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Climate change and the integrity of science

Lead Letter Published in Science magazine, May 7, 2010 From 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences

We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.

Scientific conclusions derive from an understanding of basic laws supported by laboratory experiments, observations of nature, and mathematical and computer modeling. Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. This process is inherently adversarial— scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and Einstein did. But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of “well-established theories” and are often spoken of as “facts.”

For instance, there is compelling scientific evidence that our planet is about 4.5bn years old (the theory of the origin of Earth), that our universe was born from a single event about 14bn years ago (the Big Bang theory), and that today’s organisms evolved from ones living in the past (the theory of evolution). Even as these are overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, fame still awaits anyone who could show these theories to be wrong. Climate change now falls into this category: there is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.

Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected.

But there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change:
(i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.
(ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
(iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.
(iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.
(v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.

Much more can be, and has been, said by the world’s scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business- as-usual practices. We urge our policymakers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels.

We also call for an end to McCarthy- like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them. Society has two choices: we can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.

The signatories are all members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences but are not speaking on its behalf or on behalf of their institutions:

Adams, Robert McCormick, University of California, San Diego
Amasino, Richard M, University of Wisconsin
Anders, Edward, University of Chicago
Anderson, David J, California Institute of Technology
Anderson, Wyatt W, University of Georgia
Anselin, Luc E, Arizona State University
Arroyo, Mary Kalin, University of Chile
Asfaw, Berhane, Rift Valley Research Service
Ayala, Francisco J, University of California, Irvine
Bax, Adriaan, National Institutes of Health
Bebbington, Anthony J, University of Manchester
Bell, Gordon, Microsoft Research
Bennett, Michael V L, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Bennetzen, Jeffrey L, University of Georgia
Berenbaum, May R, University of Illinois
Berlin, Overton Brent, University of Georgia
Bjorkman, Pamela J, California Institute of Technology
Blackburn, Elizabeth, University of California, San Francisco
Blamont, Jacques E, Centre National d’ Etudes Spatiales
Botchan, Michael R, University of California, Berkeley
Boyer, John S, University of Delaware
Boyle, Ed A, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Branton, Daniel, Harvard University
Briggs, Steven P, University of California, San Diego
Briggs, Winslow R, Carnegie Institution of Washington
Brill, Winston J, Winston J. Brill and Associates
Britten, Roy J, California Institute of Technology
Broecker, Wallace S, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Columbia University
Brown, James H, University of New Mexico
Brown, Patrick O, Stanford University School of Medicine
Brunger, Axel T, Stanford University
Cairns, Jr John, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Canfield, Donald E, University of Southern Denmark
Carpenter, Stephen R, University of Wisconsin
Carrington, James C, Oregon State University
Cashmore, Anthony R, University of Pennsylvania
Castilla, Juan Carlos, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Cazenave, Anny, Centre National d’ Etudes Spatiales
Chapin, III F, Stuart, University of Alaska
Ciechanover, Aaron J, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
Clapham, David E, Harvard Medical School
Clark, William C, Harvard University
Clayton, Robert N, University of Chicago
Coe, Michael D, Yale University
Conwell, Esther M, University of Rochester
Cowling, Ellis B, North Carolina State University
Cowling, Richard M, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Cox, Charles S, University of California, San Diego
Croteau, Rodney B, Washington State University
Crothers, Donald M, Yale University
Crutzen, Paul J, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry
Daily, Gretchen C, Stanford University
