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Editor's Page

July 27, 2009
Volume 87, Number 30
p. 5

Climate-Change Dissent

Rudy Baum

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THE LETTERS in this issue of C&EN, all six columns of them, address my editorial "Climate-Change News" that appeared in the June 22 issue. Most of the letters disagree sharply with the editorial. Many more letters on climate change appear in the letters section of this week's issue of C&EN Online. Most all of the printable letters we received about the June 22 editorial are either printed in this issue or posted on C&EN Online.

I will let the letters speak for themselves. Some chemists do not think human activity is causing Earth's climate to change. They think the evidence for their point of view is stronger than the evidence that supports the widely accepted idea that burning fossil fuels and discharging other gases and particulates into the atmosphere is causing global warming.

A few points: One is that some writers suggest that ACS should not allow me to express what they consider an extreme view on global warming. They point to the disclaimer on the Editor's Page—"Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS"—and say that it is insufficient in distancing ACS from me.

ACS, in fact, has an official position on climate change, which is easy to find under the "Policy" section of www.acs.org. The position statement opens with the following: "Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth's climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing aerosol particles (IPCC, 2007). There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change."

I am also struck by the contempt of many of the letter writers for the thousands of scientists who work for government agencies such as EPA, NASA, NOAA, and DOE. Their harshest vitriol is aimed at the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Many of the letters dismiss out of hand any report from IPCC or any U.S. government agency that supports the idea of human-induced global warming, calling such reports irredeemably "politicized." I am startled that they so blithely impugn the integrity of so many of their colleagues.

I am also always surprised, although at this point in my career I know I shouldn't be, at the vehemence of many of the letters. Some of the letters I received are not fit to print. Many of the letters we have printed are, I think it is fair to say, outraged by my position on global warming.

My interaction with one ACS member, who shall remain unnamed, on "Climate-Change News" began with an unpleasant telephone conversation followed up by a series of e-mails. The last e-mail from the member read as follows: "I hoped that you may have had a new information input valve into your mind but I see it has been closed off or eliminated. I guess you're happy in your little prison of thought so I certainly don't want to disturb you. It becomes obvious when the 'Flat Earth' comments come out one is not dealing with an individual interested in fact finding or relevant discussion. When all is said and done, and you and your kind are proven wrong (again), you will have moved on to be an unthinking urn for another rat pleading catastrophe.

"You will be removed. I promise.

"We have no need for further interaction."

Meanwhile, the science marches on. On July 7, the American Geophysical Union put out a press release on a paper appearing in the Journal of Geophysical Research—Oceans. "Scientists have evaluated for the first time how much the thickness and volume of Arctic sea ice, not just the ice's surface area, have shrunk since 2004 across the Arctic Ocean basin. Even where the sea ice cover persists despite climate change in the region, a vast portion of the remaining ice layer has become thinner than it used to be, the new study finds."

Thanks for reading.

Rudy Baum

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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