from: Keith Briffa <k.briffaatXYZxyz.ac.uk>
subject: Fwd: RE: Response to terrible climate op ed?
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Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2003 18:31:22 -0400
To: Raymond Bradley <rbradleyatXYZxyz.umass.edu>,
Keith Briffa <k.briffaatXYZxyz.ac.uk>,
Philip D Jones <P.JonesatXYZxyz.ac.uk>,
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From: "Michael E. Mann" <mannatXYZxyzginia.edu>
Subject: Fwd: RE: Response to terrible climate op ed?
interesting timing, eh?
Subject: RE: Response to terrible climate op ed?
Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2003 12:13:35 -0400
Thread-Topic: Response to terrible climate op ed?
From: "Profeta, Tim (Lieberman)" <Tim_ProfetaatXYZxyzberman.senate.gov>
To: Aaron Rappaport <arappaportatXYZxyzusa.org>,
"DesChamps, Floyd (Commerce)" <Floyd_DesChampsatXYZxyzmerce.senate.gov>,
"Wicke, Heather (McCain)" <Heather_WickeatXYZxyzain.senate.gov>,
email@example.com, Symons@nwf.org, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Alden Meyer <ameyeratXYZxyzusa.org>, Peter Frumhoff <email@example.com>,
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I think we need to get a scientists' oped out, very soon.
From: Aaron Rappaport [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2003 12:11 PM
To: DesChamps, Floyd (Commerce); Annie_Petsonk@environmentaldefense.org;
Tim (Lieberman); Wicke, Heather (McCain); email@example.com;
Symons@nwf.org; firstname.lastname@example.org; Alden Meyer; Peter Frumhoff;
Subject: Response to terrible climate op ed?
Are any scientists planning to rebut the terrible Schlesinger op ed that appeared in
this morning's Washington Post? Coordinating on this would avoid duplication of
effort. Our thinking is that a scientists' rebuttal would be more pursuasive than one
from enviros or politicians.
Schlesinger's op-ed appears to be a recycling for popular consumption of the recent
Soon-Baliunas papers that questioned the existence of anthropogenic climate change. To
rebut, one apparently has to call Fred Hyatt at the Washington Post to arrange to
publish a "Taking Exception" column.
Copyright 2003 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
July 07, 2003, Monday, Final Edition
SECTION: EDITORIAL; Pg. A17
LENGTH: 1057 words
HEADLINE: Climate Change: The Science Isn't Settled
BYLINE: James Schlesinger
Despite the certainty many seem to feel about the causes, effects and extent of climate
change, we are in fact making only slow progress in our understanding of the underlying
science. My old professor at Harvard, the great economist Joseph Schumpeter, used to
insist that a principal tool of economic science was history -- which served to temper
the enthusiasms of the here and now. This must be even more so in climatological
science. In recent years the inclination has been to attribute the warming we have
lately experienced to a single dominant cause -- the increase in greenhouse gases. Yet
climate has always been changing -- and sometimes the swings have been rapid.
At the time the U.S. Department of Energy was created in 1977, there was widespread
concern about the cooling trend that had been observed for the previous quarter-century.
After 1940 the temperature, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, had dropped about
one-half degree Fahrenheit -- and more in the higher latitudes. In 1974 the National
Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation, stated: "During
the last 20 to 30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more
sharply over the last decade." Two years earlier, the board had observed: "Judging from
the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should
be drawing to an end . . . leading into the next glacial age." And in 1975 the National
Academy of Sciences stated: "The climates of the earth have always been changing, and
they will doubtless continue to do so in the future. How large these future changes will
be, and where and how rapidly they will occur, we do not know."
These statements -- just a quarter-century old -- should provide us with a dose of
humility as we look into the more distant future. A touch of that humility might help
temper the current raging controversies over global warming. What has concerned me in
recent years is that belief in the greenhouse effect, persuasive as it is, has been
transmuted into the dominant forcing mechanism affecting climate change -- more or less
to the exclusion of other forcing mechanisms. The CO2/climate-change relationship has
hardened into orthodoxy -- always a worrisome sign -- an orthodoxy that searches out
heretics and seeks to punish them.
