There is a lot of angst in the air over the future of climate science now that the White House is occupied by a president who has referred to the global climate change scare as a hoax. But, is the anxiety warranted?
The president’s choice for the new directorship at the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, believes that climate change is real, as he attested in his recent confirmation hearing. He noted, “Science tells us that the climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change.”
Regardless of the obstructionist Democrats boycotting the committee confirmation vote, Pruitt’s main concerns as Oklahoma Attorney General is federal overreach into state’s rights, not encouraging dirty air and water.
So, what about any dangers to the science of climate science?
As any student of science knows, the scientific method involves observation, hypothesis, and testing — lots of testing — before a theory is established. Furthermore, modern scientific practice is assisted by the use of the powerful but quite limited tool of computer modeling.
To envision climate change decades from now, modern climatology must rely on modeling. Such modeling combines equations of atmospheric dynamics with multitudinous observations and estimates throughout numerous vertical layers of air to arrive at state-of-the-science outlooks of distant future global climate.
Obviously this is a complex job that would benefit from as much informed perspective and constructive observation and testing as available.
That’s where the new Trump initiative of more tolerance to alternative views comes in.
Rather than being anti-science, the new administration is more pro-perspective, apparently prepared to listen to scientists who have been marginalized as “deniers” by the Obama administration.
This can only improve the understanding of climate change, as many previously deplorable, yet highly qualified scientists are given a stronger voice to expand the frontiers of climate consciousness.
These scientists include atmospheric science PhDs, field-experienced practitioners, state and other government climatologists and meteorologists, and so many others well-versed in air-science theory and practice.
Regardless, there is a move afoot for some scientists to march against the perceived anti-science ideology of the Trump administration. When informed of this movement by a colleague who also wondered if there were any plans for a counter march, I responded: “Not ever likely…. Those marching to protest the present leftist ideology permeating environmental science would probably have to march right to the unemployment office.”
Yet, even knowledgeable atmospheric scientists who are skeptical of the present climate change “theory” know that humans do affect climate in some way from a variety of activities; but the key questions include: to what spatial and temporal extent and how catastrophic is the manmade influence? Besides, is it worth spending trillions of dollars to theoretically control future global climate.
A good example of anthropogenically produced climate impact is the well-documented urban heat island. This heat island effect is demonstrated by the measured several degree increase in city temperatures compared with surrounding countryside temperatures. The magnitude of the city-country temperature difference can be mitigated somewhat by managed energy use, brightening cityscape rooftops to reflect away sunlight, and suchlike actions.
Note that the heat island effect is on a limited scale that most people seem to find quite bearable and preferable to more rustic subsistence.
Globally, measuring and finding natural versus human culprits for changing climate conditions is quite a bit more problematic.
Worldwide, both on the small-scale and the global scale, populations are better able to withstand the daily onslaught of changing weather and the long-term trend in climate when their governments properly allocate limited public funds to the best preparation, forecasting, and emergency response capabilities and ongoing research that tax dollars can buy.
Among this mix of critical funding allocations needed to best benefit the American public, the science of climate science should hold up well and advance just fine under the pragmatic Trump administration.
Anthony J. Sadar is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and author of In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail (Stairway Press, 2016).