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Letter: ‘Consensus’ on climate wrongly assumes scientists are always right

“We simply cannot afford to gamble by ignoring it. We cannot risk inaction. Those scientists who say we are merely entering a period of climatic instability are acting irresponsibly. The indications that our climate can soon change for the worse are too strong to be reasonably ignored.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? However, there is only one problem — the statement was one of hundreds made in the early 1970s to alert the public to the dire consequences of global cooling, and a coming ice age.

In addition, the predictions were based on scientific research. From 1960 to 1980, 285 scientific papers by climate scientists led to an 83 percent consensus that the earth was cooling rapidly, and that we must act immediately to prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

Is anyone worried about an “ice age” today? Of course not. People are worried about global warming and the catastrophic consequences of the rapidly warming planet. Furthermore, it must be true because there is a 97 to 99 percent consensus among climate scientists that it is so.

In talks based on his best-selling novel “State of Fear,” the thought-provoking author, Michael Crichton, calls for caution in dealing with the life-altering predictions made in the last 50 years.

One of Crichton’s illustrations of the dangerous effects of provoking fear is based on the 1986 meltdown of a nuclear facility in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Due to the public’s perception that such an incident would have worldwide effects, with perhaps millions of people killed, and that future generations would suffer as well, the public was thrown into a panic.

But what actually happened? Using data from UN Commissions (2000, 2005), Crichton documents the exact numbers of immediate and long-term deaths and diseases resulting from exposure to the radiation. While the estimates of immediate deaths were as high as 15,000 to 30,000, the actual deaths numbered 56. This is quite a difference.

The long-term estimates were just as bad. The 2005 UN Commission estimated the deaths and diseases due to the radiation world-wide was only 4,000, about the same number of persons dying each month from drug overdose in the United States (2015).

The UN Commission concluded that the most troubling impact of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was the damaging psychological impact due to lack of accurate information. False information can be just as destructive as the radiation. The psychological effects included: negative self-assessment of health, belief in a shortened life expectancy, lack of initiative and dependence for assistance on the state. Thousands of unknown people were made invalids out of fear.

Let’s not make the same mistake when the same scare techniques are used to convince the people of the eminent dangers of global warming. The science is not settled, and the psychological effects of the apocalyptic predictions will not be beneficial to the physical and mental health of folks continually bombarded by misleading information.

Finally, 99 percent of the polls predicted the election of Hillary Clinton. So much for consensus. 

Francis T. Lake Sr.


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