[Coral-List] Expert Disagreement in Climate, Science

Eugene Shinn eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu
Wed Jan 4 12:47:12 EST 2017

Do coral-list readers remember back when we all talked and worried about 
global warming? As I recall that was mainly before the 1998 El Nino. 
Then for about 20 years global temperature flattened somewhat and 
sometime during that time global warming became “climate change.” As a 
result of this change the subject became more confusing especially for 
the public and coral biologists. Geologist, however, have always known 
that climate has been changing. Such change is most obvious in 
Pleistocene ice core records that clearly show periodic glacial and 
interglacial (warming and cooling) periods as well as concomitant CO_2 
ups and downs. Beside ice core data recent melting of glaciers of course 
is undeniable evidence of warming. So why is it called “climate change” 
instead of climate warming? And of course we have all seen the decline 
in coral reefs. My 56-year photographic record in the Florida Keys 
dramatically show coral demise began in the late 1970s and culminated in 
the early 1980s. Unfortunately the reefs have experienced a downhill 
slide ever since.

We have all worried about how to get our message to the public and 
decision makers. We have not done a good job of it. I suspect the term 
Climate Change has made communicating with the public more difficult. 
The problem is we have used the term Climate Change almost 
interchangeably with CO_2 /Methane and greenhouse gases. As a result the 
whole complex subject has become emotional economic and political. 
Emotions are so strong that if one questions whether CO_2 is the cause 
he or she is labeled a “Climate Change Denier.” Why not CO_2 or Carbon 
denier? These arguments must be very confusing to nonscientists. So when 
a politician calls Climate Change a hoax does he or she really mean 
temperature has not risen or fallen in the past 100 years or do they 
mean that they do not believe CO_2 and other greenhouse gases are the 
cause? These become difficult questions when we don’t clarify what we 
mean. Regardless what skeptics may believe they are nevertheless branded 
climate deniers and compared to those who believe the Earth is flat. 
Good scientists have always been skeptics regardless of the subject.

The recent election has multiplied our concerns and postings on the list 
continue to confuse global warming with climate change. The term Climate 
change logically means temperature can go down as well as up. So why 
can’t we just say what we mean? To make the subject even more confusing 
many have begun to say carbon is the major cause of warming when they 
should be saying Carbon dioxide. As scientists we like to see evidence 
based on a controlled experiments. Those are experiments where we treat 
X number of organisms with varying amounts of a substance B, and compare 
results with X number of subjects not treated with substance B. I 
realize that’s old-fashioned scientific proof but it is straightforward 
and even the most ardent skeptics can understand the results.

Unfortunately we cannot perform these kinds of straight experiments. We 
lack reference planets the same distance from the sun as earth to serve 
as a reference. What we have done is show experimentally in the 
laboratory (as did Svante Arrhenius back in 1896) that raising CO_2 
levels increases adsorption of infrared radiation and thus raises 
temperature. We then infer (note I said infer) that CO_2 also raises 
atmospheric temperature as it does in laboratory experiments.

We know the computer climate model outputs are mathematically correct 
but do we really know they accurately replicate nature? A little bias 
one way or the other can influence the outcome. One should also be 
suspicious because many models (there are more than 20) is that while 
CO_2 has continued to rise since 1998 global temperature did not rise at 
the rate predicted by most models. The public and many politicians are 
often reminded of these problems so it is no wonder that many are 
confused and remain skeptical. I am confused as anyone. The message in 
the  Australian youtube does not clarify the problem for most of 
us..<https://www.youtube.com/embed/BC1l4geSTP8> I suggest we drop the 
term climate change and say what we mean-----global warming.Gene


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
College of Marine Science Room 221A
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158
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