Political Science does not a climate scientist make.

So this letter from bona fide climate and atmospheric scientists is important to note. Here’s the reprint:

> **An Open Letter to the President and Members of Congress Strong Leadership Needed Now on Climate**

> Strong leadership by the United States will be required to move the nations of the world away from what scientists increasingly recognize as a rapidly developing global climatic catastrophe. That leadership requires the insight, energy and relentless attention of the President and no less vigorous interest from both houses of the U. S. Congress.

> The Waxman-Markey bill now being considered by the Congress offers a powerful advance and must be enacted this year. But at its best it will be only a first step in the direction that scientists now recognize as necessary to protect local and regional climates. Our purpose is to call attention to the large difference between what U.S. politics now seems capable of enacting and what scientists understand is necessary to prevent climatic disruption and protect the human future. We urge President Obama to exercise maximum personal leadership beginning now to ensure that the strongest possible legislation emerges from the Congress.

> New information arrives daily to confirm what many specialists have known for three decades: human-caused climatic disruption is serious, moving rapidly, and gaining momentum with every delay in correcting the trend. In 1992 more than 180 nations including the United States met in Rio de Janeiro, signed, and later ratified, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and in so doing agreed to “stabilize” the heat-trapping gases of the atmosphere at levels that will protect human interests and nature. We, the nations globally, have not been true to our word, and climate is moving out from under civilization rapidly. Major droughts on every continent are but one current symptom of the scale of the global environmental corruption now entrained.

> In many political circles around the world, the view has taken hold that nations should endeavor both to limit the buildup of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas and a by-product of burning coal, oil and natural gas, to 450 parts per million and to limit the rise of global temperatures to less than 2°Celsius. We and many others are of the view that these objectives are inadequate to sustain the integrity of global climate and to hold the risk of ruinous climatic change to an acceptably low level. United States policy must provide a fully satisfactory U.S. contribution to global greenhouse gas reductions that move beyond these inadequate international limits.

> It is essential that the Waxman-Markey bill, strengthened wherever possible and certainly not weakened, advance into law rapidly. It is also essential that it become the basis for a serious, continuing, and urgent effort on the part of the President to lead the American public into recognition of the scale of the climatic disruption so that the U.S. will embrace still stronger policies to do what we know from scientific investigation is necessary to prevent disastrous climatic alteration.

> As we write, we see the unfolding Presidential effort to lead the nation in the area of universal health insurance. We urge the President to initiate an effort at least comparable in the area of climatic change. We recognize the difference in popularity of these two causes, but it is the essence of Presidential leadership to show the way even where adequate public awareness of the risks ahead may be lacking. Speaking in Germany recently, President Obama referred to climatic change as “a potentially cataclysmic disaster.” We agree and believe that message must be communicated and elaborated to the American people in time to assure strong, effective Congressional action in both houses of Congress this year.

> The time for national action on climatic change is now. There has already been too much delay. The stakes are far too high to compromise the integrity of, and our responsibility for, prompt national action.

> Signed

> **Dean Abrahamson**, Professor Emeritus, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

> **Robert Costanza**, Gordon and Lulie Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and Director, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, The University of Vermont

> **Peter H. Gleick**, N.A.S; President, Pacific Institute, Oakland, California

> **Richard A. Houghton**, Senior Scientist, Acting Director, The Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

> **Ralph Keeling**, Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

> **Donald Kennedy**, President Emeritus and Bing Professor of Environmental Sciences, Emeritus, Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

> **Thomas Lovejoy**, Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Washington, D.C.

> **Michael MacCracken**, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute,
Washington, D.C.

> **Michael E. Mann**, Director, The Earth System Science Center, Professor of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

> **Michael McElroy**, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Science, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA

> **Steve Running**, Professor, Director , Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, Department of Ecosystem Science, Univ. of Montana, Missoula

> **William Schlesinger**, President and Director, The Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies, Millbrook, N.Y.

