Dave Ball’s recent commentary in your paper, “Climate change hoax comes to Pa.” (April 20), subjected readers to falsehoods about the science of climate change and untruthful assertions about me specifically.
He dismisses climate change a “hoax,” favoring fossil fuel industry-funded denialist talking points over well-established science. In reality, the world’s scientists, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (founded by Republican President Abraham Lincoln in the 19th century) have concluded that “most of the recent change is almost certainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities.”
Ball’s denialist screed reads like a game of climate change denial bingo, hitting all of the usual denialist talking points. He promotes the fallacy (1) that because greenhouse gas levels and temperatures have been high before, we cannot be responsible for the warming today. That’s like saying an arsonist should go free because house fires can happen accidentally.
The warming we are seeing today is caused by human-generated carbon emissions and an unprecedented rate in the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. There are dozens of independent lines of evidence for this conclusion, from the basic physics of the greenhouse effect, to the irrefutable evidence that we are increasing the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, to the fact that unprecedented warming is occurring with widespread impacts. That collective evidence has led the world’s scientific community to overwhelmingly conclude that climate change is real and human-caused.
Ball then falsely claims (2) that the planet is cooling, despite the unprecedented warming that we’ve actually witnessed in recent years and that (3) climate models have supposedly failed to predict the observed warming (in fact they’ve done a remarkable job).
Ball claims (4) that tackling climate change would damage our economic security, when the opposite is true. Unprecedented droughts, wildfires, floods and superstorms amplified by climate change have led our national security community to conclude that climate change constitutes the greatest security threat we face in the years ahead. National security experts see climate change as a “threat multiplier” that takes existing tensions (like the drought in Syria that led to conflict in the region and the emergence of ISIS) and exacerbates them.
And the list goes on. There is no truth to literally any of the claims about climate science made by Ball.
Ball also makes false statements about my research in the late 1990s that resulted in the well-known “Hockey Stick” curve that demonstrates recent warming to be unprecedented over the past thousand years, leveling untruthful and libelous allegations of “fraud” and “manipulation” against me and my co-authors. As I recount in my book, ”The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” this graph has been ceaselessly attacked by climate deniers like Ball owing to the simple, undeniable message it conveys about the dramatic impact of human activity on our climate.
Ball fails to disclose to readers that our findings have been replicated and extended by dozens of subsequent studies since 1999. The highest scientific body in the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences, confirmed our 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) as did an international team of nearly 80 scientists from around the world in 2013, publishing in the premier journal Nature Geoscience, which extended our original conclusions, demonstrating that recent warmth is likely unprecedented over an even longer timeframe of the last 1300 years.
Readers interested in the truth behind the science, rather than the falsehoods and smears perpetuated by ideologically driven science deniers like Mr. Ball should consult scientist-run websites like skepticalscience.com, or books on the topic like my own, “Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change.”
We need to get past the bad faith attacks on whether climate change is real and on to the worthy conversation over what to do about it. But political, antiscience-promoting hacks like Mr. Ball would rather forestall that conversation in the name of short-term fossil fuel industry profits, threatening the future livability of our planet. We must not tolerate this assault on our children and grandchildren.
Michael E. Mann is a distinguished professor in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science at Penn State University and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center.