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Top climate scientists tackle sceptics

Posted in In the News on February 2nd, 2012.

A group of expert climate researchers has rounded robustly on 16 scientists who complained in the Wall Street Journal (No Need to Panic About Global Warming) that presidential candidates should understand that the statement that “nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming” is not true.

Scientists occupy Wall Street Journal

New Zealander Kevin Trenberth

The complaint used Auckland academic Dr Chris de Freitas, the editor of the journal Climate Research — and a vocal critic of some aspects of climate change science — as a poster boy for its argument that “many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted-or worse”.

It said that when Dr de Freitas published a peer-reviewed article in 2003  “with the politically incorrect (but factually correct) conclusion that the recent warming is not unusual in the context of climate changes over the past thousand years” members of a “warming establishment”  mounted a determined — though unsuccessful — campaign to have him removed from his editorial job and fired from his university position.

It also re-visited “Climategate” allegations against another New Zealander,  Dr  Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the climate analysis section of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research.

A response — also published in the WSJ — was signed by Dr Trenberth and over 30 other scientists — from Australia, Canada, Britain, France and the USA — and referred to the group of 16 as the “climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology”.

“Most of these authors have no expertise in climate science,” it said. “The few authors who have such expertise are known to have extreme views that are out of step with nearly every other climate expert”.  Observations showed unequivocally that the planet was getting hotter, and computer models had shown that during periods when there was a smaller increase of surface temperatures, “warming is occurring elsewhere in the climate system, typically in the deep ocean”.
It noted that a quote attributed to Dr Trenberth was used out-of-context and misrepresented .

Science clearly showed the world was heating up and that humans were primarily responsible: “It would be an act of recklessness for any political leader to disregard the weight of evidence and ignore the enormous risks that climate change clearly poses”.

The row has been followed-up on science news websites, such as Discovery.com, where the headline read:  Climate Scientists Occupy Wall Street Journal, and in mainstream media such as London’s  Guardian, and the New York Times.

Similar  issues have previously been canvassed by Physics Today.

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