The Norman Transcript

Opinion

October 4, 2006

Inhofe correct on global warming

For The Transcript

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe has been taking a lot of heat lately for his skeptical stance on global warming. He's been called a "social dinosaur" for his failure to accept the politically correct view. But in my opinion, Sen. Inhofe is absolutely correct to be skeptical. As the Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot said, "skepticism is the first step towards truth."

I'm a geophysicist who has conducted and published climate studies in top-rank scientific journals. My perspective on Sen. Inhofe and the issue of global warming is informed not only by my knowledge of climate science, but also by my studies of the history and philosophy of science.

The media hysteria on global warming has been generated by journalists who don't understand the provisional and uncertain nature of scientific knowledge. Science changes. For years we were told that drinking coffee was bad for our health and would increase our risk for heart disease. But more recent studies have shown that not only is coffee safe for our hearts, it can decrease the risk of liver cancer and is chock full of healthy antioxidants.

I read in the Edmond Sun Oct. 1 an article by an economist which indicated that temperatures are now higher than at any time in the past 12,000 years. The fact that the thermometer wasn't invented until the year 1714 ought to give us pause when evaluating this remarkable claim. Reconstructions of past temperatures are not measurements, but estimates. These estimates are based on innumerable interpretations and uncertain assumptions, all invisible to someone who only reads the headline. Better studies -- completely ignored by the major media -- have shown that late-twentieth-century temperatures are not anomalous or unusually warm.

I also read last week that in a mere 50 years mean global temperatures on Earth will be higher than they have been for the last million years. We all know that in recent years weather forecasts have become more accurate. But meteorologists can't predict what the temperature will be in 30 days. How is it that we are supposed to believe that they can reliably forecast what the temperature will be in 50 years? They can't, because Earth's climate system is complex and poorly understood.

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