GUEST COLUMN | Cal Thomas delivered many falacies about climate change

Thomas delivers climate misinformation in column

On Sept. 6 the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a column by Cal Thomas that, to put it mildly, was an incredibly dishonest collection of disinformation that probably came directly or indirectly from the fossil fuel industry.

It has been well documented that the industry has spent billions of dollars for mis- and disinformation to obscure the truth about climate change, sometimes by bribing a few scientists. What was the motivation? Pure greed because their own scientists warned them of the potentially dire consequences of continuing to emit fossil fuel pollution as early as the 1960s. Unfortunately, those billions of dollars spent by the fossil fuel industry bribed a few scientists and many politicians.

Thomas says it has been a good summer for climate activists, but neglects to mention that it has been a very bad summer for people in many places. In Phoenix temperatures have been above 110 degrees for 54 straight days (as this is written) and people who fell on sidewalks were hospitalized with second- and third-degree burns. Worldwide, there have been many thousands of heat deaths (which are usually under-reported as simple heart failure) as punishing heat waves have occurred on four continents, including South America in the southern hemisphere winter. The heat waves have taken a severe toll in Europe, where few people have air conditioning (e.g., only 5% of residences have it in Great Britain).

Thomas claims there is no consensus on the urgency of addressing climate change, relying on a letter initiated by a quantum physicist who has no expertise in climate science and signed by many associated with the fossil fuel industry. In fact, there is consensus that there is a serious problem that is being addressed inadequately as demonstrated by the public positions of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society and other scientific organizations. In 2009 a letter co-signed by 18 scientific organizations (including those above) was sent to the U.S. Senate, which ignored it. Thomas is certainly ignorant or lying, probably both.

The attack on the consensus projected by the massive associations of scientists relies in part on the familiar trope that "It's all based on models." This ignores the fact that people are dying by the tens of thousands in intolerable heat (70,000 in a 2003 European heat wave), glaciers are shrinking and disappearing, both the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps are melting rapidly, Arctic sea ice is disappearing (causing the Arctic to warm four times as fast as temperate latitudes), Arctic permafrost is melting releasing methane, and ecological disruptions are widespread. That is not based on models, although the models predicted those consequences of global warming. It is based on irrefutable observation. The models have proven accurate overall and are improving. Without the models, how would we know what the future of a deteriorating climate holds for us? Models are also useful in advancing the attribution of severe weather events to climate change but not essential to understanding the threat posed by climate change.

Thomas ignores the dangers of current trends. There is no way known that we can reverse the melting of the ice caps. Greenland alone holds enough ice to raise sea levels at least 20 feet and the West Antarctic ice sheet also is contributing significantly to sea-level rise. The loss of Arctic ice has reached a tipping point that accelerates warming in the region through positive feedback. All oceans are becoming warmer. Warming sea water energizes storms. Although there may or may not be more hurricanes, there is little question that they will become more powerful. Why does Thomas think insurance companies are abandoning Florida? They are doing so because the trend towards more powerful storms is making it impossible for the insurance industry to do business there. The same is true for areas hit hard by climate-driven wildfires. There is a trend of increasing damage from wild weather and we are experiencing the very expensive consequences.

The Thomas column reveals his ignorance of forestry among other things. I am qualified to comment because I have bachelor and master degrees in forestry. The column has other flaws, but the man seems to be an ignorant liar. Why should the Democrat Gazette publish such nonsense?