On Global Warming Deniers

ON GLOBAL WARMING DENIERS….Two years ago, Naomi Oreskes published a widely cited piece in Science that reviewed a large sample of journal articles on climate change published between 1993-2003. Her conclusion: not a single paper refuted the position that the earth is warming and humans are largely responsible.

Last month the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed declaring that Oreskes was mistaken and suggesting that there really was considerable debate within the scientific community. Today, Oreskes takes to the LA Times to tell us that, in reality, “the consensus stands”:

To be sure, there are a handful of scientists, including MIT professor Richard Lindzen, the author of the Wall Street Journal editorial, who disagree with the rest of the scientific community. To a historian of science like me, this is not surprising. In any scientific community, there are always some individuals who simply refuse to accept new ideas and evidence. This is especially true when the new evidence strikes at their core beliefs and values.

….A historical example will help to make the point. In the 1920s, the distinguished Cambridge geophysicist Harold Jeffreys rejected the idea of continental drift on the grounds of physical impossibility. In the 1950s, geologists and geophysicists began to accumulate overwhelming evidence of the reality of continental motion, even though the physics of it was poorly understood. By the late 1960s, the theory of plate tectonics was on the road to near-universal acceptance.

Yet Jeffreys, by then Sir Harold, stubbornly refused to accept the new evidence, repeating his old arguments about the impossibility of the thing. He was a great man, but he had become a scientific mule. For a while, journals continued to publish Jeffreys’ arguments, but after a while he had nothing new to say. He died denying plate tectonics. The scientific debate was over.

Ouch. Somebody please tell James “Global Warming is a Hoax” Inhofe.