New Video: Climate Change – What We Knew and When We Knew It
February 14, 2017
Not long ago, many Republican officeholders had a simple answer when asked about the changing climate: What changing climate?
But the public began to notice the heat waves and the torrential rainsand the tidal flooding. So then we had the “I am not a scientist” phase, with one lawmaker after another fending off climate questions with that formula.
That drew such ridicule that Republicans critical of climate science had to come up with a more nuanced answer. Several variations on the new approach were on display recently during confirmation hearings for some of President Trump’s cabinet nominees.
“Science tells us that the climate is changing and human activity in some manner impacts that change,” Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency, told a Senate committee. “The human ability to measure with precision the extent of that impact is subject to continuing debate and dialogue, as well they should be.”
Let us ponder the craftsmanship of that second sentence.
“With precision” is the key phrase, of course, and it renders the statement almost axiomatically true. Do we have trouble taking the precise temperature of an entire planet and then divining, for a given period, exactly how much of the change in that temperature is caused by human activities?
Anybody who did not know better might come away thinking there is room to doubt whether humans are the main cause of global warming. Mr. Pruitt did not actually say that, of course — nowadays, hard-core climate denial provokes a furious response from Democrats in Congress and mild protest even from a few Republicans.
Thus Mr. Pruitt and the other Trump nominees labored to avoid overt denial while signaling to their allies that there is enough doubt to justify inaction on emissions or even rolling back steps the Obama administration took.
“They’re just trying not to look crazy, because if they look too crazy, then Susan Collins” — a Republican senator from Maine — “and a few of the moderate Republicans might jump ship,” said Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, an American climate scientist who holds a chair at Oxford University, in Britain.
Models long have been targeted as a weak link by those steadfastly refusing to accept mainstream climate science.
But a review of their actual performance paints a different picture.
This month’s original “This is Not Cool” video by independent videographer Peter Sinclair offers strong evidence supporting the value of climate models in helping forecast global warming. He weaves together a string of archival televised presentations, classroom lectures, congressional testimony, and one-on-one interviews in relating how climate models frequently have provided valuable insights into coming developments only later seen by direct observation.
It will come as no great surprise to the professional climate modeling community, but the testimonials in the video suggest that those dismissive of the mainstream climate science may have to find a new target for their barbs.
Sinclair in the video uses his familiar blend of new and decades-old footage to document numerous important cases in which climate models called things right, ranging from the “whole warming of the earth that’s occurred over the last few decades” to the more rapid warming of the Arctic and of continental interior regions, and faster warming of night than of daytime.