By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
I must take issue with last week's posting by my conservative colleague Peter Roff on the E-mail scandal that's rocking the scientific community.
In that scandal, according to the New York Times, one of whose reporters broke the story and was the first to release the E-mails:
John Tierney, a Times science columnist, explained in Science Times last week the most controversial revelation so far in the e-mail—Jones's effort to "hide the decline" (in temperatures) when preparing a graph for the cover of a report to be read by policy makers. The graph, showing sharply higher temperatures in the last several decades, relied in part on tree ring data, until the rings began to diverge from thermometer readings and show a decline in temperatures. Jones and his colleagues did not believe that data and removed it from the graph, substituting direct thermometer readings without explicitly acknowledging the switch.
While the disclosure of the E-mails admittedly has done a great deal of damage to one scientist's credibility on global warming, it has hardly taken the debate over climate change to the point where some conservatives seem bound and determined to push it: to discrediting otherwise overwhelming existence that Earth's climate is undergoing massive manmade change.
This is the point from which my difference with my colleague takes flight. He and other conservatives are insinuating that the Jones incident proves all science surrounding climate change is a hoax and liberals are using the hoax to try to bleed conservatives dry. Here's an excerpt from Roff's post:
You might think that the embarrassment accompanying the disclosure of these emails—even the liberal Jon Stewart is making fun of them on The Daily Show—would generate at least a pause in the [push to] adopt legislation that will cause billions of dollars to be sucked out of the American economy and kill thousands of jobs here at home. And you'd be wrong.
Even former New York Times conservative opinion columnist turned science writer John Tierney took a more reasoned approach:
The story behind that graph certainly didn't show that global warming was a hoax or a fraud, as some skeptics proclaimed, but it did illustrate another of their arguments: that the evidence for global warming is not as unequivocal as many scientists claim.
But are his fellow conservatives listening to him? Unfortunately, no. Well, they don't need to listen to their own or certainly to me for that matter.
But they ought to listen to the nonpartisan Associated Press, which reported over the weekend that global warming is not only a reality, it is costing many governments a lot of money. As the climate warms up and sea levels rise, governments are paying out or saving to adapt:
Cities, states and countries are scrambling to adapt or are at least talking about it and setting aside money for it. Some examples:
* England is strengthening the Thames River flood control barrier at a cost of around half a billion dollars.
* The Netherlands is making its crucial flood control system stronger.
* California is redesigning the gates that move water around the agriculturally vital Sacramento River Delta so that they can work when the sea level rises dramatically there.
* Boston elevated a sewage treatment plant to keep it from being flooded when sea level rises. New York City is looking at similar maneuvers for water plants.
* Chicago has a program to promote rooftop vegetation and reflective roofs that absorb less heat. That could keep the temperature down and ease heat waves.
* Engineers are installing "thermal siphons" along the oil pipeline in Alaska, which is built on permafrost that is thawing, to draw heat away from the ground.
* Researchers are uprooting moisture-loving trees along British Columbia's coastal rainforests and dropping their seedlings in the dry ponderosa pine forests of Idaho, where they are more likely to survive.
* Singapore plans to cut its flood-prone areas in half by 2011 by widening and deepening drains and canals and completing a $226 million dam at the mouth of the city's main river.
* In Thailand, there are large-scale efforts to protect places from rising sea levels. Monks at one temple outside Bangkok had to raise the floor by more than 3 feet.
* Desperately poor Bangladesh is spending more than $50 million on adaptation. It is trying to fend off the sea with flood control and buildings on stilts.