Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Experts in Greed Dispute Climate Science

When the world’s largest group of climate scientists put forth another dire report about the state of our planet, Forbes magazine immediately rounded up the usual suspects to attempt to rebut it.

You’d think even a corporate mouthpiece like Forbes would have tired by now of the same old bullshit from climate change deniers like the Infamous Idsos, Joseph Bast, Siegfried F. (“Fred”) Singer,   Freeman Dyson, Pat Michaels, Steve Milloy, and James Taylor — deniers whose blatant falsehoods about climate science prompted a Rochester Institute of Technology professor to write that they “ought to be jailed.”

Singer, the editor of the so-called study that Forbes cites, first gained wealth and notoriety as the paid science shill for the tobacco industry in its long campaign to persuade the public there were no health risks in smoking. Now he gets $11,600 a month from energy-industry-funded Heartland Institute to challenge the findings of a legion of climate science experts. Singer is affiliated with 11 foundations and associations that receive funding from the likes of Exxon-Mobil, Koch brothers, the Scaife family, Shell, Uniroyal and ARCO.  How “objective” can his work on behalf these corporate interests be?

Singer’s Ph.D. is in physics. He has no formal training in climate science, nor did he have any expertise in pulmonary medicine, heart disease  or any other of the recognized health hazards associated with smoking. His B.A. was in electrical engineering.Would you trust even so eminent a physicist as Einstein to treat your heart problem? Would you allow an electrical engineer to treat your lung cancer? What gives Singer standing to dispute the most massive accumulation of climate science ever put together?

Joseph Bast, president of Heartland,  wrote the Forbes piece, which appeared under the audacious headline, “The IPCC’s Latest Report Deliberately Excludes and Misrepresents Important Climate Science.”  “Important climate science”?  By whom? Singer and Pat Michaels of the Cato Institute are among the few climate deniers with solid science credentials, although neither is a climate specialist.  Bast, himself, studied economics at the University of Chicago, but never received a degree.

The Idsos — Sherman and his sons Keith and Craig — have academic credentials in geography, soil science, botany, agronomy and physics.  No climate science.  Their work is funded by the likes of the Western Fuels Association and Exxon-Mobil.  James Taylor studied law at Syracuse University, where he was president of the student chapter of the far-right Federalist Society.  

Steve Milloy of Fox rails against climate science, just as he did (for pay from Phillip Morris) against the medical research that condemned cigarette smoking. Now he’s got an anti-climate change organization that takes money from Exxon-Mobil. Like so many of his peers in the science skepticism industry, his real expertise is in greed.

The “IPCC” in the Forbes headline, of course, is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes peer-reviewed climate science from around the world.  Its latest summary, the second of three and the work of hundreds of scientists, was released yesterday. It concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct, and the Earth is warming so rapidly that unless humans can arrest the trend, we risk becoming ''extinct'' as a species.

Helen Berry of the University of Canberra in Australia, a contributor to the report’s chapter on health risks of  global warming, told an interviewer that humans “cannot possibly evolve to match the earth’s rate of warming since the 1970s, when we started burning fossil fuels in a massive way.” The  greatest challenges will come from undernutrition and impaired child development from reduced food yields; hospitalizations and deaths due to intense heat waves, fires and other weather-related disasters; and the spread of infectious diseases. “People won't be able to cope, let alone work productively, in the hottest parts of the year,” Dr. Berry said.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report said. Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said. 
If emissions are allowed to continue at a runaway pace, the report said, the result will be death or injury on a wide scale,  damage to public health, displacement of people and potential mass migrations. “Throughout the 21st century,” the scientists wrote, “climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security,  prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger.” There is a risk of violent conflict over land, water or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly “by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”
Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental panel, said, “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”
Forbes’s spinners-in-residence like to call the ICPP scientists “alarmists” and “extremists.” But they are mankind’s last, best hope.  We ignore them at our peril.

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