While we were in Camp Sherman last week I picked up the Bend “Bulletin” and saw a front page story about a talk by Oregon’s climatologist, George Taylor. I’ve written before about how Taylor denies that manmade greenhouse gases are causing global warming, thus putting him at odds with the vast majority of scientists studying the earth’s climate.
The story, “Expert says state drought just a blip,” shows that Taylor is still going around spreading disinformation about the reality of global warming. He was quoted as saying, “We don't really understand climate. (The data) doesn't say humans don't have an effect, obviously they do. But we don't know what it means.”
Yes, if meteorologists can’t accurately forecast the weather ten days from now, they obviously can’t predict how human-caused global warming will have changed the Earth ten years from now. But when George Taylor says “We don’t know what it means,” his unstated message is “We shouldn’t do anything about it,” notwithstanding his reported statement that reduction of fossil-fuel use would be a good move.
Taylor probably realizes that if he wants to keep his position as Oregon’s climatologist, he needs to pay lip service to reducing greenhouse gas emissions because this is the official policy of Gov. Kulongoski, who joined Oregon with California and Washington in 2003 to create the West Coast Global Warming Initiative. Recently Kulogoski announced that he wants Oregon to adopt California’s tougher auto pollution standards to fight global warming.
The Kyoto Protocol is the world’s primary commitment to addressing the problems of human-caused global warming. George Taylor worked to keep the Kyoto Protocol from going into effect.
The protocol needed to be approved by countries responsible for at least fifty-five percent of the industrialized world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Since the United States accounts for thirty-four percent and withdrew from Kyoto negotiations in 2001, virtually every other major industrialized nation needed to approve the protocol or it would collapse.
In November 2002 Taylor signed an open letter to the prime minister of Canada urging that Canada delay ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. He and another Oregonian joined twenty-five other people in opposing mandatory efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. The other Oregon signer of the open letter was Art Robinson of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), a small research institute in Cave Junction.
OISM’s head-in-the-sand scientific style is evident from the publication published by the Institute, “Nuclear War Survival Skills.” You also can buy Nuclear War Survival Skill DVDs that promise you’ll learn about “shelter construction and ventilation, water purification, food preparation, radiation monitoring and many other life-saving procedures - these essential survival skills are performed just as they would be to save lives in a real nuclear emergency.”
Surviving the effects of global warming must seem like a piece of cake to the folks at OISM since they are so optimistic about living through nuclear war. Global warming skeptics like they and George Taylor like to focus on the uncertainties of the science underlying the Kyoto Protocol rather than what is known for sure. I assume that they don’t think there is any problem with Social Security either, because it isn’t possible to forecast the exact year it won’t be possible to pay out full benefits.
As Elizabeth Kolbert writes in her excellent three-part series in The New Yorker, “The Climate of Man" (parts I and II currently are online), “In legitimate scientific circles, it is virtually impossible to find evidence of disagreement over the fundamentals of global warming.”
Kolbert quotes Robert Socolow, co-director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative funded by BP and Ford:
“I’ve been involved in a number of fields where there’s a lay opinion and a scientific opinion. And in most of the cases, it’s the lay community that is more exercised, more anxious. If you take an extreme example, it would be nuclear power, where most of the people who work in nuclear science are relatively relaxed about very low levels of radiation. But in the climate case, the experts—the people who work with the climate models every day, the people who do ice cores—they are more concerned. They’re going out of their way to say, ‘Wake up! This is not a good thing to be doing.’”
Yet here in Oregon our state climatologist is going around giving talks where he tries to put people to sleep, assuring them that natural cycles are mostly responsible for global warming and that this state’s current drought is “nothing more than a blip in the long-term history of the area’s climate.” That’s irresponsible. It would be irresponsible if Taylor was speaking just for himself. It is doubly irresponsible when he speaks as Oregon’s climatologist.
Halfway across the world, “Australia's Greenhouse Gas Scientists Declare Climate Emergency.” But Oregon’s climatologist says, “No worries, mate.” A Business Week cover story says, “Consensus is growing among scientists, governments, and business that they must act fast to combat climate change. This has already sparked efforts to limit CO2 emissions. Many companies are now preparing for a carbon-constrained world.” But Oregon’s climatologist says, “Not to worry.”
Optimism is wonderful. Unless it blinds you to reality.
Here’s how Elizabeth Kolbert ends her series in The New Yorker:
“No matter what we do at this point, global temperatures will continue to rise in the coming decades, owing to the gigatons of extra carbon dioxide already circulating in the atmosphere. With more than six billion people on the planet, the risks of this are obvious. A disruption in monsoon patterns, a shift in ocean currents, a major drought—any one of these could easily produce streams of refugees numbering in the millions. As the effects of global warming become more and more apparent, will we react by finally fashioning a global response? Or will we retreat into ever narrower and more destructive forms of self-interest? It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”
I’m worried. George Taylor should be too.