To the editor:
An individual named Tom McLaughlin did a tremendous disservice to your readership by spreading falsehoods about the topic of human-caused climate change, and about my scientific work specifically, in his misguided recent commentary (“Campus craziness” published April 28).
It is difficult to find a single true statement in his inflammatory and uninformed polemic. Take for example his dismissal of the overwhelming evidence for human-caused climate change as “dubious research” in support of (emphasis added) “alleged human-caused climate-change.” He might as well be attacking the “dubious research” supporting the “alleged” phenomenon know as gravity. It would be about as sensible and defensible.
The truth is that there is an overwhelming consensus among the worlds’ scientists that climate change is real and human-caused. That is the conclusion of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the national academies of all other industrial nations, the more than 30 science organizations in the United States that have weighed in on the matter, and more than 97 percent of all scientists who have published on the science.
McLaughlin also maligns the well-known “hockey stick” temperature curve which demonstrates that recent warming is unusual over at least the past 1,000 years, dismissing it as “specious research.” As I recount in “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” this work has been attacked by industry-funded climate change deniers for more than a decade owing to the simple, undeniable message it conveys about the dramatic impact human activity is having on Earth’s climate.
McLaughlin conveniently fails to note that the highest scientific body in the United States, the National Academy of Sciences, affirmed my research findings in an exhaustive independent review published in June 2006 (see e.g. “Science Panel Backs Study on Warming Climate,” New York Times, June 22, 2006).
In the decade and a half since our original published work, dozens of groups of scientists have independently reproduced, confirmed, and extended our findings, including most recently an international team of nearly 80 scientists from around the world, publishing in the premier journal “Nature Geoscience.” The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most authoritative assessment of climate science available, concluded that recent warmth is likely unprecedented over an even longer timeframe than we had concluded (at least the past 1,400 years). Of course, the “hockey Stick” is only one of numerous independent lines of evidence that have led the world’s scientists to conclude that climate change is (a) real, (b) caused by the burning of fossil fuels and (c) a grave threat if we do nothing about it.
Readers interested in the truth behind the science, rather than the falsehoods and smears perpetuated by dangerously uninformed individuals like Mr. McLaughlin, should consult scientist-run websites like skepticalscience.com, or books on the topic like my own “Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change.” Let’s get past the fake debate about whether the problem exists, and on to the worthy debate about what to do about it.
Michael E. Mann
Distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center
Penn State University