- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
I’m writing this letter to you “climate science deniers” and to those who are confused by conflicting reports. How about hearing one Calvert scientist’s views? While not a climate scientist, as an ocean floor geophysicist, I’m close enough to the field to keep up with the findings. I call “deniers” those who dispute two solid conclusions from several decades of research by numerous scientists around the world: 1) Global climates have warmed and otherwise changed over the last 100 to 150 years — especially in the last 30 or so years; and 2) The ever-increasing concentration of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, is the primary or only reason for this change.
The basic research methodology is basically no different for climate science as it is for other kinds of science. Deniers daily benefit from myriads of scientific discoveries that created their laptops, phones and medicines, and many would not even be alive had it not been for science. Why would you deny the findings of climate science and not, say, the findings of cardiology or metallurgy? Anyone who chooses to “deny” an apparent tumor discovered on a CT-scan is jeopardizing his health and his future.
Most scientists would rather be right than rich. Few would flush their scientific credibility down the toilet by faking or withholding important but “inconvenient” data. And climate scientists don’t get funded to prove global climate is warming. If there, by some miracle, were some process that has been overlooked and would cause the observed climate warming unrelated to and despite the greenhouse gas effect, most scientists would jump at the chance to prove their peers wrong. If you or anyone has a bright idea, show me some math and data of how the warming is happening by some other process, and I’ll help you publish it.
Don’t blame the sun. Over the last 33 years, there have been small ups and downs in what we get from the sun, but no long-term increase. Some deniers point to past climates as “evidence” that the observed warming is only a “natural cycle.” Yes, climates have changed naturally in the past — but all the changes had to be caused by something, and there is no natural “something” that can explain the recent warming. Climate scientists are hard at work learning from past changes and looking for natural analogues to help predict what we might be doing to the atmosphere.
The good news is the oceans absorb a lot of the carbon dioxide we emit, so it doesn’t get into the atmosphere. The bad news is this makes the oceans more acidic, compromising shellfish, including the oysters and clams in the Chesapeake. The Arctic Ocean’s summer ice extent over the long-term is shrinking. This summer was an all-time minimum since satellite imaging began. And ice thickness is also decreasing — from U.S. submarine and other data. Whatever warming caused the ice to melt is amplified by the open water, which absorbs more radiation and warms the atmosphere that much further.
A cold winter does not disprove climate warming, nor does a warm winter prove it. But if the average temperature, bouncing up and down from year to year, still gradually rises over decades, that’s climate change. The extreme heat waves that affected France in 2003, Moscow in 2010 and Texas in 2011 could have been aberrant weather patterns, but that’s extremely unlikely because of the large areas affected, the lengths of these heat waves and the extreme temperatures. More recently, July 2012 was the hottest month in U.S. meteorological history, and the hottest single 12-month period in U.S. measurement history was the previous year.
Southern Maryland, a century from now, will surely be warmer — maybe like today’s Atlanta — so air-conditioning costs will go up, but heating costs will go down. The annual precipitation may be higher, but severe summer droughts will likely be more common. The growing season will be longer, but there will be a greater variety and number of pests. The American alligator lives almost to the Virginia-North Carolina border today, so maybe we’ll have some in Battle Creek. Cottonmouth water moccasins would likely spread into Maryland.
Here’s the biggest practical problem: Increased sea level rise will increase shoreline erosion and gradually flood low-lying areas. If all the glacier ice were to melt, the ocean would just about cover the highest point in Calvert County. A 3-foot rise by 2112 is quite likely, and maybe still more beyond that time. Good luck protecting those really low areas in Calvert — e.g., Broomes Island and Cove Point Beach; hope your descendants have lots of money. All that low land across the bay will be replaced by open water. This will nearly double the fetch for easterly winds, meaning bigger waves crashing on Calvert Cliffs shorelines — not good news for cliff-edge developments.
I was a Republican for many of the 42 years I’ve lived in Calvert. But enough is enough. I blame irresponsible radio loud-mouths and political leaders, some even candidates for the highest office in this land, for deceiving their followers. Writing off climate change as a “hoax” is one of the most tragic hoaxes perpetrated on a trusting American electorate. Denying fossil fuel driven climate change undermines our long-standing leadership in science and technology. Don’t fall for it.
Peter Vogt, Port Republic