Sunday June 12th 2011


Refuting state AG’s anti-science petition, Virginia climate scientists see “great risk” from greenhouse gases

Virginia’s Attorney General is claiming that global warming is “unreliable, unverifiable and doctored” science, but the state’s climatologists aren’t buying it, as Brad Johnson reports in this Wonkroom repost.

Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) — a former state senator and corporate attorney — has joined Texas and right-wing industry groups in challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public. In a press conference announcing this petition, Cuccinelli claimed that hacked “Climategate” emails prove a conspiracy by scientists involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to replace real science with “political science.” His efforts to block “job-destroying regulations based on unverifiable and unrepeatable so-called science” are supported by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA):

It’s very clear the process by which this was undertaken was not one that was set up to reach an objective conclusion. This wasn’t the pursuit of truth. It was political science, not science in the typical sense of the word. . . . While we’re open to seeing where honest, unbiased science leads us in the climate policy arena, we are not prepared to stand by while EPA proceeds to implement job-destroying regulations based on unverifiable and unrepeatable so-called science.

If there is such a conspiracy, it has corrupted Cuccinelli’s own state. In email interviews with the Wonk Room, several scientists at the University of Virginia Department of Environmental Sciences, which runs the Virginia Climatology Office, made it clear that they believe Cuccinelli’s extreme claims are without merit.

Palaeoclimatologist William Ruddiman, professor emeritus, University of Virginia — and author of Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate and Earth’s Climate: Past and Future — is “confident” of the facts of manmade global warming, and that our emissions of greenhouse gases “carry great risk”:

As a mainstream climate scientist, I am confident about the following facts:

  • Earth has warmed by 0.7-0.8C since the late 1800’s.
  • Greenhouse gas concentrations began rising near 1850 and have been rising since then.
  • Most of the warming since the middle/late 1800’s, and the vast majority of it since 1970, has been caused by greenhouse-gas increases.
  • Given this history, and with the current rate of gas emissions, future climate will likely be warmer (probably much warmer than any climate of the last few tens of millions of years).

Actions that produce climates greatly different from today carry great risk. And at this point we are headed in that direction.

Atmospheric scientist Jennie Moody, research associate professor, University of Virginia, has concluded that “the public welfare is threatened by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions,” based on her own research and knowledge of the science:

There is nothing in my own research, or my understanding of the science of climate change that would give me reason to believe that EPA’s finding of endangerment is not based on sound science. To rephrase this, I would say that my knowledge gained through regular scholarship (reading of the literature in my field, I have a Ph.D. in atmospheric science (meteorology) and a minor in chemistry) and to a lesser extent from my own research in facts leads me to conclude that the public welfare is threatened by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Wildlife biologist Michael Erwin, research professor, University of Virginia, who feels “there is no question” about the link between greenhouse gases and sea level rise, warns of the consequences to the state of Virginia:

The issue of relative sea level rise is a real concern, especially in the mid Atlantic region (from New Jersey to North Carolina, and including Chesapeake Bay) and the Louisiana-Mississippi coast. The combination of eustatic sea level rise and subsidence in both areas is substantial, resulting in inundation of many wetlands, and erosion of many small marsh islands; it appears that most models predict an even more rapid rate of sea level rise in the next century. This has major implications to the wildlife species that depend on marshes, as well as human infrastructure in these densely populated areas.

Are they part of the conspiracy? Are they being duped by even-more-clever scientists? Or is the threat of accumulating man-made greenhouse gases real, as scientists have been warning for decades? We report, you decide.

Update: The question asked of Professor Moody was:

I would like to know if your research and/or your understanding of the science of climate change gives you any reason to believe that the EPA’s assessment that greenhouse gases are threatening public welfare (through such means, with varying degrees of certainty, as adverse impacts in the areas of water resources and sea level rise and coastal areas, increases in wildfires, changes in air quality, increases in temperatures, changes in extreme weather events, increases in food- and water-borne pathogens, changes in aeroallergens) is not based on sound science.

This article was originally posted on Climate Progress