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Countering the distortion of environmental science.

Rebuttal to Comments by F. Singer that Charge Faulty Science in Predicting Global Climate Change:

A January 23, 2001 Washington Post story, "Scientists Issue Dire Prediction On Warming: Faster Climate Shift Portends Global Calamity This Century," reported the unanimous views expressed at a UN conference by a panel of hundreds of scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But the same story stated: "Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service, called the new report 'a political statement' based on theoretical models that does not conform to existing scientific data from thermometers at weather stations, Earth-circling satellites and high-altitude balloons. Almost all instrumental data, he said, show no warming trend in the past 60 years, and he called data that do 'suspect.'"

Stanford climatologist Stephen H. Schneider commented on Singer's views:

"It would seem that the public and political leaders would be savvy enough to realize that hundreds of scientists and thousands ofreviewers from a hundred countries would very likely be more credible than a few frequent dissenters like Fred Singer. The assertion that almost all instrumental data show no warming trend for the past 60 years would disqualify any such claimant as being a balanced commentator, and would likely qualify anyone who offered this assessment as being out of touch or unfamiliar with the hundreds of published studies that clearly show warming in the thermometer records, the balloon records and even the satellite record--even though the latter two show less warming for the brief two decades satellites have been available.

"Moreover, recent reconstructions of the temperature of the past 1000 years from tree rings and coral reefs among other proxies of temperature show that the past 50 years are the warmest in the past 1000. On top of this there is very highly statistically significant new evidence that environmental systems like lake and sea ice, bird migration dates, tree flowering dates and the ranges of butterflies have all responded coherently with recent warming. How all this overwhelming volume of data could constitute evidence characterized as 'political' is hard to fathom--unless those who so claim are simply projecting their own behavior onto the thousands of scientists who participate in the assessment of climate problems. Several years ago Fred Singer also said the ozone hole was a hoax, and that nuclear winter was really nuclear summer.

"It is high time, I believe, that serious-minded people simply ignored virtually anything these career contrarians have to say in which their 'expertise' is invoked to challenge conventional wisdom that has been repeatedly reassessed by different scientific bodies in different countries. There is, of course, always the chance that dissenters will be proven correct, but public policy must be based on the scientific consensus. Maybe the sun does circle the Earth, as flat-earthers claim, but space programs should not be designed around that assertion.

"The media needs to do its homework and tell the cadre of non-disinterested doubters to take up their complaints in the refereed literature, not op-eds in the business press or other ideological periodicals. Anybody can say 'It ain't so.' But if they can't get the few dozen scientific assessments over the past two decades to take their concerns seriously, maybe it is time to quote more credible critics. Most of the latter are represented in the IPCC reports, which are famous for pages of caveats that the career contrarians claim they are unmasking. And the IPCC concerns are expressed with full cognizance of the caveats--the kinds of balance that governments expect from an open expert process as opposed to pronouncements from the outside by special interests."

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Updated March 15, 2005