> **Stephen H. Schneider**, Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies; Professor, Department of Biology, Stanford University

> **Richard C. J. Somerville**, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

> **James Gustave Speth**, Dean, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, New Haven, Connecticut

> **Lonnie G. Thompson**, Distinguished University Professor, School of Earth Sciences; Senior Research Scientist, Byrd Polar Research Center. The Ohio State University, Columbus

> **Warren Washington**, Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

> **Richard S. Williams**, Senior Scientist Emeritus, USGS; Visiting Senior Scientist, The Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

> **Timothy E. Wirth**, President, The United Nations Foundation, Washington, D.C.; former US Senator from Colorado

> **George M. Woodwell**, Director Emeritus, Senior Scientist, The Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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  1. John Cake - June 24, 2009

    I can not agree more with the views of these scientists. We are rapidly reaching a tipping point in our oceans that will be catastrophic for humanity and most other living things on land and in the sea. A really good book that has much of the science needed for a layman like me to understand the magnitude of this problem is “Sea Sick” by Alanna Mitchell. It is written in plain language for all to understand yet tells it like it is. I urge everyone to read this book and then contact every politician possible to try to stimulate some very urgent action.
    Sincerely
    John Cake

  2. Mike Turn - June 28, 2009

    If we are truly at a point where climate change (when did the climate not change and when have we been at the ideal climate?)needs to be addressed or else, then why are the leaders who are “informing” us that the earth’s climate is moving into dangerous territory not cutting back on their emissions, taking mass transit or bicycling to work, living in smaller houses, etc. These are the things that environmentalists expect the masses to do yet, the leaders (i.e. Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Dr Hansen, etc.) do not do. President Obama states that the USA must be a leader in how we deal with foreign governments, but somehow he and the other Waxman-Markey supporters do not lead with their personal lives. Something fishy here.
    I’ll gladly cut back my carbon emmissions and pollution to 1990 (or the year of your choice levels) when government cuts their spending back to 1990 levels. They could certainly be the leader here, but they only want to lead us masses into a less “lavish” lifestyle, while they live high off the hog. The environmentalist leaders’ own lifestyle shows that they do not consider climate change serious, but rather an opportunity to tax Americans back to depression levels.

  3. John Cake - June 28, 2009

    Mike, have you ever known a politician to be a real leader , to be really out ahead on any serious problem that will not gain them any votes? I have never known of one. The fact that the politicians are not doing what will be necessary doesn’t mean that the problem doesn’t exist and that every person who understands what the scientists are trying to tell us should not do their very best to help the situation.
    We do tend to stick our collective heads in the sand and say I will do something when “they” do something because to change will cost money and seriously change our life style. However, I feel we need to listen to the scientists and do our best to start reversing our load on our environment as best we can.
    I am not optomistic that enough people will take this information seriously until the environment is already tipping over and is really beyond our ability to stop the catastophic changes that will follow.
    Yet I am personally starting to make changes to my life but I must admit they will be gradual and probably not as much as is really needed. Some changes are just too expensive for me at the moment, some changes I am not physically able to do, such as ride a bike to work.
    The catastrophy may not happen in my lifetime as I am 63 but it would seem to be very possible within my grandaughter’s expected lifetime. How can I not try to do as much as I can to help our environment stabilize when I look into her young face? I also must try to get the info out to as many people as possible as my little changes alone will not amount to a hill of beans on their own. You will have to make up your own mind. Will you wait until the big boys do their part or will you do your part on your own without the leadership of the politicians? If you and everone else waits then the catastrophic changes in our environment will happen sooner rather than later and depression level of life be dammed we will all be dead along with at least 90% of all living things on earth.

  4. Mike Turn - June 28, 2009

    Agreed, that politicians aren’t leaders in lifestyle, yet we look for political leadership which is the worst kind. In addition, scientists, Al Gore and other environmental leaders are those that can lead, yet they are flying the globe to conference after conference to discuss this climate change. The technology for teleconferencing is there, yet the fringe benefits of attending these conferences cannot be sent over phone lines.
    Also, as all politicians do, they are starting to allow exemptions from this tax for certain special interests. They also claim that at best any tax on energy consumption will at best lower temperatures less than 1 degree celsius by 2050, with no assurance that China and India will ever adopt such standards. Thus the US economy will suffer a large hit to accomplish a goal that both China and India (and other developing countries) can negate.
    Despite all that, when has our climate and environment been stable. Fighting climate change is fighting nature itself, as the history of our earth has always involved a changing climate. The questions are still out there – what is the ideal climate? Who determines it? When has the earth had a climate that was stabilized? When was that ideal climate reached? In addition, there is no scientific experimentation that can show what might happen if the earth , it’s all based on modeling (which is an inexact science at best). In addition, it is not science that has been driving the climate change debate, but the so-called scientific consensus. There is a debate whether all scientists are in consensus in the first place. But, be that as it may, consensus is not science, but it is politics. It is political science, not true science, that is driving this climate change (not global warming any more) debate. And as you stated, Mr Cake, that politicans are lousy leaders, why are we following poltical science dressed up as real science in this climate change debate?

