The Wall Street Journal vs. The Scientific Consensus

We are disappointed that the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has chosen to yet again distort the science behind human-caused climate change and global warming in their recent editorial “Kyoto By Degrees” (6/21/05) (subscription required).

Last week, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and 10 other leading world bodies expressed the consensus view that “there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring” and that “It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities”. And just last week, USA Today editorialized that “not only is the science in, it is also overwhelming”.

It is puzzling then that the WSJ editors could claim that “the scientific case….looks weaker all the time”.

While we resist commenting on policy matters (e.g. the relative merits of the Kyoto Protocol or the various bills before the US Senate), we will staunchly defend the science against distortions and misrepresentations, be they intentional or not. In this spirit, we respond here to the scientifically inaccurate or incorrect assertions made in the editorial.

Since that Byrd-Hagel vote eight years ago, the case for linking fossil fuels to global warming has, if anything, become even more doubtful.

This statement stands in stark opposition to the actual findings of the world scientific community (e.g. the various National Academies, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)), and the vast majority of actual peer-reviewed scientific studies.

The Earth currently does seem to be in a warming period, though how warm and for how long no one knows.

If we interpret to “know” as “is judged to be the case based on the available evidence”, the statement is patently false. As detailed in previous discussions at RealClimate (see here and here and here) it is the consensus of the scientific community, based on more than a dozen independent studies using both empirical data and theoretical models (including the most recent studies in Nature and Science), that average surface temperatures over the Northern Hemisphere during the past few decades appear to be unprecedented in a very long term context, probably over at least the past 2000 years.

In particular, no one knows whether this is unusual or merely something that happens periodically for natural reasons.

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