I AM TROUBLED BY the rhetoric that claims with absolute certainty
the finality of climate change science. Even more disturbing are
pejorative terms like “climate deniers” that attempt to characterize
anyone who would dare question the validity and accuracy of
theoretical science and climate change models as if those critics
are the moral equivalent of the lunatics who deny the Holocaust.
The science of climate change is not settled. Theoretical science
is quite often never settled, especially when the proof of such
science may not be documentable until decades have passed.
Consider the careful wording in the National Ice Core Laboratory
brochure ( a joint program of the National Science Foundation and
the U.S. Geological Survey) regarding the modeling of climate
systematics (emphasis added): “Mathematicians and modelers
use the ice core data to create Global Climate Models, which are
theoretical extensions of Earth’s past climate conditions to what
could happen in the future. Once the past can be explained,
possible future events may be identified and their rapidity and
effects predicted with at least some confidence and accuracy.”
Quoting again from the National Ice Core Laboratory brochure:
“Through studies of ice, extreme climate swings have been
identified in Earth’s past; some have occurred remarkably quickly
(in less than a decade).” It is an inconvenient truth for global
warming doomsayers that Earth’s climate has been warmer in the
past. It was warm enough during the Middle Age Warming Period
that the Vikings were able to establish permanent settlements on
much of Greenland and actually grow grapes. The earth entered the
current warming period when the Little Ice Age ended in 1850—
well before the industrial revolution significantly increased the
burning of fossil fuels.
An objective study of Earth’s climate history confirms the old adage
that “the only constant in life is change.” Many climate experts
believe that, even if all human sources of carbon dioxide emissions
were eliminated tomorrow, the earth would continue its current
warming trend. We should get over the egocentric notion that we are
in control, or that we can stop change, and instead, we should focus
on adapting to the many inevitable changes that are part of life on
The feature Climate, Changed in
Triton’s September issue brought
forth a number of opinions from the
UC San Diego alumni community.
CAROLYN CHASE, REVELLE ’78, is a co-founder of San Diego Earth Works,
has served as a planning commissioner for the City of San Diego, and was a founder
of Move San Diego (now Circulate San Diego).
An Alternative View
Science Over Politics
IT’S BEEN DIFFICULT FOR ME to watch the politicization of
climate change science over the years, when the basic science
involved is pretty fundamental (the greenhouse effect). So it is
refreshing to see the forces of testable, repeatable reality rise
to the fore in “Climate, Changed” (Fall 2015). Now if only our
politicians would sort propaganda from science, true progress could
be made. Remember the ozone hole? We were able to get something
done about that and monitoring and research continues. Yet the
realities of global warming and what needs to be done have been
grossly mired in disinformation campaigns for the past 25 years.
There will always be naysayers, and these days we have “trolls”—
people who have the time and interest to push opposing views
for venal or religious reasons. Complex campaigns by vested
industries not wanting to change will continue to mislead. But by
looking at measurable records, it should not matter so much that
global warming is partially or mainly caused by human activities.
Sufficient natural changes have taken place over time such that
the disruption of a stable climate is a challenge for all humanity to
understand all significant sources and want do something about it.
Models will continue to be tested and refined. The scale of the
issues will continue to be a challenge on all fronts. We have
yet to come to grips as a nation with how to be responsible for
what is happening and what can be done about it. I am proud
to see UCSD is at the forefront of solutions as we seek
the best ways to respond, adapt and change.
PAUL D. HOFFMAN, REVELLE ’74, has served the U.S. Department of the
Interior as deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, and deputy
assistant secretary for Human Capital, Performance and Partnerships.