Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Exclusive: Dr. George Woodwell sets the record straight

Science fights back.


The response to the [email] vandals is to bury them with the data and experience of a century of scholarly research and analysis. The information that is important in making the decisions as to how to manage our world is unequivocal and must be advanced, not as questions at the edge of scientific knowledge where scientist like to dwell, but as the facts that they are, facts as immutable as the law of gravity. The climatic disruption is not a theory open to a belief system any more than the solar system is a theory, or gravity, or the oceanic tides, or evolution.  This approach is uncompromising, partisan in the sense of selected for the purpose. It is not a lecture to undergraduates; nor is it ecology 101. It is a clear statement of what is required for government to do its job in protecting the public welfare. The scientific community has a firm responsibility in this realm now. This is not the time to wring our hands over the challenges to hyper-scientific objectivity, the purity of scholars, and to tie ourselves in knots with apologies for alleged errors of trifling import.

That’s the opening paragraph of a statement Dr. George M. Woodwell emailed me yesterday.  Woodwell, founder, Director Emeritus and Senior Scientist at the The Woods Hole Research Center, was responding to some “private e-mails obtained by [the uber conservative newspaper] The Washington Times,” including one of his that has been misrepresented.

Since Woodwell has blogged here before, I asked him to clarify his original use of the word “partisan,” since I was pretty sure he was not using it in its Washingon, DC political sense, as some have implied.  He wasn’t.  In addition to his statement, he sent me a remarkable piece of 1988 Senate testimony he gave (reprinted below), which makes clear he has been at the forefront of warning the public about the dangers of human caused global warming.

His statement continues:

The fact is that we, humans, have changed the composition of the atmosphere with respect to heat-trapping gases enough to start the progression of global climate, not into a new steady state, but into an open-ended warming that is pulling the environment out from under this civilization. If one wonders where that process leads, one need not look far around the world to find dysfunctional landscapes. Have a quick look at New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, or Haiti before the earthquake.  All have fallen far below any point where internal resources can be used to restore a nation with a functional political system, a vital economy, and a functional environment. They have fallen into an abyss, beyond rescue without massive outside aid that will, first, restore a functional landscape to produce, for instance, a water supply, and stable agriculture, and a fishery. Something to build an economy around, and to support a government. …

Exclusive: Dr. George Woodwell sets the record straight

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