Letter to the Editor: Science doesn’t lie about climate change

I am a scientist and I would like to address Walter Williams’s recent column “Environmentalists Are Dead Wrong,” published in the Southern Arizona News-Examiner on April 26.

Williams cherry-picks eleven quotes, dated between 1969 and 1989 except for one in 2000, to create a caricature of scientists. Why are all of Williams’s sources so old? The truth is that we know much more today than we did forty years ago – satellite studies, for example, have given us an understanding of weather and ocean dynamics that we simply did not have back then.

Most of your readers probably remember a similar public “debate” between scientists and special interest groups that came to a head in the 1990s. The tobacco industry wanted very badly to suppress mounting evidence that smoking is costly and deadly. It spent millions on lobbying and promoted the idea that smoking is not addictive or dangerous and should not be regulated.

Today, we accept that smoking causes cancer, emphysema, and early death. For many, that knowledge came too late. Had not the industry (and complicit politicians) fought so hard to suppress the science, millions would have been spared painful deaths.

History repeats itself. Today, the virtually unanimous scientific consensus on global warming and climate change is under attack by corporations, special interests, and politics. The so-called “scandals” attached to climate science have, without exception, been refuted by multiple independent investigations, and yet the perception of science as “corrupt” or “elitist” or “political” continues to grow, aided by people like Williams – and, to be fair, the almost complete lack of scientists willing (or able) to represent science in the public arena.

As a scientist, I can say that the science of this issue is, definitively, settled. These are facts:

  • 2014 was the hottest year on record – until 2015, which was hotter. 2016 was even hotter. Moreover, 9 of the 10 hottest years on record were in the 21st century (the 10th was 1998). You can look this up online. The records are public.

  • Global warming has not paused. Claims that it has are based on misrepresentations of the data.

  • Global warming is man-made. There is overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing rapidly and drastically as a direct result of greenhouse gas emissions that humans cause.

  • 97% of climate studies since 1991, according to a landmark survey led by John Cook, agree that global warming is real, immediate, dangerous, and man-made. Other surveys of climate research have come up with slightly different numbers, but all are above 90%. Claims that “thousands” of climate scientists disagree with the consensus are lies that have been debunked over and over again.

If 97% of mechanics told you that your car needed new brake pads, would you believe them? If 97% of heart surgeons told you that you would die without bypass surgery, would you believe them? If 97% of climate scientists tell you that man-made global warming is real, immediate, and dangerous, why wouldn’t you believe them?

By the time everyone realizes the danger global warming poses, Walter Williams will be dead. (He’s 81 now.) I won’t be. I don’t understand his reasons for attacking science, but I know mine for defending it: the truth is important. Especially now.

Dr. John S. Hyatt, Elkmont, AL

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