Hundreds of private e-mail messages and documents hacked from a computer server last November caused a stir among global warming skeptics, who said they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.
These events, combined with constant back and forth debate, have left people here in America, and around the world, confused about the state of climate change. Is it happening or not? Is man to blame? For every piece of evidence claiming that global warming is true, by showing that Arctic ice hit a 30 year low in 2007, there are opposing reports that claim the ice is at record high levels. Many people on the East Coast, having been choked by recent record snowfalls and unseasonably cold temperatures, are quick to assert that these weather events are evidence that the Earth is not warming after all. Even though this kind of anecdotal evidence is clearly not scientific, many people are using these events to support existing suspicions that climate change is not occurring. Not surprisingly, state politics has found its way to the center of this ongoing debate. In Utah, the House displayed its own distrust about the premise of global warming by passing a resolution claiming it is all a big conspiracy.
Utah’s House of Representatives passed a resolution on Tuesday February 9th, 2010 that implies climate change science is a conspiracy and urged the EPA to stop all carbon dioxide reduction policies and programs. As a resolution, it holds no legal weight, but it sends a clear message. The resolution specifically claims that there is a “well organized and ongoing effort to manipulate global temperature data in order to produce a global warming outcome.”
The resolution begs the question, who’s conspiring and why? What would motivate scientists to fudge data and, more importantly, what will changing perceptions mean for the future fight to preserve and protect our planet? As judgments are made and lines are drawn, it is important to understand one’s motivations, including those of scientists and legislators in Utah.
With respect to Utah, coal holds a firm grip on the state since close to 90 percent of their electricity comes from coal. Understandably, many in Utah are strongly opposed to cap-and-trade. Utah coal mines produced 26 million tons of coal in 2006, making Utah the 12th biggest coal-producing state in the country. Its coal fired plants emit approximately 41 million tons of CO2, 34,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 68,000 tons of nitrogen dioxide. This results in Utah coal plants producing 66 percent of the state’s total carbon emissions.
Science, like many other fields, can be contentious. Personal biases, though they shouldn’t, do sometimes interfere. Regardless, sound scientific evidence strongly supports the idea that emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere poses considerable risk to humans and their environment.
Hopefully the climate debate will force people to investigate climate change for themselves and draw educated decisions. To accommodate the potential increase in public demand for climate change information, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to form a NOAA Climate Service line office and launch a new website to serve as a single point of entry for NOAA’s extensive climate information, data, products and services. Known as the NOAA Climate Portal, the site addresses the needs of decision makers and policy leaders, scientists and applications-oriented data users, educators, business leaders, and the public.