In Boston, two speakers at the forum, Michael McElroy, a professor of atmospheric and environmental sciences at Harvard University, and James McCarthy, a professor of biological oceanography at Harvard, presented, first, a primer on climate change and, second, an examination of anticipated climate-change impacts.
An ACS colleague who sat through these first two talks with me commented, “How can you possibly listen to these two talks and not be convinced that this is a serious problem?”
The third talk, by John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center and a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and Alabama’s state climatologist, made an effort to answer that question. Christy is not a climate-change denier, but he is skeptical of the predictions of many atmospheric models that project significant increases in Earth’s temperature if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise, and he presented a number of studies that he said called into question whether the models’ predictions matched measured temperatures. Christy’s presentation may have been more credible had he focused on fewer examples and done a better job explaining where his data had come from.
Christy also echoed many of the climate-change skeptics with less impressive credentials than his in his overall message, which was, basically, that climate-change models don’t match actual temperature measurements (a lot of climate scientists don’t agree); that even if rising atmospheric CO2 levels are causing global warming, nothing we can do will make any difference; and even if we could do something about it, it would inflict an injustice on the world’s poor. Christy’s message, in other words, was a call for inaction.