Letter: The same tired, fact-challenged arguments
Ted Williams states that he and I disagree on global warming (“Alarmists’ logic doesn’t stand up,” March 20 Readers Write). While that may be true, my main objection to Mr. Williams’ letters on the subject is his use of what I called “the same tired, factually-incorrect arguments” and his most recent letter is no exception.
Let me begin by responding to his dismissal of NOAA’s credibility due to its “issuing frantic warnings about the imminent ice age” in the 1970s. A recent survey of the climate literature of the late 1960s through the 1970s (Peterson, et al., Bulletin of the American Metrological Society, September 2008) indicates that 44 papers predicted future warming, 20 were neutral and seven predicted future cooling. There were individual scientists at NOAA who participated in this research, but NOAA did not “issue frantic warnings.” Rather, it was charged by President Nixon to study the issue. Even then, climate science was primarily concerned with future warming, and only the press sensationalized the prospects of an imminent ice age.
I have no way of knowing what planet’s climate science literature Mr. Williams follows, but the Earth’s literature is rife with papers dealing with what he calls the “half dozen pre-industrial age warming and cooling cycles.” I call attention to the PAGES (Past Global Changes) collaborative (http://www.pages-igbp.org) which researches Earth’s past environment in order to make predictions for the future. One of its recent papers states “There were no globally synchronous multi-decadal warm or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age, but all reconstructions show generally cold conditions between AD 1580 and 1880, punctuated in some regions by warm decades during the eighteenth century.” (Nature Geoscience 6, 339-346, June 2013). In fact, data found at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/medieval.html clearly shows the Medieval Warm Period to be cooler than today’s temperatures.
He also attempts to make the point that climate scientists posit “today’s temperature as ideal.” Climate variation is well recognized by all climate scientists, and I know of none who argue that today’s climate is perfect. This issue is really about the threat of destabilizing our current geologic epoch, the Holocene, that began at the end of the last glaciation about 11,700 years ago which has had a very stable and mild global climate compared to previous time periods of similar length, and during which our civilization developed. The rate of change of global climate we are currently experiencing is unprecedented in the paleoclimate record.
Of course Mr. Williams, or anyone else, is free to draw their own conclusions about climate change. I suggest that these conclusions be based on factual evidence and not some list of fact-challenged arguments in the climate-change denier playbook.