Years ago before turning to atmospheric physics, I flew airplanes, and I still remember my first day staring at the control panel. Reading Daniel R. Simmons' My View (Nov. 12) disputing climate science, I imagine a child sitting in a 747 cockpit, staring quizzically at the instruments. He can read each dial but has no idea what they're telling him.
In a clumsy effort to cast doubt on the robust conclusions of an entire scientific community, Mr. Simmons presents a bumbling personal interpretation of a selection of studies. To demonstrate that Earth is not warming, he cites single-year U.S. temperature data, thickening ice in the Antarctic interior and complex sea level measurements. He neglects to mention that single-year regional temperatures are not meaningful in the context of global climate change (where multiyear global averages are the ticket). Or that additional ice in central Antarctica is a predicted consequence of rising global temperatures (more moisture, falling as snow), or that sea level rises in the coming decades are likely to accelerate. He further neglects to tell us that nothing in the studies he cites suggests their authors would agree with his reanalysis of their work.
That's not surprising. Simmons is not simply a well-meaning local letter writer who misunderstands complex data. He's a lawyer and lobbyist whose D.C.-based organization is funded by companies such as Exxon-Mobil and Phillips Petroleum and who co-chairs his committee with a vice president at Peabody Coal. Together, they aim to take the focus off the broad scientific consensus on global warming. And they're not alone.
We must ask ourselves: Are we really willing to gamble with the future of our water supplies, our ski industry, our air and our way of life all based on the inept offerings of charlatans doing the bidding of the coal and gas industry? I think not. Evidence suggests Utah residents see through such misdirection. Spurred by education and strong leadership, we are beginning to recognize the reality of the risks; that the future is in clean energies such as wind, solar and geothermal; and that evidence suggests these resources will create jobs and benefit Utah economically. And we've already announced, in several polls, that we want action to curb global warming.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has heard that call and signed on to the Western Climate Initiative, committing to reducing Utah's emissions to preserve our water and snow levels, which are at serious risk. He's in good company. He joins the White House in endorsing the position that global warming is happening and that it's driven by emissions from our tailpipes and smokestacks.
Meanwhile, if Simmons believes the climate science community has so utterly misread the data, my simple suggestion is that he write up his analysis and submit it for legitimate review and publication. This is how science is done. It's the same method that's brought us laser pointers, footprints on the moon and Cheetos. And I can assure Mr. Simmons that if he has indeed stumbled onto something that a century of climate research, an army of researchers and a mountain of data have overlooked, he'll be halfway to a Nobel Prize.We don't let lawyers and lobbyists fly 747s, and we shouldn't let them substitute their clumsy interpretations of complex science for those of an entire science community. Legitimate, useful scientific debate only occurs within the peer-reviewed literature, among those with serious training. It doesn't happen in books, on talk radio or on television. And it doesn't happen in op-ed columns under a lobbyist's byline. Not ever.
Dr. Robert Davies is a physicist, educator and former Air Force meteorologist who lives in Logan.