Confidence in the science of global warming grows despite "climate-gate"

David Moulton with Dr. John Holdren, science advisor to President Obama in Copenhagen.

Today Rajendra Pachauri, leader of the Nobel-prize winning UN climate science  process, spoke in Copenhagen with confidence in the bedrock of science on which our understanding of global warming rests.

Meanwhile the opposition continues to try to squeeze the last few drops of doubt out of a few email lemons stolen from East Anglia University.

Here's an irony:  One of the calmest, fact-oriented and informative assessments of the state of climate science appeared a week ago in the Wall Street Journal. Although news editor Michael Totty pitches it as a "he said/she said" ("Arguments the skeptics make and how believers respond") it is in fact all a reasonable non-scientist needs to know about the disturbing trend of global warming and the urgent need to reduce the global emissions that are forcing the planet into uncharted and dangerous territory.  It deserves more attention than it is getting.

Is there a scientific consensus about global warming?  "Climate-gate" might lead one to think not.  But Totty notes that in a recent survey of more than 3000 earth scientists, 82 percent agreed that human activity is a 'significant contributing factor" in changing global temperatures, and that 75 of the 77 climate scientists who actively publish in the field , about 97 percent agreed with the statement.

Totty considers each of the salient skeptic sorties against this consensus, stating the pros and cons.  Heard this one? "2008 was the coldest in ten years - there is no global warming."  Totty reminds that this "cold" year was the 11th warmest year on record.  2009 is warmer still. The decade was the hottest ten-year span on record, and the long-term temperature trend since the mid-70s is up.

Heard this one? "Global warming is actually just the result of scientists taking readings from urban locations that are subject to the 'urban heat island effect'." Totty notes that models are actually adjusted for the heat island effect, the trend is up after the adjustment, and is supported by independent measurements of warming oceans, disappearing glaciers and permafrost, a shrinking Arctic ice cap, and the shifting ranges of plants and animals out of their historic ranges.

Here in Copenhagen the story remains what the world will do this week to confront the reality of man-made climate change. But the public needs a reminder of why so many world leaders have gathered in one place to hash out the details of reducing global warming emissions. Print Totty's article out, share it, invite discussion of why confidence in the science of global warming is so high right now despite the East Anglian email scandal.

Photo: David Moulton, Climate Policy Director at The Wilderness Society, with Dr. John Holdren, science advisor to President Obama in Copenhagen.


This article also appears on the National Journal's Copenhagen Insider blog.

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