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Letter: In climate debate, fact becomes fiction and fiction becomes fact

The axiom that every person is entitled to an opinion but not his own set of facts comes into play while reading Francis T. Lake Sr.’s letter from Monday, May 28, “Consensus on climate wrongly assumes scientists are always right.”

His undocumented claim that hundreds of scientists made statements in the early 1970s warning of “the dire consequences of global cooling and a coming ice age” treats fiction as fact and fact as fiction. One hopes Mr. Lake would not have made this claim had he read “The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Consensus” (Thomas C Peterson, William M. Connolley and John Fleck, American Meteorological Society, September 2008, 1325-1337).

The authors assert “that a review of climate science literature from 1965 to 1979 shows this myth to be wrong.” Moreover, a rigorous review of peer-reviewed articles published between 1977 and 1983 in the American Meteorological Society, Nature and other selected journals that had substantive discussions of climate change, identified seven papers favored cooling, 17 were neutral and 41 favored warming. A scientific consensus is based on what scientists write, not what others speculate they mean.

Media coverage predicting a massive cooling period contributed to this myth in two ways: a misunderstanding of climate change studies and “grabbing” the attention of readers by suggesting the earth was “on the brink of an ice age,” perhaps within a decade. “The Cooling World” (Newsweek, April 28, 1975) declared a cooling period would significantly curtail food production and have a catastrophic impact on societies around the world. News media, not climate scientists, made this prediction.

In our discussion of climate change let’s stick to the facts and not rely on the “expertise” of novelist and screenwriter Michael Crichton.

Charles Dollar


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