Letter to the Editor: Earth doesn’t have time for this

To the Editor:

The letter from David M. Johnson is a stroll down Memory Lane. He revisits and recycles a litany of repeatedly and thoroughly debunked climate change denial claims.

Robust documentation of global warming does not rely strictly upon any one organization, such as NASA, or any one scientific method. I will offer only three specific red flags in Mr. Johnson’s letter.

First, the RSS data cited by Mr. Johnson underwent a major correction of technical distortions, and data published 10/1/2017 in the Journal of Climate revealed that since 1998, global warming had occurred at a rate 140% faster (2.4 times as fast). Mr. Johnson has ignored this.

A second red flag is Mr. Johnson’s reliance upon an opinion of Lubos Motl. Mr. Motl is a physicist whose expertise is in string theory. He is not a climate scientist or researcher. Citing him is reminiscent of the use of Fred Singer by both the tobacco industry and fossil fuel industry to promote doubt about the role of cigarette smoking in the development of lung cancer and the role of carbon emissions from fossil fuels in global warming. Singer was a physicist, as well, but had no special expertise in medicine or climate science.

As explained very well in “The Merchants of Doubt”, by Naomi Oreskes, and “The New Climate War”, by Michael E. Mann, the denial that global warming is real, happening now, serious and subject to improvement if action is taken now, is an industry-promoted program of disinformation that dates to when it became evident that unless something was done to paralyze government action, fossil fuel profits were at risk.

A third red flag is Mr. Johnson’s quote of James Hansen from 22 years ago, in 1999, suggesting that this remains his view and that he does not believe that global warming is happening. This is drastically incorrect. James Hansen has been a forceful advocate of the need for ambitious action on climate change for many years, including being willing to be subjected to arrest at climate protests.

As just one example, he said in a BBC interview in 2015 that he endorsed carbon fee and dividend to price carbon to reflect its true societal costs. He said, “Right now the external costs of fossil fuels are borne completely by the public. If your child gets asthma, you pay the bill, the fossil fuel company doesn’t.

What we need is to make the system honest.”

Mr. Johnson’s numerous other claims (Medieval Warm Period, “Climate Gate”, ad hominem remarks about Al Gore, etc.) are equally misleading and/or factually incorrect, as even cursory reading about those topics makes clear. Mr. Johnson’s claims serve the interests of the fossil fuel industry by promoting bullet points that politicians influenced by the oil and gas lobby can parrot as they allow global warming to proceed unhindered. Don’t be fooled or distracted. The Earth doesn’t have time for this.

Gary M. Stewart
Laguna Beach, CA