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Letter: Climate change skepticism is not based on actual evidence

A Letter to the Editor published Feb. 29 calls for “skepticism” about climate change predictions. It attributes the oft-cited 97% scientific consensus concerning climate change to a survey that obtained merely 79 responses. I am unfamiliar with that survey, but I find the study by Cook et al. (“Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature,” Environmental Research Letters, 2013) quite conclusive.

The latter examined 11,944 abstracts matching the topics “global climate change” or “global warming.” Among the 4,013 abstracts expressing opinions about the matter, 97% affirmed that humans are causing climate change. That paper is available online, non-paywalled, and I encourage the public to review it. Three years later, James Powell published a much larger meta-analysis, finding a 99.94% consensus about human-caused climate change.

That letter also mentions some mismatches between climate predictions and later realities. Indeed, the research of Brysse et al. (“Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama,”). Global Environmental Change, 2013; non-paywalled abstract available) showed that most climate predictions have been conservative, in the sense of underestimating the seriousness of future warming. So, if present trends continue, eventual warming will surpass most predictions.

The letter then speculates that the “wrong theories” about climate change are “about” more control and taxes. The revenue-neutral market-based “carbon fee and dividend” policy (H.R.763) I promote, though, does not impose more control or taxes. Rather, it places fees on coal, oil and natural gas when they enter the economy, and returns the fees, in equal shares, to Americans each month. Such a policy would loosen, not increase, control of energy, by counteracting the current government subsidies for those fuels.

Andrew Hartley


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