The American public is being subjected to inaccurate and non-scientific denials regarding global climate change, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner wrote in a 10 December op-ed that became the most frequently viewed opinion piece on the Washington Post Web site.
Climate change related to human activities such as fossil-fuel burning and deforestation is now underway and its scientific basis is clear, said Leshner, executive publisher of Science, in his response to a 9 December op-ed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. “Now, policy-makers must decide whether to act on the evidence or to avoid facing one of the most crucial issues of our generation,” Leshner wrote.
Carbon dioxide, one of the primary greenhouse gases that are trapping heat near the Earth’s surface, is rapidly accumulating in the atmosphere. In fact, ancient Antarctic ice cores show that the current concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is higher than it has been for at least the past 650,000 years. The global temperature has increased by about 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, and multiple lines of other evidence, including reliable thermometer readings since the 1880s, reveal a clear warming trend, Leshner reported.
The broader impacts of climate change include melting glaciers, rising sea levels, shifts in species ranges, and other effects, Leshner wrote.
While the former Alaska governor wrote in her op-ed that she did not deny the “reality of some changes in climate,” Leshner pointed out that “she distorted the clear scientific evidence” and also “badly confused the concepts of daily weather changes and long-term climate trends.”
Leshner also reiterated a 4 December AAAS statement related to private, possibly stolen e-mails among a handful of scientists that are now being selectively publicized. He noted that “investigations are appropriate whenever questions are raised regarding the transparency and rigor of the scientific process or the integrity of individual scientists,” and he pointed out that the responsible authorities are conducting those investigations.
“But it is wrong to suggest that apparently stolen emails, deployed on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit, somehow refute a century of evidence based on thousands of studies,” he emphasized.
This op-ed also appeared in: