Letter to the Editor: Marietta Daily Journal – Fein wrong: Scientists agree on climate change

I hope you enjoy one of my earliest Letters to the Editor, which somewhat kick-started my public activism against scientific illiteracy. I was responding to a column written by a sociology professor at Kennesaw State University, Dr. Melvyn Fein. In his piece, Dr. Fein, like so many other global warming deniers, parading the patently incorrect notion that climate scientists are in disagreement on climate change. Below was my response. Enjoy.

DEAR EDITOR: Whether one admits it or not, we trust science. Every time we take an antibiotic, every time we step on to an airplane, every time we use an electronic device, we are confirming the success of the scientific method. Climate science is no different. It doesn’t use a different kind of physics, chemistry or biology. It doesn’t have an “alternate” scientific method one accesses via secret handshake. This is why scientifically literate people are baffled by the kind of climate science denial illustrated in Dr. Melvyn Fein’s latest “radium salesman” MDJ column.

These are the facts. The overwhelming majority of scientists who spend their entire careers studying climate — dedicated and intelligent adults from multiple disciplines working within public and private firms and institutions across the globe — agree that global temperature has increased rapidly and significantly since the industrial revolution. This is not debated within the literature. It is established. In addition, many independent lines of evidence (for conspiracy theorists, the word independent is important here) indicate that human activity is responsible for the increase.

Don’t make the mistake of conflating the political and social response to climate change, with the evidence-based reality of climate change.

Letter to the Editor: Marietta Daily Journal – McKee starting to thaw on climate denial?

Yet another salvo has been published in my local Op-Ed pages in my campaign to drive home the concept of scientific literacy.  Again, this exchange is between myself and a local global warming denier and Marietta Daily Journal columnist, Don McKee. His piece to which I responded is here and my letter to the editor is below. Enjoy.
DEAR EDITOR:  My letter dissecting Mr. McKee’s original Jan. 8 climate change denial column sparked quite a bit of interest in these pages both from Mr. McKee as well as from a number of online commenters, brave and anonymous, across the internet. As a champion of scientific literacy and critical thinking, I am glad that we are having this discourse and that we seem to be making progress.
Mr. McKee’s Jan. 23 column, “Europe’s latest move sheds light on hot topic of climate change,” appears to welcome a much more practical conversation, namely what to do about it. In my debates with climate change denialists, I often find they conflate “science” and “policy,” allowing the fear of the latter to obfuscate the evidence from the former. I’m not sure if this is simply a debate tactic to create red herrings that distract from the evidence or if there is a genuine misunderstanding between the scientific method and the policy implications of scientific findings. Either way, while the peer-reviewed science is clear, the proper policy responses remain a bit more elusive.
Whether climate change denialists like to admit this or not, planning for the potential economic and social impacts of climate change is already happening in insurance companies, real estate development firms, disaster response agencies, public health agencies and military commands across the world. These organizations and businesses do not have the luxury of relying upon a few well-known climate contrarians and right wing talk radio hosts for their climate science; instead they must responsibly plan based on evidence and probability. They and their stakeholders know that closing one’s eyes and plugging one’s ears is no way to tackle a problem.

Letter to the Editor: Marietta Daily Journal – McKee showed ‘illiteracy’ on global warming

I have very little patience for scientific illiteracy. Global warming denial, whether deceitful or otherwise, qualifies.  My frustration is simply that in the year 2014, with near ubiquitous access to credible information, ignorance of the reality of global warming is both willful and inexcusable. With that context in mind, my pen was ignited by Marietta Daily Journal columnist Don McKee’s piece; wherein he tied the occurrence of a rare polar vortex, to some chink in the science that explains why the earth is warming.  The link to his column is here:

Polar vortex sets record low temps, deep-sixes global warming

Critical thinking is vitally important on many fronts, one of which is recognizing bad arguments, particularly bad public arguments.  In this case, the bad argument from Mr. McKee was that global warming is not real.  In the absence of publishing my own column alongside Don’s, letters to the editor are the only recourse the scientifically literate among us have, to combat specious claims.

My letter is below. Enjoy.

DEAR EDITOR: Don McKee’s column “Polar vortex sets record low temps deep sixes global warming” Jan. 8, is yet another painful illustration of abject scientific illiteracy.  Allow me to use his column to help readers recognize what scientific illiteracy looks like.

First on terms: Everyone who can read should by now know that weather does not equal climate.  Donald Trump, Don McKee, and a host of other climate contrarians seem to struggle with this fact.  Dictionaries are your friends, use them.

Second on evidence: Related to the first point, a sudden drop in temperature for a few days where you happen to live is not sufficient evidence to contradict the decades of scientific evidence which show the average temperature of the planet is warming. Don’t be willfully ignorant.

Third on sources: The New American is a publication of the John Birch Society. Scientific information should be gathered from scientific sources, not magazines which reside on an ideological fringe of the political spectrum. Even if the New American had it right, it would not be a credible source. Understand that credibility matters.

Finally on half-truths: This statement, “ice covers in both the North and South polar regions have expanded,” is both vague and misleading.  Ice covers and polar regions? Is Mr. McKee talking about continental polar ice shelves, which are unequivocally receding, or is he talking about polar sea ice coverage, which ebbs and flows with each season? Is he talking about just this season or does he mean over the past thirty years? And so on. Use critical thinking skills to analyze claims.

One needs to recognize that statements such as, “it’s cold outside therefore global warming isn’t real,” or “some ice somewhere is increasing, therefore global warming isn’t real,” are nothing but bite-sized non-sequiturs set out to feed the confirmation bias machine. Neither claim deserves a seat at the grown-up table when discussing actual scientific evidence.

Read it at The Marietta Daily Journal – McKee showed illiteracy on global warming