When the person who calls himself the Oregon state climatologist is compared to Galileo, it’s obvious that right-wing paranoia has gone over the edge.
The headline of today’s Oregonian story (“To governor, Oregon has no ‘climatologist’”) might lead conservative conspiracy theorists to believe that Gov. Kulongoski has ordered George Taylor to disappear into the dungeon where he keeps state employees who disagree with his policy on global warming.
Actually, the truth is much milder. Kulongoski wants Taylor to stop using the title of “state climatologist” because there is no such position in state government. That’s a fact.
George Taylor isn’t going to be fired from his job as head of the Oregon Climate Service. If the governor gets his way, Taylor just won’t be able to claim (or strongly imply) that he speaks for state government on climate matters.
Today state Senator Brad Avakian phoned me after I’d emailed him some questions about the Oregonian story. Avakian has been working on legislation that would allow the governor to appoint an official state climatologist. He said that the bill probably won’t be introduced now, since the governor and Oregon State University seem to have reached an understanding about Taylor’s role.
However, I told Sen. Avakian that the story said OSU officials weren’t rushing to correct Taylor’s title, which is disturbing. I don’t understand why, now that it’s been pointed out to them that Taylor is claiming to occupy a non-existent position, OSU doesn’t stop spreading the falsity that he is the state climatologist.
Ideally, Taylor would keep doing what he seemingly does well: maintain and analyze Oregon weather data. But his training is in meteorology, not climatology. He isn’t competent to be speaking for anyone other than himself on climate change issues. Amazingly, Taylor doesn’t even know that carbon dioxide causes atmospheric warming.
Hopefully money will be found to establish the Oregon Climate Center that Kulongoski wants. A genuine climate expert can be recruited to run the Center and serve as the state climatologist.
Global climate change is going to affect Oregon in many ways. It’s important to have someone on board in state government who understands both why the world’s weather is changing because of human influences and what can be done about it. George Taylor clearly isn’t that person.
Recently I heard from Peter Bock. He shared with me a message that he’d sent to the president of Oregon State University and the dean of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, where Taylor works. Bock shows why Taylor’s unscientific position on global climate change is more than wrong; it’s dangerous.
To those, like Mr. George Taylor, who doubt the urgency of addressing the problem of global warming and the need to reduce atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, I ask the question... Suppose you are right. What does proactive action cost us?
It costs us an investment in renewable energy technology such as solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc... an investment that reduces our dependence on foreign petroleum... an investment that reduces our need to station our troops around the world to defend that petroleum and the despotic regimes that sell it to us... an investment that reduces our risk of asthma, cancer, stroke, heart disease, emphysema and other diseases caused by breathing auto exhaust and petroleum and coal pollutants.
But... suppose Mr. Taylor is wrong? What is the cost then? What will the Earth that we leave to our grandchildren look like? Is it an earth with ocean levels forty feet higher, with no polar ice caps, with no Amazon rain forests, with most coastal cities under water, with a desert in the American Midwest, with permanent global El Nino conditions?
Is it an Earth with a population of 2 billion rather than 6 billion? And thirty years from now, if we are wrong, are we prepared to look into the faces of our grandchildren and answer their question... "Why didn't you take action when you still had the chance?"