Climate change discussion should be vigorous, factual


Going to the source of climate change research

(Editor’s Note: Viewpoint submissions on this and other topics are always welcome as part of our goal to encourage community discussion and exchange of perspectives.)

Dec. 18, 2019 — In Mr. Eales’ Guest Viewpoint “The Climate Has Always Changed and Will Always Change” (Nov. 27), he stated, among other things, that sea levels are not rising and that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is not causing global warming. His letter contained several references to back up his statements. All of his references except one were either from papers over 30 years old or were from non-scientific, partisan journals. I believe these references were either misleading or possibly misinterpreted by Mr. Eales.

To support his claim that carbon dioxide is not causing climate change, he quoted a 1971 paper by Dr. Stephen H. Schneider which states “aerosols will help cool the earth while CO2 plays a minor role.”

This is a very misleading quote. 

When further study and calculation exposed major flaws in this paper, Dr. Schneider himself published a retraction in 1974 and became a strong public advocate of reducing CO2 emissions to combat global warming.

To support his claim that sea levels are not rising, Mr. Eales quoted a 2017 study published in Nature Communications, entitled “Vulnerability of Louisiana’s Coastal wetlands to present-day rates of relative sea-level rise” (www.nature.com/articles/incomms14792). The quote was “A recent analysis of surface-elevation change (SEC) and vertical accretion (VA) data from marshes in North American and Europe suggests that concerns about marsh vulnerability to sea-level rise may have been overstated.”

I read this study and felt the quote used by Mr. Eales about “sea-level rise being overstated” was taken out of context. That quote is found in the paper’s introduction and is not the paper’s conclusion. In that quote, the authors are telling the reader why the study was undertaken in the first place.

The conclusions of the paper do not support Mr. Eales’ contention that sea-level rise is insignificant. In fact, the paper states his views are incorrect.

However, I am not a climate scientist, so I emailed the authors of the Nature Communications paper to ask their thoughts on the matter. I received a response from Dr. Krista Jankowski, the lead author of the paper in question, one that Mr. Eales quotes and cites as a reference to support his views.

Her email read, in part, as follows:

“Thank you for your email. Mr. Eales’ letter misrepresents the facts, not only from the Tulane paper but also in his commentary on the case of Isle de Jean Charles, La. The quote that Mr. Eales takes to be an admission that ‘marsh susceptibility to sea-level rise has been overstated’ is a misinterpretation of our work. The study that says marsh vulnerabilities are overstated is not the Tulane study, but one that our conclusions refute. This is an example of cherry picking a line from a paper and not providing the full context: Our study shows sea-level rise is in fact very much putting coastal Louisiana marshes at risk.

“Additionally, it seems clear that Mr. Eales is conflating sea-level rise with relative sea-level rise in his consideration of the community of Isle de Jean Charles. It is true that coastal Louisiana is facing sea level rise rates that are higher than average because the land beneath Louisiana is sinking. However, that by itself is not the only contributor to the risk of coastal Louisiana and communities like Isle de Jean Charles. These places would still be facing struggles without changes to the rate of sea-level rise. However, those changes are projected to continue and will only make the situation worse.

“It is unfortunate, to say the least, to see the continued misrepresentation of years-long scientific research and dedicated efforts towards understanding these issues being perpetuated.”

Regarding references in the Guest Viewpoint “Another Viewpoint on the Climate Change Discussion” (Dec. 4), Cliff Worely chastises the Siuslaw News for not providing more documentation in its three-part series regarding climate change. The Siuslaw News already provided documentation in support of how 97 percent of climate scientists believe fossil fuel emissions from human activities are increasing the rate of global warming.

In the NASA website mentioned by Mr. Worley himself, there are an additional seven articles that support the “97%” statement.

Mr. Worley correctly presents statistics from the NASA website, but the scientists from NASA (and many other scientists) most definitely do feel this is a crisis and they outline this well in their explanations of the data. 

In response to Mr. Worely’s comments regarding Letter Writer Michael Allen’s proposal of “demanding local officials to act on climate change,” I would offer a reference of my own: The U.S. Constitution.

In America, we are the government. 

Climate change is something that should be vigorously discussed. But if something can be fact-checked and is shown to be false, that is not an opinion.

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