Dalrymple, Brent G, Oregon State University
Dangl, Jeffrey L, University of North Carolina
Darst, Seth A, Rockefeller University
Davies, David R, National Institutes of Health
Davis, Margaret B, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
De Camilli, Pietro V, Yale University School of Medicine
Dean, Caroline, John Innes Centre
DeFries, Ruth S, Columbia University
Deisenhofer, Johann, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
Delmer, Deborah P, University of California, Davis
DeLong, Edward F, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DeRosier, David J, Brandeis University
Diener, Theodor O, University of Maryland
Dirzo, Rodolfo, Stanford University
Dixon, Jack E, Howard Hughes Medical Center
Donoghue, Michael J, Yale University
Doolittle, Russell F, University of California, San Diego
Dunne, Thomas, University of California, Santa Barbara
Ehrlich, Paul R, Stanford University
Eisenstadt, Shmuel N, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Eisner, Thomas, Cornell University
Emanuel, Kerry A, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Englander, Walter S, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Ernst, W, G, Stanford University
Falkowski, Paul G, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey
Feher, George, University of California, San Diego
Ferejohn, John A, Stanford University
Fersht, Sir Alan, University of Cambridge
Fischer, Edmond H, University of Washington
Fischer, Robert, University of California, Berkeley
Flannery, Kent V, University of Michigan
Frank, Joachim, Columbia University
Frey, Perry A, University of Wisconsin
Fridovich, Irwin, Duke University Medical Center
Frieden, Carl, Washington University School of Medicine
Futuyma, Douglas J, Stony Brook University
Gardner, Wilford R, University of California, Berkeley
Garrett, Christopher J R, University of Victoria
Gilbert, Walter, Harvard University
Gleick, Peter H, Pacific Institute, Oakland
Goldberg, Robert B, University of California, Los Angeles
Goodenough, Ward H, University of Pennsylvania
Goodman, Corey S, venBio, LLC
Goodman, Morris, Wayne State University School of Medicine
Greengard, Paul, Rockefeller University
Hake, Sarah, Agricultural Research Service
Hammel, Gene, University of California, Berkeley
Hanson, Susan, Clark University
Harrison, Stephen C, Harvard Medical School
Hart, Stanley R, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Hartl, Daniel L, Harvard University
Haselkorn, Robert, University of Chicago
Hawkes, Kristen, University of Utah
Hayes, John M, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Hille, Bertil, University of Washington
Hökfelt, Tomas, Karolinska Institutet
House, James S, University of Michigan
Hout, Michael, University of California, Berkeley
Hunten, Donald M, University of Arizona
Izquierdo, Ivan A, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul
Jagendorf, André T, Cornell University
Janzen, Daniel H, University of Pennsylvania
Jeanloz, Raymond, University of California, Berkeley
Jencks, Christopher S, Harvard University
Jury, William A, University of California, Riverside
Kaback, H Ronald, University of California, Los Angeles
Kailath, Thomas, Stanford University
Kay, Paul, International Computer Science Institute
Kay, Steve A, University of California, San Diego
Kennedy, Donald, Stanford University
Kerr, Allen, University of Adelaide
Kessler, Ronald C, Harvard Medical School
Khush, Gurdev S, University of California, Davis
Kieffer, Susan W, University of Illinois
Kirch, Patrick V, University of California, Berkeley
Kirk, Kent C, University of Wisconsin
Kivelson, Margaret G, University of California, Los Angeles
Klinman, Judith P, University of California, Berkeley
Klug, Sir Aaron, Medical Research Council
Knopoff, Leon, University of California, Los Angeles
Kornberg, Sir Hans, Boston University
Kutzbach, John E, University of Wisconsin
Lagarias, J Clark, University of California, Davis
Lambeck, Kurt, Australian National University
Landy, Arthur, Brown University
Langmuir, Charles H, Harvard University
Larkins, Brian A, University of Arizona
Le Pichon, Xavier T, College de France
Lenski, Richard E, Michigan State University
Leopold, Estella B, University of Washington
Levin, Simon A, Princeton University
Levitt, Michael, Stanford University School of Medicine
Likens, Gene E, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Lippincott-Schwartz, Jennifer, National Institutes of Health
Lorand, Laszlo, Northwestern University
Lovejoy, Owen C, Kent State University
Lynch, Michael, Indiana University
Mabogunje, Akin L, Foundation for Development and Environmental Initiatives
Malone, Thomas F, North Carolina State University
Manabe, Syukuro, Princeton University
Marcus, Joyce, University of Michigan
Massey, Douglas S, Princeton University
McWilliams, Jim C, University of California, Los Angeles
Medina, Ernesto, Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research
