A firestorm of controversy has recently erupted online about a reported attempt to develop climate change educational materials for the K-12 classroom which intentionally emphasize uncertainty about whether climate is changing, sowing doubt in order to change the way educators teach about this important topic. The organization in question has issued a press release stating that some of their internal documents were stolen. They also suggested that one document attributed to them was fake, and that other documents may have been altered. Since then, the person making the original post has apologized for a serious lapse in judgment, in that he apparently misrepresented himself to the organization in order to get copies of their internal documents, which the organization provided to him. Several articles have pointed out the parallel with the experience a few years ago in “Climate-Gate”, in which thousands of scientists’ emails were stolen. After much examination and many inquiries by numerous scientific bodies, the climate scientists in question were eventually exonerated.
What a mess!
How about we just focus on the science? We can see in the environment around us the widespread retreat of land glaciers globally. We can measure the fact that temperatures are rising – and that the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since 2000. We can observe the shrinking and thinning of the Arctic Ice Cap. We can measure the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels have increased by 23% since 1958, from about 318 ppm to 393 ppm today. We can see that the isotopic signature of atmospheric CO2 is changing gradually toward one reflecting a larger component of a fossil fuel source for carbon. And finally, we know from simple physics that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which will have predictable impact on the world around us.
The problem is not the science – the evidence is overwhelming. The problem is – what do we do about it? As I mentioned above, regarding Bald Eagles, it is possible for us to come together – understand the science, and agree on scientifically-based policy solutions that take into account economic, societal, and environmental concerns – the three pillars of human well-being. Getting there will surely be easier if we all remember to treat each other the way we would like to be treated, with civility and respect.