Point. Counter-point. Point. Counter-point. Check … and Check Mate. And, alas … the ‘last word’ on gulf dividing climate scientists and their critics. (If only)

Perhaps no recent exchange — actually a volley of four exchanges — better illustrates the sizable gap separating the large majority of climate scientists and their smaller, but sometimes more vocal, critics.

News Analysis and Commentary

It was the shot, as we’ve heard before and perhaps even in the context of climate science, across the bow. The bow, that is, of the “consensus” view expressed by IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, and virtually all of the professional scientific societies. And it’s easily accessible, readable in plain English, and not hidden away in a highly respected journal, where it likely would never have gotten out of the starting block in the first place. While not all four of the elements in this puzzle are in the public domain of newspaper print, two are. And the other two are easily available online.

Read them all to get a full sense of the “gulf”:

  • It starts with a Wall Street Journal January 27 “No Need to Panic About Global Warming” op-ed that almost instantly became the talk of the town. (That is, of the town talking about climate science.) Signed by 16 scientists with impressive-sounding quals, if perhaps fewer peer-reviewed citations to their credit, the column laid out a usual litany of often-rebutted but still standing challenges to the underlying climate science. There followed, as of February 2, more than 2,600 comments. And still counting, no doubt.
  • Next came the response of 38 — count them 38! — generally highly regarded climate scientists, who no doubt wanted to undercut their critics not only by more than doubling the signers, but also by qualitatively challenging their bold assertions. “Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate,” this one was not so subtly titled. For an op-ed page not known for readily publishing scientists’ rebuttals to its perspectives, merely having their letter published was something of a victory on their behalf.
  • Next came a three-page rebuttal of the WSJ op-ed by Louis Derry, Cornell University geological sciences assistant professor, submitted to The New York Times’ Dotearth blog. For those thinking the initial WSJ op-ed was way off base, the Derry critique certainly must warrant an A+.
  • Which is not to suggest that Derry’s is “the final word” on the exchanges. Nothing ever is in the climate science arena, it seems, and Anthony Watts’ ever-skeptical “Watts Up With That?” site came up with a rejoinder to the 38 scientists’ letter, this one penned by long-time climate “skeptic” Indur M. Goklany, often known to colleagues as “Gokes” (with a hard “G”).

Smart money has it that his too won’t be the final word in this long-lived discussion. It’s all enough to make Dotearth editor Andy Revkin, promoting his view that economics trumps climate science in shaping approaches to climate change, murmur “so tired of this crap.”

To which one seasoned and wizened climate change aficionado had what just might indeed be the “final word” on it all: “You said it brother. I’ve decided to photograph sunsets for awhile.”

Good idea, that one.

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