Vail Daily column: Why not reduce carbon dioxide emissions? | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Why not reduce carbon dioxide emissions?

Tom Chastain replied to my letter on scientific models by stating that “the climate modelers start with the premise that changes in carbon dioxide are a major drive of climate change (a premise for which there is no evidence) and then build a model to justify the premise. Hence, any output of such a model is an example of circular reasoning, i.e., the conclusion is included in the premises.”

Science does not work that way, and the science with models does not start with premises. A premise is defined as a condition on which a logical argument is based. It could be true or false.

An example of a premise is “The Earth orbits around the Sun.” That is a true, hard fact.

Respectable scientists don’t start with a premise; they start work from a hypothesis. That is a plausible explanation for some event or phenomenon or a prediction of a possible causal correlation of observations. Their hypothesis might be correct, or it might not. Scientists must be able to prove or disprove that hypothesis by experimentation.

There is mounting evidence that carbon dioxide is causing global warming. A comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements provides evidence that atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased since the Industrial Revolution. In addition, readings all around the world have risen steadily since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

This has led to a hypothesis about global warming. This is not a hypothesis about weather; it is about climate. Climate is the description of the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area.

Only after a great amount of experimentation and testing will a hypothesis be accepted by the scientific community or shown to be wrong. If it can be proven, then it may develop into a theory, which is a scientific conclusion that is used to explain many different hypotheses about the same phenomenon or a closely related class of phenomena. Even then, it may be altered as research reveals more information.

Computer models are helpful because they allow scientists to make predictions about a specific situation. They can compare a model’s predictions with answers they already know. An example is using the computer model to hindcast. That is when they program the model to see how well the output matches the known data from past events. If the predictions closely match that data, then they continue work in that direction. When the predictions do not match, they may change their hypothesis. They do not force the model to produce data that matches their hypothesis.

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree with the hypothesis that climate change is real.

Richard Lindzen is probably not a good individual to use in support of Tom Chastain’s position on climate science. Lindzen is a former scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. He sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging Trump to pull the United States entirely from the United Nations international convention on climate change (the Paris Agreement).

He also urged Trump to cut the funding of climate science by 80 percent to 90 percent until the field cleans up. Why should we cut the budget for scientific research if we still do not have or agree on all of the answers?

Lindzen stated that 300 eminent scientists and other qualified individuals from around the world have signed the petition. Research into the signers found that many of those individuals were not scientists, nor were they qualified to comment on climate research.

That letter caused such uproar among his former colleagues at MIT that 22 professors from that department wrote a letter to Trump disavowing Lindzen’s contrarian views about climate change. In interviews, many of his former colleagues accused Lindzen, who acknowledges accepting thousands of dollars from the fossil-fuel industry, of “intellectual dishonesty” that has tarred their programs at MIT.

Richard Lindzen made the statement that “If I’m right, we’ll have saved money. If I’m wrong, we’ll know it in 50 years and can do something.”

What if we go along with his position, find he was wrong and we did nothing?

How do we reverse:

• Melted glaciers and polar ice.

• Rising sea levels that have inundated cities.

• The impact of droughts, floods and other extreme weather that have destroyed agriculture.

• Loss of ecosystems and extinction of wildlife.

• Air pollution caused by increased burning of fossil fuels.

• Health problems caused by those pollutants.

• Future worldwide political turmoil regarding rights to fossil fuels.

• Disease spread due to warming environments?

What is the downside of supporting efforts into global warming, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase alternative or sustainable energy? Can humanity afford to take the wrong position on global warming?

In 50 years, most of us will not be around to tell our children and grand children, “Sorry.”

Rick Spitzer is an Avon resident.