We are in command of certain essential facts. First, since the start of the 20th
century, the mean temperature at the earth's surface has risen about 1 degree
Fahrenheit. Second, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has been increasing for more than
150 years. Third, CO2 is a greenhouse gas -- and increases in it, other things being
equal, are likely to lead to further warming. Beyond these few facts, science remains
unable either to attribute past climate changes to changes in CO2 or to forecast with
any degree of precision how climate will change in the future.
Of the rise in temperature during the 20th century, the bulk occurred from 1900 to 1940.
It was followed by the aforementioned cooling trend from 1940 to around 1975. Yet the
concentration of greenhouse gases was measurably higher in that later period than in the
former. That drop in temperature came after what was described in the National
Geographic as "six decades of abnormal warmth."
In recent years much attention has been paid in the press to longer growing seasons and
shrinking glaciers. Yet in the earlier period up to 1975, the annual growing season in
England had shrunk by some nine or 10 days, summer frosts in the upper Midwest
occasionally damaged crops, the glaciers in Switzerland had begun to advance again, and
sea ice had returned to Iceland's coasts after more than 40 years of its near absence.
When we look back over the past millennium, the questions that arise are even more
perplexing. The so-called Climatic Optimum of the early Middle Ages, when the earth
temperatures were 1 to 2 degrees warmer than today and the Vikings established their
flourishing colonies in Greenland, was succeeded by the Little Ice Age, lasting down to
the early 19th century. Neither can be explained by concentrations of greenhouse gases.
Moreover, through much of the earth's history, increases in CO2 have followed global
warming, rather than the other way around.
We cannot tell how much of the recent warming trend can be attributed to the greenhouse
effect and how much to other factors. In climate change, we have only a limited grasp of
the overall forces at work. Uncertainties have continued to abound -- and must be
reduced. Any approach to policy formation under conditions of such uncertainty should be
taken only on an exploratory and sequential basis. A premature commitment to a fixed
policy can only proceed with fear and trembling.
In the Third Assessment by the International Panel on Climate Change, recent climate
change is attributed primarily to human causes, with the usual caveats regarding
uncertainties. The record of the past 150 years is scanned, and three forcing mechanisms
are highlighted: anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases, volcanoes and the
11-year sunspot cycle. Other phenomena are represented poorly, if at all, and generally
are ignored in these models. Because only the past 150 years are captured, the vast
swings of the previous thousand years are not analyzed. The upshot is that any natural
variations, other than volcanic eruptions, are overshadowed by anthropogenic greenhouse
Most significant: The possibility of long-term cycles in solar activity is neglected
because there is a scarcity of direct measurement. Nonetheless, solar irradiance and its
variation seem highly likely to be a principal cause of long-term climatic change. Their
role in longer-term weather cycles needs to be better understood.
There is an idea among the public that "the science is settled." Aside from the limited
facts I cited earlier, that remains far from the truth. Today we have far better
instruments, better measurements and better time series than we have ever had. Still, we
are in danger of prematurely embracing certitudes and losing open-mindedness. We need to
be more modest.
The writer, who has served as secretary of energy, made these comments at a symposium on
the 25th anniversary of the Energy Department's C02/climate change program.
LOAD-DATE: July 07, 2003
Assistant Press Secretary
Union of Concerned Scientists
1707 H Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006-3962
202-223-6133, ext. 124
202-223-6162 - Fax
Aaron Rappaport, Ph.D
Washington Representative for Global Warming
Union of Concerned Scientists
202/ 223 - 6133 x132
Professor Michael E. Mann
Department of Environmental Sciences, Clark Hall
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22903
e-mail: mannatXYZxyzginia.edu Phone: (434) 924-7770 FAX: (434) 982-2137
Professor Keith Briffa,
Climatic Research Unit
University of East Anglia
Norwich, NR4 7TJ, U.K.