Climate change and the integrity of science.

Abstract

WE ARE DEEPLY DISTURBED BY THE RECENT ESCALATION OF POLITICAL ASSAULTS ON SCIENTISTS in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientifi c facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientifi c conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet. Scientifi c conclusions derive from an understanding of basic laws supported by laboratory experiments, observations of nature, and mathematical and computer modeling. Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientifi c process is designed to fi nd and correct them. This process is inherently adversarial—scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientifi c consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and Einstein did. But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of “well-established theories” and are often spoken of as “facts.” For instance, there is compelling scientifi c evidence that our planet is about 4.5 billion years old (the theory of the origin of Earth), that our universe was born from a single event about 14 billion years ago (the Big Bang theory), and that today’s organisms evolved from ones living in the past (the theory of evolution). Even as these are overwhelmingly accepted by the scientifi c community, fame still awaits anyone who could show these theories to be wrong. Climate change now falls into this category: There is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend. Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfi es the evidence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientifi c assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected. But there is nothing remotely identifi ed in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change: (i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact. (ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. (iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes. (iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic. (v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more. Much more can be, and has been, said by the world’s scientifi c societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business-as-usual practices. We urge our policy-makers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the un restrained burning of fossil fuels. We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them. Society has two choices: We can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and COMMENTARY

DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5979.689

Cite this paper

@article{Gleick2010ClimateCA, title={Climate change and the integrity of science.}, author={Peter H. Gleick and Robert Mcc Adams and Richard M Amasino and Erik Anders and Dj Anderson and Wallace W. Anderson and Luc Anselin and Mary T. Kalin Arroyo and Berhane Asfaw and Francisco J. Ayala and Ad Bax and Anthony J. Bebbington and Gavin M. Bell and Michael Vander Lann Bennett and Jeffrey Bennetzen and May R. Berenbaum and Olga Berlin and Pamela J. Bjorkman and Elizabeth H Blackburn and Jacques Blamont and Michael R Botchan and John S. Boyer and Edward A Boyle and Daniel Branton and Steven P Briggs and Winslow R. Briggs and Winston J. Brill and Roy John Britten and Wally S Broecker and Joan Heller Brown and PO Brown and Axel T Brunger and John Cairns and Donald Eugene Canfield and Stephen R. Carpenter and James C. Carrington and Anthony R. Cashmore and Juan Carlos Castilla and Anny Cazenave and F . Stuart Chapin and Aaron Ciechanover and David E Clapham and William C Clark and Richard N . Clayton and Michael D Coe and Esther M Conwell and Ellis B. Cowling and Richard M. Cowling and Charles S. Cox and Rodney B. Croteau and D. M. Crothers and Paul J. Crutzen and Gretchen C . Daily and G. Brent Dalrymple and Jeffery L. Dangl and Seth A Darst and D. R. Davies and Mary Beth Davis and Pietro De Camilli and Caroline Dean and Ruth S. DeFries and Johann Deisenhofer and Deborah P. Delmer and Edward F DeLong and David J Derosier and Theodor O. Diener and Rodolfo Dirzo and James E Dixon and Michael J. Donoghue and Russell F. Doolittle and Thomas Dunne and Paul R . Ehrlich and Shmuel N. Eisenstadt and Thomas Eisner and Kerry A. Emanuel and S. Walter Englander and W. Gary Ernst and Paul G. Falkowski and George Feher and John A. Ferejohn and Alan R. Fersht and Edmond Henri Fischer and Rainald Fischer and Kent V Flannery and John William Frank and Perry Allen Frey and Irwin Fridovich and Carl Frieden and Douglas J. Futuyma and Wallace R. Gardner and Christopher James Garrett and W. Gilbert and Robert B. Goldberg and W H Goodenough and Corey S. Goodman and Max Lawrence Goodman and Paul Greengard and Sarah Hake and Gertrud Hammel and Sandra K Hanson and Stephen C. Harrison and Stanley R. Hart and Daniel L. Hartl and Robert Haselkorn and Kristen Hawkes and Juaneka M. Hayes and Bertil Hille and Tomas G M H{\"{o}kfelt and James S. House and Mike Hout and Donald M. Hunten and Ivan A. Izquierdo and Andr{\'e} Tridon Jagendorf and Daniel H Janzen and Raymond Jeanloz and Christopher Jencks and William A Jury and H Ronald Kaback and Thomas Kailath and Paul Kay and Steve A Kay and DM Kennedy and Alan Kerr and Ronald C Kessler and Gurdev Singh Khush and Susan Werner Kieffer and Patrick Vinton Kirch and Kathryn E Kirk and Margaret Galland Kivelson and Judith P Klinman and A. Klug and Leon Knopoff and Hans L. Kornberg and John E. Kutzbach and John Clark Lagarias and Kurt Lambeck and Alana Landy and Charles H. Langmuir and Brian A . Larkins and X T Le Pichon and Richard E. Lenski and Estella B. Leopold and Simon A. Levin and Michael Levitt and Gene E. Likens and Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz and Laszlo Lorand and C. Owen Lovejoy and Michelle A. Lynch and Akin L. Mabogunje and Thomas F. Malone and S. Manabe and Joseph N. Marcus and Douglas S. Massey and James C. McWilliams and Eduardo F Medina and Henry J. Melosh and David J . Meltzer and Charles D. Michener and Edward L. Miles and Harold A . Mooney and Peter B Moore and François M M Morel and Ellen Mosley-Thompson and Bernard Moss and Walter H. Munk and Norman Myers and Gopinath Balakrish Nair and Jeremy Nathans and Eugene W. Nester and Roger A Nicoll and Richard P. Novick and James F O'connell and Paul Eric Olsen and Neil D Opdyke and George F. Oster and Elinor Ostrom and Norman R. Pace and Robert T. Paine and Richard D Palmiter and Joseph Pedlosky and Gregory A. Petsko and GORDON H. PETTENGILL and Samuel George Philander and Dolores R. Piperno and Thomas D. Pollard and P. Buford Price and Peter A Reichard and Barbara F. Reskin and Robert E . Ricklefs and Ron L. Rivest and John D. Roberts and A. Kimball Romney and Michael G. Rossmann and David W. Russell and William J . Rutter and Jeremy A Sabloff and Renad Z. Sagdeev and Marshall D Sahlins and Alex Salmond and Joshua R Sanes and Randy Schekman and Joachim Schellnhuber and David W . Schindler and Jochen Schmitt and Stephen H . Schneider and Vern L Schramm and Ronald R. Sederoff and Carla J. Shatz and Fred Sherman and Richard L. Sidman and Kerry Sieh and Elywn L Simons and Burton H. Singer and M. F. Singer and Brian Skyrms and Norman H. Sleep and Brian D. Smith and Solomon H. Snyder and Robert R. Sokal and Charles S. Spencer and Thomas A Steitz and Karen B Strier and Thomas Christian S{\"{u}dhof and Susan S. Taylor and John Terborgh and Dafydd H Thomas and Lonnie G . Thompson and Robert Tjian and Monica G. Turner and Shun-ichi Uyeda and James W. Valentine and Joan Selverstone Valentine and James L Van Etten and Kensal E van Holde and Martha Vaughan and Sydney Verba and Peter H. von Hippel and David B Wake and Andy C. Walker and John E Walker and Eleanor Watson and Paul J. Watson and Detlef Weigel and Susan R. Wessler and May Jane West-Eberhard and Tim D. White and W. J. Wilson and Richard Wolfenden and Jeffery A Wood and George M . Woodwell and Herbert E. Wright and C-H Wu and Carl Wunsch and Mary Lou Zoback}, journal={Science}, year={2010}, volume={328 5979}, pages={689-90} }