November 9, 2010

Climate Change Experts Set To Go On The Offensive

Hundreds of scientists and climate change experts are vowing to band together to speak out in response to climate change skeptics--a move that some surmise comes in response to the political gains made by the Republican Party in last week's Congressional elections.

"The moves signals a bold approach by scientists, typically reluctant to get involved in policy debates, as US President Barack Obama's efforts to set stricter penalties for polluters face near-certain defeat in the legislature," Kerry Sheridan of the AFP reported on Monday. "Scientists involved insisted the mobilization was not in direct response to conservative gains in power and did not aim to influence public policy, but would offer the opportunity to present the facts when needed."

One group of scientists, led by John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, consists of a 40-person "rapid response team" that are working to "correct misinformation about global warming," according to Neela Banerjee of the Los Angeles Times' Washington Bureau.

"We did not form this to take a stance against climate change skeptics. However if a skeptical argument is put forward that doesn't agree with science, we will refute that," Abraham, an associate professor, told Sheridan. "This is in response to a real disconnect between what is known in the scientific community and the consensus among the general public"¦ Ninety-seven percent of top scientists are in agreement, but the public is split about 50-50."

In a separate but similar maneuver, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) announced on Monday that approximately 700 climate scientists would make themselves available to answer questions about global warming, greenhouse gases, and similar issues.  Both announcements come less than one week after the GOP seized control of the House of Representatives and picked up additional seats in the Senate in the November 2 elections.

"I think it is important for scientists to assure that the public and policy makers have a clear view of what scientific findings are and what the implications of those findings are," Princeton University scientist Michael Oppenheimer told Sheridan. "To the extent that some members of the new majority in the House have exhibited a contrarianism to science, I think it is a good way to have a scientific community there to help keep its facts clear."

"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists," added Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York, in an interview with Banerjee. "We are taking the fight to them because we are"¦ tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has changed."


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