  5. John Cake - June 28, 2009

    Mike, Have you read the book “Sea Sick”? It really is worth the read. I bought my copy from Amazon. It is not book of politics it is a book of real science. It is also a book that builds a scientific consensus.
    Yes there have been many changes in our climate in the past as is pointed out in detail in the book. The big catastrophic changes are written in the fossil record for both the climate of the time and the catastrophic effect it had on the living beings of the time. It is also now possible to understand what the changes in climate were that caused the extinctions.
    We can now measure the current changes in the world’s oceans that are leading up to our extinction if we do not head the warnings in time to change our ways enough to stop the acidification of the ocean’s.
    It is pointed out in the book that if the plankton can not form their shells because of the acidification of the oceans, they will not be able to reproduce, if they do not reproduce there will be no food for the larger creatures including fish. Also plankton produce at least 50% of the oxygen that you and I breath every day. When they dye so will all the high oxygen users on all the land masses of earth and that includes us.
    At the moment I could give a rat’s ass about what any individual high powered person is doing. I am going to make my changes as fast as I can and I am going to keep on trying to open other people’s eyes to what we collectively are doing to our world.
    Most people I have talked to express the opinion that the government will have to do something first, or they just do not want do even think about it at all, or they think it is just so much hot air they do not want to pay any attention. That is why I said before I do not hold out much hope but I am going to try.

  6. Gary Marcus - June 29, 2009

    The scare tactics of the politicians and their minions of elitist supporters always amaze me.
    Yes, there is climate change. The government’s prescription to solve it is the problem. The government wants to solve problems by creating more government.
    Air pollution is an example of a governmentally created problem that the government tried to deal with by creating the EPA. A farmer’s crops were burned down by ashes that came out of the smoke stack of a railroad engine. The government had given the land to build the railroad. The judge denied the farmer’s claim because he said it was in the best interest of the nation as a whole to have railroads.
    The government created the situation that lead to this trajedy. The government confiscated peoples’ money and then “gave the land to the railroads”. The government denied a man his property rights by siding with the special interest railroads.
    Their arguement was that it is in the best interest of the nation as a whole to have railroads. Our laws were based on English Common Law. The purpose of common law was to defend individual rights and make responsible parties accountable for their actions. The judge’s actions opened the floodgates to smoke stack industries. Companies that polluted were started because they could earn money and they thought that the government would not hold them responsible for any damages to individuals.
    The EPA was created supposedly to reduce and eliminate pollution. The EPA set pollution standards. These standards enabled the polluters opportunities to continue polluting at a constant rate. People were unable to win class action law suits for injury because of the EPA’S standards protected the companies from liability
    Climate changers are using the same scare tactics that was used in creating the EPA. Their purpose is the same. The politicians get their egos massaged and/or line their pockets with money and the special interest groups get unearned income at the taxpayer and consumers expense.
    The way to solve a problem is to get at the core of it. Just as wet streets don’t cause rain, neither will this cap and trade law solve the climate change issue.
    The government is the cause of the problem and not its solution. The solution for harm done is eliminate the compliance with standards defense and to give judgements in favor of a plaintiff(s) who can prove that they have been harmed.
    Some business’s cost of eliminating harmful pollutants will be borne by the consumer of those manufactured products. Some products will not be manufactured because the potential costs will be greater than their return on investment.
    Humans are part of the climate change concern. If we want to reduce and/or eliminate this concern,then start by reducing the negative impact of the government. The governments can not solve climate change. The alarmists want to regulate everyone and everything. This is rubbish.
    Man exists on this planet and he will always try to alter his environment. He wants food, water and shelter. Therefor he hunts, plants crops, builds houses and seeks out sources of fresh water. The control freaks or politicians want to divide people in order to conquer them. The real source of the problem is that some people want to use force to gain goals. When people adopt a non-coercive life-styls then these “so-called problems” will cease to exist.

  7. TerraPass - June 29, 2009

    As spring brings the rain, the passage of climate change legislation brings the craziest of trolls. Today we learn that air pollution is created by the government. And with that, gentle readers, the thread must close…

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