Melosh, Jay H, Purdue University
Meltzer, David J, Southern Methodist University
Michener, Charles D, University of Kansas
Miles, Edward L, University of Washington
Mooney, Harold A, Stanford University
Moore, Peter B, Yale University
Morel, Francois M M, Princeton University
Mosley-Thompson, Ellen, Ohio State University
Moss, Bernard, National Institutes of Health
Munk, Walter H, University of California, San Diego
Myers, Norman, University of Oxford
Nair, Balakrish G, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases
Nathans, Jeremy, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Nester, Eugene W, University of Washington
Nicoll, Roger A, University of California, San Francisco
Novick, Richard P, New York University School of Medicine
O’Connell, James F, University of Utah
Olsen, Paul E, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
Opdyke, Neil D, University of Florida
Oster, George F, University of California, Berkeley
Ostrom, Elinor, Indiana University
Pace, Norman R, University of Colorado
Paine, Robert T, University of Washington
Palmiter, Richard D, University of Washington School of Medicine
Pedlosky, Joseph, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Petsko, Gregory A, Brandeis University
Pettengill, Gordon H, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Philander, George S, Princeton University
Piperno, Dolores R, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Pollard, Thomas D, Yale University
Price Jr. Buford P, University of California, Berkeley
Reichard, Peter A, Karolinska Institutet
Reskin, Barbara F, University of Washington
Ricklefs, Robert E, University of Missouri
Rivest, Ronald L, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Roberts, John D, California Institute of Technology
Romney, Kimball A, University of California, Irvine
Rossmann, Michael G, Purdue University
Russell, David W, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center of Dallas
Rutter, William J, Synergenics, LLC
Sabloff, Jeremy A, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology
Sagdeev, Roald Z, University of Maryland
Sahlins, Marshall D, University of Chicago
Salmond, Anne, University of Auckland
Sanes, Joshua R, Harvard University
Schekman, Randy, University of California, Berkeley
Schellnhuber, John, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Schindler, David W, University of Alberta
Schmitt, Johanna, Brown University
Schneider, Stephen H, Woods Institute for the Environment
Schramm, Vern L, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Sederoff Ronald R, North Carolina State University
Shatz, Carla J, Stanford University
Sherman, Fred, University of Rochester Medical Center
Sidman, Richard L, Harvard Medical School
Sieh, Kerry, Nanyang Technological University
Simons, Elwyn L, Duke University Lemur Center
Singer, Burton H, Princeton University
Singer, Maxine F, Carnegie Institution of Washington
Skyrms, Brian, University of California, Irvine
Sleep, Norman H, Stanford University
Smith, Bruce D, Smithsonian Institution
Snyder, Solomon H, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Sokal, Robert R, Stony Brook University
Spencer, Charles S, American Museum of Natural History
Steitz, Thomas A, Yale University
Strier, Karen B, University of Wisconsin
Südhof, Thomas C, Stanford University School of Medicine
Taylor, Susan S, University of California, San Diego
Terborgh, John, Duke University
Thomas, David Hurst, American Museum of Natural History
Thompson, Lonnie G, Ohio State University
Tjian, Robert T, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Turner, Monica G, University of Wisconsin
Uyeda, Seiya, Tokai University
Valentine, James W, University of California, Berkeley
Valentine, Joan Selverstone, University of California, Los Angeles
Van Etten, James L, University of Nebraska
Van Holde, Kensal E, Oregon State University
Vaughan, Martha, National Institutes of Health
Verba Sidney, Harvard University
Von Hippel, Peter H, University of Oregon
Wake, David B, University of California, Berkeley
Walker, Alan, Pennsylvania State University
Walker John E, Medical Research Council
Watson, Bruce E, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Watson, Patty Jo, Washington University, St. Louis
Weigel, Detlef, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
Wessler, Susan R, University of Georgia
West-Eberhard, Mary Jane, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
White, Tim D, University of California, Berkeley
Wilson, William Julius, Harvard University
Wolfenden, Richard V, University of North Carolina
Wood, John A, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Woodwell, George M, Woods Hole Research Center
Wright, Jr Herbert E, University of Minnesota
Wu, Carl, National Institutes of Health
Wunsch, Carl, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Zoback, Mary Lou, Risk Management Solutions, Inc

