My view: Leave politics out of scientific discussion
I recently attended the climate summit sponsored by the Republican Party of Columbia County. The summit featured presentations by Chuck Weise and Dr. Gordon Fulks who provided data and theories they believe disprove that human caused pollution with greenhouse gases was causing global warming.
Prior to attending the summit, I researched the backgrounds of Weise and Fulks. Both are frequent presenters at conservative political organizations sympathetic to arguments disproving Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Many of these presentations are available online. Weise was a meteorologist before changing careers to become an airline pilot.
Fulks has a Ph.D. in astrophysics. I did not find any information that either had published articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals on their theories about climate change, nor had they worked in a professional capacity conducting research related to climate change. While both are smart and have legitimate scientific backgrounds, I do not consider them bona fide climate scientists.
I spent my career working in a scientific field and have attended hundreds of conferences and presentations where scientific research was presented. Never have I seen a scientific presentation start out with a political diatribe. Weise started his presentation denouncing Democrats and Gov. Kate Brown and praising the Oregon Republican senators for walking out of the Senate at the conclusion of last year's session. The return to their conservative political opinions was a frequent occurrence for both presenters — obviously intended to ingratiate themselves with the mood of the largely conservative audience while at the same time completely discrediting any objective scientific credibility.
At the conclusion of the presentations they opened the floor to questions from the audience. Perhaps unwisely, I thought there may have been people in the audience who wanted to figure out what to believe. I made a statement about beliefs and attempted to suggest ways people could verify the credibility of the presenter's positions. This was not well received.
The largely Republican audience who support a president who denies AGW and opposes carbon reduction initiatives wanted "scientific evidence" to support their positions. Weise and Fulks gave them exactly want they wanted. This occurred by using the false technique of scientific equivalency.
The information they presented was cherry picked, misleading and not credible.
There is no longer any debate in the legitimate scientific community that human-caused global warming is occurring. Ninety-Seven percent of bona fide climate scientists agree.
For reference, here are studies into scientific agreement on human-caused global warming, including study name, year and percentage of climate scientists in agreement: Oreskes (2004), 90%; Doran (2009), 97%; Anderegg (2010), 97%; Cook (2013), 97%; Verheggen (2014), 91%; Stenhouse (2014), 93%; Colton (2015), 97%
These studies found a high correlation between the level of expertise in climate science and the level of agreement with AGW. For example, in one study the overall agreement with a large pool of 3,000 scientists showed a 90% agreement, and those that had over 50% of their peer-reviewed scientific articles on climate change had a 97.4% agreement. It also found a strong correlation between the few who didn't agree with either a political affiliation skeptical of AGW or a financial dependence on funding sources with a conflict of interest (fossil fuel companies).
In science, consensus is developed over time by developing hypotheses, testing them, and publishing the results. Peer-reviewed journal articles are the gold standard verifying that studies are conducted using accepted and credible scientific methods. There is much back and forth, but eventually a scientific consensus is reached. Ninety-seven percent is about as good as it gets — about the same consensus there is that smoking causes cancer.
If you don't want to believe these climate scientists, perhaps you would believe these sources:
¦ Debbie Dooley was one of the primary founders of the Tea Party Movement. She has become a strong proponent of supporting renewable energy and addressing climate change.
¦ The Pentagon: Adopted Climate Change Roadmap and 2016 DOD Directive 4715.21 Climate Change Adaptability and Resilience
¦ Exxon Mobile: 2017 Harvard study of 187 Exxon scientific papers and internal memos written by company scientists. 83% of peer reviewed papers and 80% of internal memos supported the climate was warming and it was caused by humans.
I am not going to go through each of their technical arguments one by one. I am not a climate scientist and that has already been done by real climate scientists and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. If Weise and Fulks really wanted to establish scientific credibility for their positions they would have them published in scientific journals. The fact that they have either not chosen to or been able to do that says volumes about the credibility of those arguments.
Since I was characterized as a "radical leftist" in the Brumbles letter, I would like to tell you where I stand.
It is true that I am a proud progressive Democrat and chair of the Columbia County Democratic Party. That is because I believe the Democratic platform provides the best education, public safety, job and wage, housing, health care, consumer protection, and foreign policy for working class American families — not just for the top 1%. We believe in the basic truth that all humans have inherent human rights, that money is not speech, that health care should be a right for all Americans and not just for those who can afford it. We believe our country was founded by immigrants and stand against xenophobic, prejudiced and racist rhetoric and policies. We support the Second Amendment and believe it is not in conflict with common sense gun regulations that save innocent lives.
I strongly oppose the tribalism, confirmation bias, and the vilification of those who do not share our political opinion that has consumed our country. Despite our political affiliations, we have far more interest in common than those that divide us. I have many friends and family members who are Republicans and support President Donald Trump who I know to be wonderful people and whom I love. We basically want the same things for ourselves and our families. If we can work together to understand each other's needs and interests, we will be far more successful moving our country forward.
I want to recognize that Traci Brumbles, the Columbia County Republican Party chair, did a good and fair job of moderating the climate summit. I also want to acknowledge and express my appreciation for the several conservatives who, after the summit, shook my hand and let me know that although they may not agree with me, they respected my right to express my opinion and bore me no ill will.
The material and opinions expressed in this article are my own and have not been endorsed by the Columbia County Democratic Central Committee.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.