Taylor Boston Globe Essay Strikes Defensive Chord

Published June 6, 2004

Editor’s note: James Taylor’s Boston Globe commentary generated several letters to the editor–two by prominent global warming adherents known for their tendency toward ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with them. Those letters are reprinted below.

The Writer’s Target Was Mainstream Climate Science

James M. Taylor’s “Hollywood’s Fake Take on Global Warming” is mostly nonsense. His real target is not the easily assailed climate-disaster movie, but mainstream climate science. In ridiculing “the supposed evidence of global warming,” though, Taylor gets the science wrong again and again.

His characterization of the computer models used to study the climate is wildly off base. His claim that surface temperature readings do not show a warming trend when corrected for urban heat-island effects is false.

His assertion that satellite measurements show no global warming trend is also false. And his comments about sea-level rise and ice caps are profoundly misleading. The 17,000 signatures on the scientists’ petition cited by Taylor as rejecting global warming theory were mostly collected in 1998 with the help of a basically fraudulent review article on climate science circulated with the petition that was written by nonexperts, and was not peer-reviewed, but was formatted to look like a publication of the National Academy of Sciences. The effort was denounced by the academy.

Taylor’s tagline says he is managing editor of “Environment & Climate News.” Readers might want to know that this is a publication of the ultra-conservative, antiregulation Heartland Institute, where Taylor works. Not surprisingly, he has no discernible qualifications in science. According to the Heartland Website, he is a lawyer who has focused on “constitutional protections of private property,” and “protecting conservative/libertarian values in our nation’s legal system.”

The quest for balance on the op-ed page is admirable, but in giving this ideologue a forum to fulminate about climate science, the Globe has scraped the bottom of the barrel.

Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Harvard University Cambridge

We Should Err on the Side of Caution

In his critique of the movie “The Day after Tomorrow,” James M. Taylor rightly ridicules an exaggerated vision of global warming. But Hollywood’s fake take on climate change is outdone only by Taylor’s travesty of the scientific method.

Taylor conflates cinematic cahoots with serious science, using the former to discredit the latter. Instead of presenting reasonable objections, Taylor uses his bully pulpit to take cheap shots at every alarmist-with-an-agenda, while his own agenda is thinly veiled.

Taylor objects to climate change because it cannot be proven with 100 percent certainty. If Taylor were a man of science, he would acknowledge the ranges of uncertainty. In truth, climate models predict with 90 percent certainty temperature increases between 1.5 and 5 degrees Celsius by 2100. If a driver given a 90 percent chance of collision elected to wear a seatbelt, would he be called an alarmist? Taylor’s blanket statements threaten the reputations of serious scientists and Globe editors alike. I will be the first to applaud if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is proven wrong, but until that day, collective interest demands that we err on the side of caution.


Human Activities Are Changing the Climate

The James M. Taylor review of the movie, “The Day after Tomorrow,” was used to propagate gross untruths about the reality of climatic disruption. True enough, the movie is a fantasy that spoofs our current administration’s hostility to any effort at correcting serious human induced globally threatening environmental changes. But Taylor has done a great disservice in denying the accuracy of the scientific data defining both the well-documented trends in global climate and their seriousness. And the Globe, in publishing his piffle, compounds the lies.

Human activities are changing the climatic envelope that we all, 6.3 billion of us, exist in, and depend on. Contrary to Taylor’s assertions, the Earth has warmed abruptly over the last century, the warming is accelerating, glacial ice is melting globally, glaciers have disappeared, sea level is rising and the rise will accelerate as the melting accelerates, coastal areas and especially low-lying islands are affected, warming-induced droughts are affecting continental areas in North America and Asia where forest fires are burning larger areas annually, and anomalies in weather such as tornadoes are more and more common.

These are but a few of the changes as the disruptions proceed. They are well documented.

Director, Woods Hole Research Center
Woods Hole