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Kommentarer

Kommentar från Gabriel B. Atega
Tid: 18 May 2010, 16:36

Last week I received 700 names of scientists who do not agree to the CO2 caused climate change. The list of scientists that you provide as being for climate change are equally matched by those scientists who do not accept it.

Name calling like deniers, skeptics, tree huggers, etc. do not make for a resolution to the debate. We should stick to the science. I do not accept the big bang, the theory of evolution, and the aging of the Earth for scientific reasons.

The big bang theory do not reconcile with the extent and shape of the universe. The shape of the universe is too complex for a big bang explanation.

I do not accept Darwin’s evolution because I now know that we are made to look as we are by our genome. It is the genome that provides instructions for the shape of the bones, the functioning of the organs, and the level of intelligence that every living form is allowed to have. Life forms die so right from the very beginning there has to be some form of sex or a means of procreation. Life forms need energy and there has to be right from the very beginning a system to process heat or chemical to become energy to be used in the function of every organism. And since there are functions, right from the very beginning there has to be already an operating system for each cell or living organism. The scientific question here that needs to be answered is how was the genome developed right from the very beginning of life? Right from the very beginning what extent of genome development would be needed to form amino acids into a complex set of functions for the performance of reproduction? Right from the very beginning what is the mechanism that will make amino acids form into a complex sets of functions for the converting of heat and chemicals into energy to drive animal functions? What are the causes or triggers for the development of functions? I can go on and on with my questions that science have not answered. And for as long as these are unanswered I cannot accept any of those theories, because theories do not make science. Only when theories are validated, then and only then should we accept that indeed theories as proposed are already science.

Zircons were used to age the Earth. These zircons were discovered from a river bed in Australia but these were not isolated as to origin. They could be extraterrestrial, in which case the zircons may not represent the Earth, but the origin from which the materials came.

Indeed, theories, no matter how logically conceived do not become science until these are validated and quantified.

On the matter of climate change as being caused by CO2, I need explanation from scientists as to how can 400 parts per million of CO2 heat up the 999,600 parts consisting of nitrogen, oxygen and water in the atmosphere? Thermodynamics do not allow that to happen. How can 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere heat up trillions of cubic kilometers of lakes and oceans? Why do oceans heat up over long periods and cool down also for another long period. What drives these long cycles of oscillations?

On climate change, why should it be only CO2 that would be the cause of climate change when there are other variables like the Earth’s precession, global deforestation, and the increase of moisture in the atmosphere which are more influential than CO2 in causing variations in the climate patterns? Where is the science to isolate the contribution of CO2 in changing climate from that of the other variables? The increase in production of CO2 by human activity is not the only variable that developed over the last century. Global deforestation was also going on, which translated into a very large loss of water vapor and CO2 absorption capacity on land? Why should we automatically attribute everything to CO2 production without considering the capacity loss in CO2 absorption?

On the ocean sea levels increase, what is the formula used to arrive at the determination? Does it include evaporation and transfer of water from the oceans to the atmosphere?

These are all scientifically unanswered questions. Without the answers, there cannot be acceptance of the climate change theories being propounded.

What is the danger in accepting a wrong climate change theory? The danger lies in the wasting of resources to pursue solutions that will not work. And by the time we truly understand what is going, we may have already spent everything that none would be left to fund the better solutions!

Kommentar från Patrik Lindenfors
Tid: 18 May 2010, 16:47

I quote from your mail: “I do not accept Darwin’s evolution because I now know that we are made to look as we are by our genome.” You seem to have no idea the amount of ignorance on your part that this sentence puts across.

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