There has been an interesting exchange of letters in the Forum section of the American Geophysical Union’s weekly newspaper, EOS. Last year, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) took the remarkable step of giving a fiction writer, Michael Crichton, its journalism award. Representatives of the American Quaternary Association (AMQUA )1 took offense and wrote a letter to EOS about it. Then Fred Singer and Kevin Corbett wrote to AGU to complain about AMQUA’s letter.
Singer claims to be defending the AAPG, though it is by no means clear that the official position of AAPG is representative of its members (see the discussion on AAPG’s website, here (Note: subsequent to this article, these pages were put back into the members-only area)). For his part, Corbett accused the American Geophysical Union of “trenchant advocacy for a preferred political agenda.” We think that AGU’s official response was right on the mark: “AGU does not have any agenda in this arena beyond ensuring that the best available science is used in making public policy.” You can read the complete letters, and AGU’s response, here.
In further response to Singer’s letter, we (and the AMQUA folks) are certainly aware of the evidence for the so-called “1500-year cycle” in climate. But we are unaware of any evidence that this has anything to do with the current warming, as Singer claims. And we find it is curious that Singer’s recent view that the earth is cooling has been replaced with the view that the current warming is “unstoppable.”2
It also worth pointing out something in Corbett’s letter that AGU neglected to mention (no doubt because they were being polite). In trying to make the point that the “anthropogenic hypothesis” (that humans are influencing climate) is controversial, Corbett cites a recent EOS article. In that article,3 Wally Broecker and Thomas Stocker contest the idea that humans began significantly influencing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations thousands of years ago. But nowhere do Broecker and Stocker ever question that humans are the chief cause of rising CO2 since the industrial era began (i.e. around 1850).
Wally Broecker is one of the world’s most respected climate scientists. Citing one of his papers (or anyone’s paper) as if it made a point that it most certainly did not — and with which Broecker would disagree completely — is poor scientific practice, and is very misleading, at best. We suggest that Mr. Corbett be a little more careful with such things if he wishes to be taken seriously.
1The Quaternary refers to the last ~2 millions years of earth history, during which the great ice ages have occurred.
2Singer, S. F. and D. T. Avery (2006), Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years, 260 pp., Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Md.
3Broecker, W. S., and T. F. Stocker (2006), The Holocene CO2 rise: Anthropogenic or natural?, Eos Trans. AGU 87(3), 27.