Recent columns in the News expressed great distress at the fallout from the hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit. One reasoned that the agreement between the temperature records from the East Anglia researchers and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies temperature data set was sufficient evidence to indict the latter organization as a co-conspirator in a daring gambit to establish a one-world government.
Scientists who work in climate science often receive e-mails from concerned citizens displaying a sort of reasoning that is, shall we say, creative. I am surprised to read the same type of reasoning in the published work of two students here. The parents of Yale students pay a hefty tuition to support a community of scholars from nearly every academic discipline, including many professors with recognized expertise in climate science. Neither columnist consulted with any of these scholars to clarify what seem to be unprecedented revelations in scientific and world affairs. Maybe professors are too scary, but there is little evidence that either author went beyond popular Web sites in their research. Is this how Yale students approach an important controversy concerning one of the most important public issues of their lives?
Relying on the Internet is particularly troubling with climate change. Unable to survive in a public forum of scientists, climate-change denialists go straight to the mass media, with the message that climate science is uncertain. Their goal is to confuse and mislead, not to inform.
If the scientific consensus on global warming were as easy to refute as has been claimed, I personally would have written papers to Nature and Science to demonstrate the hidden scientific truth, procured millions of dollars in research support from fossil-fuel companies and U.S. agencies and elbowed past President Obama to claim this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The assertion that hundreds of climate scientists propagate a scientific fraud in order to secure funding is the most laughable of the many laughable assertions that I have heard in the past few weeks.
Yale applicants tell the admissions office that they aspire to leadership in society. Prove it. Climate change, energy sustainability and environmental stress are key problems in the 21st century, that is, your century. Take Yale courses related to these topics — when else will you have the time? A list of possibilities can be found on the Web page for the Yale Climate and Energy Institute. If you don’t find the course you want to take, gather a squadron of like-minded students and petition the Yale Climate and Energy Institute to provide it. If you are skeptical of the scientific consensus on climate change, take a relevant science course and harangue the professor. Your tuition supports these educational resources. Utilize what you are paying for.
The writer is a professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics.