In the 50 years since receiving my degree in geological engineering, I have tried to stay on top of climate change issues.
From three decades ago, when a preponderance of interested scientists believed we would soon be entering a new ice age, until today, when Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman proclaimed in her October 25 President’s Page in Princeton Alumni Weekly that “the vast majority of scientists now believe that human activity” is responsible for the Earth getting warmer, we continuously have been exposed to science by consensus.
Fortunately, my Princeton education taught me to distrust such pronouncements.
President Tilghman continued on to promote the wonderful contributions that the Princeton Environmental Institute is making to thwart this “potentially disastrous” phenomenon. While this is her right and perhaps her responsibility, it saddens me to note that an eminent scientist of her caliber, leading our great university, would embrace science by consensus and fear-mongering, mathematically modeled conclusions fraught with far more uncertainty than factual data.
President Tilghman appears to be echoing the pronouncements of Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” which, in an effort to cut off debate, conveniently left out a significant amount of data, collected by eminent climate scientists, that seriously question anthropogenic global warming.
While many glaciers are melting, others are increasing in size. While tropical storms and hurricanes are increasing in some areas, they are declining in others. Though we have warmed since the cold period we experienced three centuries ago, there is scant evidence to prove that man either is responsible or in fact could alter his climate in any significant way. Only arrogance dictates this possibility.
President Tilghman and other Princeton scientists have become involved in “junk science,” which can be defined as “the use of selective, rather than comprehensive, data to support a theory or hypothesis in order to advance an economic or political agenda.” With Al Gore it is likely politics; with the Princeton Environmental Institute it is likely economics.
At Princeton I learned that hospital sanitation was held back a century by misconceived consensus and that scientists believed the continents could not possibly have once been connected because consensus opposed it.
Princeton is better than making this same mistake regarding global warming “consensus.”
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]), Princeton class of 1957, is science director for The Heartland Institute. This essay was published as a letter to the Princeton Alumni Weekly on December 13, 2006.