Mar. 1, 2013 – Two respected members of the scientific community armed with dueling PowerPoint presentations squared off over the issue of climate change Thursday in a discussion at the University of Houston Law Center.
One argued that man-made emissions clearly play a role in global warming while the other warned against placing too much stock in computer models rather than actual observation. The debate was co-sponsored by the Federalist Society and the Environmental & Energy Law Society.
Dr. John Nielson-Gammon, the State Climatologist of Texas and Regents Professor at Texas A&M University's Department of Atmospheric Sciences, said carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are contributors to climate change, but there are many other variables, including the weather, that bears on the Earth's delicate equilibrium.
The expectation of two el Niños and an underlying warming trend, he said, makes for a better than 50 percent chance that 2013 will become the hottest year on record. He said natural variations have shown temperatures going up and down, but temperatures in recent decades show a steady upward trend.
Dr. Willie Soon, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, countered that earth and ocean temperatures should be constantly rising if greenhouse gases are affecting climate change, but instead temperatures are rising and falling. "Where is the CO2 monster?" he asked. "Models can't be trusted," he added, as he worked his way through slide after slide showing various projections versus actual observation in temperature and greenhouse gas concentration. Averaging the various models into a composite fares even worse, he said.
Soon quoted another respected scientist, Albert Einstein: "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong." The astrophysicist added: "Let's be careful with the numbers."
A member of the crowded lunch-hour audience asked if the issue of climate change is serious enough to risk serious damage to the economy with more stringent regulations. "We're going to have to deal with it sooner or later," Nielson-Gammon said. "We have a responsibility to take care of the Earth."