Taking Geary Foertsch to task over column

September 12, 2017

In his Sept. 5 column, Geary Foertsch again misrepresents climate change research. He attacks Don Flood's column opposing Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, the international agreement vital in curtailing human contribution to climate change through reducing carbon emissions. Foertsch's rebuttal includes the following misrepresentations:

• Referring to Anthony Watts as an "accredited meterologist"; meteorologist, yes; accredited, no. Watts never received a degree in meteorology, as his Wikipedia page shows, and Flood was right to qualify him as a "TV weatherman." PhD researchers worldwide are conducting research on climate change using careful, precise, rarefied methods, then disseminating findings through peer-reviewed scientific journals. Watts, who did not even complete a bachelor's degree, is not among these researchers.

• Claiming that Bjorn Lomborg is not "blinded by ideology." All world views are ideological in nature - that is our plight as humans. Lomborg's ideologies are steeped in economics, not scientific research. He has never conducted scientific research on climate change.

• Vilifying the "climate 'consensus' crowd" for opposing Judith Curry's stance on warming models. By using the quotation marks, Foertsch seems to call consensus into question, when in fact there is huge consensus among PhD researchers on climate change and its causes. While Curry's stance is at least grounded in her own experience as a climate researcher, she is nonetheless opposed by about 97 percent of current researchers. Facing heart surgery and asked to choose between surgical procedures favored by 97 percent of practicing cardiologists and those favored by 3 percent, I'd be leaning toward the 97 percent.

• Dismissing hypothetical future situations I quoted from "The Uninhabitable Earth." Point taken. We can never predict the future with certainty, no matter how many data points align. Foertsch cites Michael Mann's critiques of the article: "past climate model simulations slightly over-predicted the actual warming ... ." But Foertsch conveniently omits these observations by Mann: "the warming of the globe is pretty much progressing as models predicted ... which is bad enough. The evidence that climate change is a serious problem that we must contend with now, is overwhelming on its own." Several other critics of the article express similar general support.

Foertsch claims that he does not dismiss climate change, but rather is opposed to "scare tactics and the money grab," citing the "huge subsidies" given to wind and solar. Subsidies to 21st century renewable energy sources - wind, solar, and water - pale in comparison to the direct and indirect subsidies to the petroleum industry throughout the 20th century and continuing to this day. And scare tactics? Consider the "reverse scare tactic" used by Exxon years ago when its researchers determined that carbon emissions were likely contributing to climate change - then squelched publication of that research.

Foertsch characterizes Don Flood and his other critics, including myself, as "zealots." It is true that I am passionate about climate change, because I think future generations deserve an inhabitable earth. But I am not a zealot. I am a retired PhD researcher with dozens of publications in peer-reviewed journals, and I appreciate the countless hours that go into research and publication.

When such hard work by bona fide scientists is ignored or misrepresented, I will not remain silent. And I am willing to overlook any defects in the Paris Accord partly because the U.S. has long consumed a disproportionate amount of the world's energy per capita, while lagging woefully behind European nations in developing and implementing sustainable energy technologies.

If Mr. Foertsch genuinely does not dismiss climate change, then how about some future columns on needed steps to improve U.S. energy infrastructure, reduce air and water pollution incurred through dirty fossil fuel extraction, protect ocean health from oil disasters, design and implement energy-efficient TV cable boxes, implement LEED building standards, improve CAFE standards, or other salient topics?

Such columns would do a much greater service to readers of the Cape Gazette than dissembling about Trump's underinformed geopolitical blunders.

Jim Henry


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