By Mike Brodinsky
Len Suzio, in his op-ed that appeared in this paper on July 21,, writes that he wants the R-J to sponsor a debate among scientists on global warming. The problem with this idea is that such a debate would create the illusion that climate scientists are closely divided on the issue of whether man’s activities have contributed significantly to harmful climate change.
They are not closely divided. A lopsided majority of experts know from studying the evidence that combustion of fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere. The CO2 acts like a gaseous blanket around the earth. It inhibits the sun's heat from escaping into space. The CO2, therefore, warms the planet. As more CO2 is released into the air by fossil fuels, more heat is trapped. With increased heat, the earth's climate changes in slow but dangerous ways. This is called the “greenhouse gas” effect.
Although there is little doubt that CO2 from fossil fuels is the culprit that's warming the planet, right-wingers and political operatives, conspiracy theorists, coal companies, polluters, and their handpicked experts, together with a few dissenting scientists resist this finding. They, like Mr. Suzio, commonly ignore the vast body of growing research and data supporting the science of climate change. They conjure questions or seize upon unresolved issues that do not throw into doubt the basic conclusions of almost all climate scientists. They would like to make global warming a matter of opinion that everybody can weigh in on equally. But science is not a matter of opinion; it's a matter of data.
In this case, Mr. Suzio seeks to punch pinholes in the science by suggesting technical questions that sound like he has discovered serious flaws in the work of the experts. But he hasn’t. He reminds me of the big tobacco companies who denied the dangers of smoking and pushed filtered cigarettes with the healthy-looking, horse-riding Marlboro Man who later died of lung cancer.
No one, not even Mr. Suzio, can summarize in a short column all the data, research, and studies that confirm mankind is warming the planet, and that the consequences are probably dire. But the reading is out there for those who care. For example, one source that I respect is The Economist magazine. It recently commented on a report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body that collects scientific reports and data needed to inform the public and governments on climate policy.
The publication said that the approach of the IPCC was meticulous. It surveyed more than 6,000 studies of climate change. It summarized some of the panel's conclusions this way: "With every passing year scientists amass more data about how the climate has already changed. And ... it is changing faster than anyone foresaw even two decades ago. ... Uncertainties remain; individual research contained within the report may yet be challenged. But in study after study, page after page, fact after fact, the evidence of anthropogenic change, long clear, is harder than ever to ignore." But yet, that's precisely what Mr. Suzio ignores. And he invites others to do the same.
So Mr. Suzio proposes a debate. There should be a debate all right, but not the one he wants. The question for debate should be this: If a candidate for public office does not have the judgment or skills to choose authoritative sources (Fox, Trump, Rush, and Hannity will not do) from which to learn about climate change, and if that candidate does not care enough about the human condition to take global warming seriously in view of all the accumulated evidence, is that person even qualified to hold public office? I, for one, think not.
Mike Brodinsky is a former Wallingford town councilor and host of 'Citizen Mike' on WPAA-TV.