Distorting climate data won’t undo damage

Frank Tlkalksy’s summary of climate science and its history (Letters, Herald, Aug. 25) can hardly be improved upon; those who believe that climate scientists are perpetrating a fraud on the public, as many do, or are just wrong, have a very heavy burden of proof to meet. And because most climate change deniers do so for partisan political reasons, they bear a heavy moral burden as well.

I don’t blame anyone for hoping that human activities are not the cause of global climate change, and it is fair to say that there is probably not a climate scientist who would not share that hope. But, alas, hope, or political bias, cannot change the facts, namely, that global warming is happening and that it is almost certainly due mainly to human activities.

To be specific, much has been made of the “fact” that global atmospheric temperatures have not changed over the last 16 years. Why 16 years? Why not 20 or 50, or, for that matter, one? The reason, of course, is that the temperature record is very “noisy,” replete with short-term fluctuations.

There also are regular climate oscillations such as El Niño and La Niña, which affect temperatures in the short run. So, it is indeed possible to draw a straight line through points a few years apart in the temperature record and say that global temperatures are not increasing. But examination of the temperature record on the larger scale, since 1890, for example, shows inexorably increasing temperatures, with the curve steepening since 1970.

Deliberately distorting the meaning of the data will not make the damage we are doing to the planet go away.

Dan Purrington


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