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Fonzi misleads on climate change

Use the truth of science as your guide

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Al Fonzi's commentary in your paper ("Polar bears aren't canaries," Aug. 3) does a disservice to your readers by laundering untruthful climate change denial talking points. His misguided screed reads like a game of climate change denier bingo.

He insists, for example, that "climate alarmists at NASA have been readjusting the raw climate data to reflect pre-determined results" (this untruthful allegation, promulgated by Fox News and other right-wing purveyors of climate change disinformation, got a pants-on-fire rating from Politifact ). Mr. Fonzi's other claims fare no better

We get, for example, the claim that "polar bears aren't at risk" (yes they are—polar bears are in danger of extinction as well as many other species. Climate change deniers often try to mislead the public on this issue by citing isolated polar bear populations where numbers happen to have increased owing to new hunting regulations).

Fonzi then claims that the disintegration of the Antarctic ice sheet is due to "under-ice volcanoes" (the processes involved are well understood and have nothing to do with volcanoes and everything to do with human-caused climate change).

Most disturbing, however, are Mr. Fonzi's cynical attacks against scientists. I found deeply offensive, for example, his attempt to imply that scientists use the term "climate change denial" to evoke connotations of "Holocaust denial." Denial is a catch-all term for the dismissal of what is plainly evident. It has no Holocaust connotations, and those who suggest otherwise are typically shedding crocodile tears. I might add that, as someone of Jewish ancestry, I find such cynical exploitation of the tragedy of Nazi Germany deeply offensive and completely unacceptable.

In his feeble attempt to attack the science of climate change, Mr. Fonzi engages in the shopworn denialist tactic of citing discredited allegations and innuendo arising from the industry-funded "climategate" smear campaign, where thousands of scientists' emails were stolen and then misrepresented by climate change deniers in an effort to call into question the evidence for human-caused climate change. He conveniently fails to mention that at least 10 different investigations and inquiries in the U.S. and Europe rejected the claim that there was any impropriety revealed in any of the stolen emails. Indeed, the only impropriety was the criminal theft of the emails in the first place.

Mr. Fonzi also makes demonstrably untruthful statements about my own scientific work reconstructing temperature changes over the past 1,000 years, which resulted in the well-known "Hockey Stick" curve. This curve demonstrates the unprecedented nature of recent warming over the past millennium. It has been attacked by climate change deniers like Mr. Fonzi owing to the simple, undeniable message it conveys about the dramatic impact human activity is having on Earth's climate.

Conveniently once again, Mr. Fonzi fails to acknowledge the fact that the scientific community has overwhelmingly validated our findings. The highest scientific body in the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences, affirmed my research findings in an exhaustive independent review published in June 2006 (see e.g. "Science Panel Backs Study on Warming Climate," New York Times, June 22, 2006). The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that recent warmth is likely unprecedented over an even longer timeframe (at least the past 1,300 years).

Readers interested in the truth behind the science, rather than the falsehoods and deliberate smears perpetuated by individuals like Mr. Fonzi, should consult scientist-run websites like skepticalscience.com, or books on the topic like my own Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change.

Let's get past the fake debate about whether climate change is real, and onto the worthy debate over what to do about it. Δ

Michael E. Mann is a professor in Penn State University's Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science and the director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. The hyperlinks in the body of this article were provided by Mr. Mann in support of his commentary. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.


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