In the January issue of the EXPLORER, Robert Yeats called on AAPG to be part of the conversation on climate change. He concludes his commentary by stating, “AAPG members are scientists. Let’s take a leadership position so that the argument is based on science and not politics.”
The human role in climate change has split the science community into two camps: those who believe in a human cause for climate change, and those who see climate change as a result of largely natural processes.
Adherents to either human-caused or naturally-caused climate change have politicized the discussion, all too often engaging in a battle of invective and ad hominem attacks.
AAPG is a scientific organization. We advocate that the sole way to resolve the scientific climate debate is through the use of the scientific method by rigorous and open testing of competing hypotheses. As Popper stated in 1963, “the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.”
Dr. Yeats does not seem to be aware that AAPG has been heavily involved in attempting to bring clinical science and the scientific method to the debate for almost 20 years. Lee Gerhard initiated the Association’s effort in a 1996 paper in AAPG’s Environmental Geosciences.
AAPG consequently held a series of panel discussions, debates and technical sessions on the subject of climate change, and in 1998 established an ad hoc committee, chaired by Bruno Hanson to look at the issue of global climate change.
The AAPG Bulletin continued to publish debating summary papers through 2006, although the capstone of AAPG efforts to bring data and science to the debate was the 2001 publication of Studies in Geology #47, “Geologic Perspectives of Global Climate Change.” That book went into second printing.
In 2007, AAPG formed the “Global Climate Change Committee.” The goal of the committee was to seek scientific balance on climate change.
As with the previous committee, this committee hosted several forums and a discussion board. However, the meetings and discussions of this committee were politicized early on and it took an almost herculean effort from the committee chair and co-chair to achieve what balance the committee did achieve. The political conflict within the committee contributed to the committee being sunset in 2010.
What we scientists face today is a serious conflict with the digital models and the measured data. Resolving this conflict should be a major goal of the scientific community.
Unfortunately for us, this debate – unlike the plate tectonics debate – is now more political than scientific, tied up with agendas that have no business being thrust on a scientific issue.
Plate tectonics was a scientific debate based on data. Climate change is a political debate based on digital models.
The political nature of the debate has given rise to data manipulation, alarmism, appeals to consensus, and ad hominem attacks. These have no role in the scientific process, and should be condemned by all scientists.
AAPG members have always believed that the debate should be resolved by careful application of the scientific method, specifically rigorous testing of competing hypotheses.
Before there can be meaningful political discussion about the impact of global climate change and the cause of that change, the debate must first be scientifically resolved.
For the scientific debate to be resolved, scientists on both sides of the issue must be allowed to seek to falsify the work of the others with equal access to funding and without fear of ad hominem attack or loss of funding and or their jobs.