Alabama Biologist Fails Global Warming Teaching Test

Published July 1, 2008

Biology professor James McClintock at the University of Alabama/Birmingham says he received a free copy of the book I co-authored, Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years.

He reports, “It provided my Environmental Science class with an opportunity to do their own research. To my surprise, they were unable to uncover any real expertise in climate science on the part of Mr. Avery. … They inform me that his main cause over the years seems to have revolved around agriculture.”

McClintock went on to say, “As for [co-author] Dr. Singer, they discovered that he was a senior fellow at a conservative ‘think tank’ called the Alexis De Tocqueville Institute, which spent a great deal of time and energy questioning the link between second-hand smoke and lung cancer. … [H]e seems to come down on the side of conservative and pro-business viewpoints. … So thank you for providing us with these materials. They really helped to convince my students that they are up against a formidable, organized, and devious foe in their desire to protect the planet.”

Impeccably Credentialed

My first question in response to Dr. McClintock is, “What did the students conclude about the 100-plus peer-reviewed studies on the 1,500-year climate cycle that were reported in Unstoppable Global Warming?”

What did your students say, Dr. McClintock, when they found that the three men credited with finding the 1,500-year climate cycle (Willi Dansgaard of Denmark, Hans Oeschger of Switzerland, and Claude Lorius of France) were awarded the environmental equivalent of the Nobel Prize (the Tyler Prize) in 1996? Or did they fail to turn up that very important information?

Dr. S. Fred Singer is a widely published atmospheric physicist. For five years, he was vice chair of the U.S. National Advisory Commission on Oceans and Atmospheres. His last three papers were published by Geophysical Research Letters (two in 2004) and the International Journal of Climate (in 2007).

Strong Objective Evidence

The crux of the book, moreover, is the work of more than 300 authors who had found and published peer-reviewed evidence of the 1,500-year climate cycle. That evidence came from sources such as the following:

  • oxygen isotopes in ice core layers from both polar regions plus the Rocky Mountains, the Andes, the Alps, the Himalayas, and the Urals;
  • fossil organisms in the layered seabed sediments of at least nine oceans;
  • fossil pollen found across North America, South America. Europe, and Asia;
  • carbon-dated glacier advances and retreats worldwide–from several cycles; and
  • the layered temperature histories of cave stalagmites from every continent plus New Zealand.

The scientists who collected this varied evidence of past climate changes literally went to the ends of the Earth, climbed high mountains, hiked the biggest ice caps, sailed frigid seas, sat at cramped consoles in long-distance aircraft, and dug up evidence from archeological sites in Greenland, Argentina, South Africa, and the Antarctic, among other places.

Smear Tactics Refuted

I am an agricultural economist, and also a trained journalist with newspaper experience. Dr. Singer made sure I got the science right, and I saved much of his valuable time in manuscript preparation.

Did your students actually go into the science of secondhand smoke on which Dr. Singer commented? Did they learn that the EPA-cited studies on the impacts of secondhand smoke failed to reach the usual minimum scientific standard of 95 percent confidence? Smoking is an ugly and dangerous habit, but there are no credible studies of physical harm to humans from secondhand smoke.

There is, however, ample evidence that the world’s really dangerous secondhand smoke is found in the huts of Third World families, where burning dung, straw, and charcoal produces massive lung disease problems that have typically been solved by burning kerosene instead.

There are two widely supported theories on why the Earth has warmed slightly since 1850: burning fossil fuels and variations in solar activity. For solar activity we have the evidence of a strong sunspot correlation and new experiments showing cosmic rays and cloud formation as the linkage. For human-emitted carbon dioxide we have only the theory and the climate models that keep telling us we’ll get more warming than we’ve gotten.

When theory disagrees with observation, science tells us to believe the observations. Do your students learn that, Dr. McClintock?

Dennis T. Avery ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and the Hudson Institute.