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Look through the telescope



Among others, Dr. Michael Mann responded to my Aug. 3 article "Polar bears aren't canaries," castigating me as a "climate change denier" and dismissing most of my arguments as being untrue with lots of "kind words" directed at me personally. In his Aug. 10 response ("Fonzi misleads on climate change"), he took exception to my referral to the controversy surrounding his "hockey stick graph," denouncing me as a "denier" and insisted I was incorrect (that's the watered down version) about polar bears doing well in the Arctic and that volcanoes played no role in Antarctic loss of ice. I believe Dr. Mann to be incorrect and out-of-date with his research. (For the geographically challenged, the "Arctic" refers to northern polar regions; "Antarctic" refers to south polar regions.)

I cited a study showing that there were at least 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic, up from the 5,000 or so counted back in the 1970s. Actually, there's closer to 30,000 polar bears "subdivided into 19 subpopulations" according to Susan J. Crockford, Ph.D., who has spent the last 25 years studying the "ecology and evolution of polar bears" in the Arctic. That's a 27 percent increase in the bear population since 2005. Dr. Crockford and other leading scientists are now asserting that there may be as many polar bears now as there were in the year 1700, before large-scale hunting and trapping occurred. Check out her website where details on this topic can be found at polarbearscience.com.

A fallacy she corrects is that the loss of Arctic sea ice in the fall severely impacts polar bear survival. In fact, the critical time for sea ice is in the spring when the bears gorge, having the ability to fast the entire summer if need be. They also tend to live and hunt on the periphery of the ice and primarily feed on ringed seals, although they aren't picky if the seals aren't available. Thick sea ice adversely affects ringed seals' ability to survive as they can't find holes in the ice to come up to breathe, reducing the seal survival rate and thus the bears' food supply. (Polar bears wait next to air holes in the ice to ambush seals when they come up to breathe.) Thinner ice and warmer weather actually have tended to enhance survivability for bears and seals alike as both populations thrive with thinner ice.

So why the push to list the bears as endangered over the protests of the indigenous populations who struggle to live in the far north? By listing the bears and other furry mammals as threatened or endangered erects an insurmountable legal barrier to large or small Arctic development, on which the economic hopes of the native populations are based.

Another assertion made in the critique of my last climate opinion piece was that Antarctic under-ice volcanoes played no role in decline of the Antarctic ice sheets. In fact, a "2014 peer-reviewed study found the West Antarctic glacier likely melting from geothermal heat below from volcanoes." An article by Anthony Watts (Nov. 17, 2013) from Washington University in St. Louis described how a group of seismologists "has detected new volcanic activity under the ice about 30 miles ahead of Mount Sidney in the direction of the range's migration." Another article detailed how discoveries made in the last several years have detected as many as 97 volcanoes in West Antarctica, possibly more than were detected in the Great Rift region of Africa. How many are active isn't fully understood any more than the role under-ice volcanism might play in melting the West Antarctic ice sheet while the eastern ice sheet is actually expanding in size. Regardless of the answer, objective scientists would not dismiss this information out of hand, but this happens more frequently than one expects.

The state of climate science today brings to mind "Galileo's lament." Galileo's heliocentric theory of planets revolving around the sun was confronted by authorities who clung to the earth-centered model of the universe (everything revolved around the Earth), "refusing to look through a telescope and test Galileo's conclusions. It wasn't religion ... Jesuit scientists (readily) accepted Galileo's views. It was the entrenched Dominican scientists who refused to look. Their combined religious and scientific authority was based on the old views of Aristotle; Galileo was undermining their authority. The easiest way to short circuit the scientific process was to stop observing and suppress questioning. In utter disbelief, Galileo wrote to Johannes Kepler that the most learned steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope. What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh or shall we cry?" (Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist's Journey to Climate Skepticism, 2013, Jim Steele).

That's climate science today: politicized, suppressed dissent, refusal to debate or discuss objectively, ridicule/ slandering of all who dare question orthodoxy. I read a lot and may be wrong, but I don't deliberately mislead. Try reading opposing views (I do). I recommend starting with Landscapes and Cycles by Jim Steele. Look through the telescope and see for yourself. Δ

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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