ON the Contrary

The feature Climate, Changed in Triton’s September issue brought forth a number of opinions from the UC San Diego alumni community:

An Alternative View of Climate Change

I am troubled by the rhetoric that claims with absolute certainty the finality of climate change science. Even more disturbing are pejorative terms like “climate deniers” that attempt to characterize anyone who would dare question the validity and accuracy of theoretical science and climate change models as if those critics are the moral equivalent of the lunatics who deny the Holocaust.

The science of climate change is not settled. Theoretical science is quite often never settled, especially when the proof of such science may not be documentable until decades have passed. Consider the careful wording in the National Ice Core Laboratory brochure (a joint program of the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey) regarding the modeling of climate systematics (emphasis added): “Mathematicians and modelers use the ice core data to create Global Climate Models, which are theoretical extensions of Earth’s past climate conditions to what could happen in the future. Once the past can be explained, possible future events may be identified and their rapidity and effects predicted with at least some confidence and accuracy.”

Quoting again from the National Ice Core Laboratory brochure: “Through studies of ice, extreme climate swings have been identified in Earth’s past; some have occurred remarkably quickly (in less than a decade).” It is an inconvenient truth for global warming doomsayers that Earth’s climate has been warmer in the past. It was warm enough during the Middle Age Warming Period that the Vikings were able to establish permanent settlements on much of Greenland and actually grow grapes. The earth entered the current warming period when the Little Ice Age ended in 1850—well before the industrial revolution significantly increased the burning of fossil fuels.

An objective study of Earth’s climate history confirms the old adage that “the only constant in life is change.” Many climate experts believe that, even if all human sources of carbon dioxide emissions were eliminated tomorrow, the earth would continue its current warming trend. We should get over the egocentric notion that we are in control, or that we can stop change, and instead, we should focus on adapting to the many inevitable changes that are part of life on this earth.

Paul D. Hoffman, Revelle ’74, has served the U.S. Department of the Interior as deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, and deputy assistant secretary for Human Capital, Performance and Partnerships.

Science Over Politics

It’s been difficult for me to watch the politicization of climate change science over the years, when the basic science involved is pretty fundamental (the greenhouse effect). So it is refreshing to see the forces of testable, repeatable reality rise to the fore in “Climate, Changed” (Fall 2015). Now if only our politicians would sort propaganda from science, true progress could be made. Remember the ozone hole? We were able to get something done about that and monitoring and research continues. Yet the realities of global warming and what needs to be done have been grossly mired in disinformation campaigns for the past 25 years.

There will always be naysayers, and these days we have “trolls”—people who have the time and interest to push opposing views for venal or religious reasons. Complex campaigns by vested industries not wanting to change will continue to mislead. But by looking at measurable records, it should not matter so much that global warming is partially or mainly caused by human activities. Sufficient natural changes have taken place over time such that the disruption of a stable climate is a challenge for all humanity to understand all significant sources and want do something about it.

Models will continue to be tested and refined. The scale of the issues will continue to be a challenge on all fronts. We have yet to come to grips as a nation with how to be responsible for what is happening and what can be done about it. I am proud to see UCSD is at the forefront of solutions as we seek the best ways to respond, adapt and change.

Carolyn Chase, Revelle ’78, is a co-founder of San Diego EarthWorks,
has served as a planning commissioner for the City of San Diego, and was a founder of Move San Diego (now Circulate San Diego).