A Rational Discussion on Climate Change

Interesting thing I came across yesterday evening. Dr. Judith Curry posted a blog entry detailing the lineup at a Congressional hearing next week. Find the post here.

Dr. Curry has begun to completely differentiate herself from the rest of the climate science crowd. Her blog (linked above) has become a great resource of honest, unspun, unbiased, non-partisan debate on the science of climate change. Those of you who don’t follow climate science closely may not realize how much of a hotbed the internet has become for “partisan” sniping back and forth on climate change. There are literally dozens of blogs… some that are advocating anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and those that question it. If you visit Dr. Curry’s blog, she has listed a boatload of blogs on her sidebar that delve deep into the fray on both sides.

Let me sidetrack here briefly and give you my own perspective on this issue.

I’ve opted to keep an open mind in the climate science debate. I’ve undergone quite a transition in my development from a student to meteorologist…from initially thinking Al Gore was doing a great public service with “An Inconvenient Truth” to eventually thinking he’s actually the reason climate science in politics is an utter trainwreck at present and did a dramatic disservice. I’ve kept an open mind on theories about climate change. I don’t pretend to be a climatologist, but I’ve seen enough issues with modeling and quality of observations to be extremely skeptical of the “science is settled” argument. I think that statement was dishonest, unfair, and represents all that is wrong with how climate science has been conducted to this end. I am skeptical of the IPCC, as I don’t feel a government sponsored panel really has the best interest of the science at heart (there are too many conflicts of interest on that side of things).

However, I know climate scientists, I’ve read research, I’ve seen things that don’t make sense, and I’ve seen and heard enough of this to not take the traditional uber-conservative point of view that this is all smoke and mirrors and there’s nothing to see here.

I have two or three main points of contention regarding climate change: The first is that I think cap and trade is a complete joke, will only hurt the economy, and provide no substantial justifiable environmental benefits. I believe that if policymakers are going to address climate change, the United States should not be the only country taking action, especially when the economic consequences are likely to be so drastic. And “capping” emissions accomplishes nothing. If you’re really looking to address that as a problem, they need to be cut…not capped.

My second point of contention is when climate change proponents and deniers instantly pounce on a weather event as evidence of AGW occurring or not occurring. And I feel that stance has really screwed up this debate.

As I’ve developed further in this field I’ve tried to develop a middle ground perspective, which is sound science: Be skeptical, question everything, but don’t ignore certain things that are obviously occurring. And I’ve progressed from center left, to far right, back to an optimal middle ground on the issue now. And to bring this full circle, that seems to be where Dr. Curry is coming from. There was an incredibly well written profile of Dr. Curry published in the November 2010 edition of Scientific American magazine. What Dr. Curry has done that has been so unorthodox, is that she has crossed lines that many AGW proponents have refused to cross: She’s engaging the community of skeptics. This has been something that has been desperately missing from this whole debate over the last 10+ years. She just “gets” it (a lot of it is (I think by her own admission) learning from experiences in the past that she probably mishandled), and that’s what’s so refreshing about her blog and her becoming a rock star in the field of climate change.

This will be an interesting hearing next week. It’s entitled “A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response.” And I certainly hope this can be a rational conversation. The House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment is headed by Rep. Edward Markey, and also includes California Rep. Henry Waxman (of Waxman-Markey Bill fame). Since this meeting is occurring before the change of hands in Congress, Dr. Curry was actually asked specifically by the minority party (GOP) to “discuss how we can go about responding to the climate change issue in the face of uncertainty, dissent and disagreement.” What is also interesting is that she is the only person on the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Working Report to be allowed to testify by the GOP.

So I think a couple things can happen here. Either the Republicans are going to seize on Dr. Curry discussing how and why it’s rational to engage the skeptical community and spin it as that even the climate scientists truly aren’t sure. Or, the democrats are going to try and discredit Dr. Curry. Or, this may actually start a rational, sane debate on climate change science, uncertainty, and direction in Congress that needs to be had. My hope is that option three is the one that this committee chooses to run with.

If anything, I think we all can agree that it’s time to set a new energy policy in place that focuses on more domestic production of energy and puts us on a more sustainable path. This is why I truly hope President Obama can channel 1994 President Clinton over the next two years. If both sides can compromise, I think something good can come of this.

In the meantime, I encourage anyone with an interest in a side of climate change you won’t hear about in the mainstream media to bookmark Dr. Curry’s blog, Climate, Etc., and check out some of the postings there from time to time.

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