DEAR DR. FOX: Moments ago, I read your recent article wherein you included an exchange with "P.H., Ph.D.," from Seattle. As a theoretical particle and nuclear physicist with a heavy background in experimental techniques and many years of experience in environmental monitoring, I support your assessment of climate science. -- Dr. Robert I. Price, class of 1979, Arizona State University
DEAR DR. FOX: I have no expertise in climate, since I am a retired journalist/editor whose work (over some 50 years) has been read by many hundreds of millions of North Americans, and my job was to disbelieve anything that was not supported by empirical facts. There is no question we are experiencing global warming, but I am not convinced one way or the other that the principal cause is man-made.
Now, that does not mean the man-made theory is wrong. Frankly, I don't know. However, I did find that around 1972 (only about 50 years ago), the great climate scientists all over the world agreed that we were headed for an ice age soon, that it would be caused by man, and that by the year 2000 we would likely be in a worldwide hunger catastrophe. It was headlined all over the Western world by TV networks, and by papers like The New York Times and the Times of London. Newsweek ran a scary cover story about it. They all quoted the top climatologists and university scientists in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, etc. Basically the same lofty titles now saying our global warming is man-made. So how could these people be so WRONG then and so RIGHT now?
The answer is lazy reporters and media. They should have been asking: "You are the experts in this science, but when did you become psychics?"
Show me something you had published 25 years ago that predicted what is happening now. You seem to KNOW what 2050 will bring, so why didn't you know 25 years ago? -- I.C., Boca Raton, Florida
DEAR DR. FOX: I enjoy your column very much and am writing, as a geologist of 40 years' experience, in response to your recent thread about climate change.
The evidence that human activity is driving current climate trends is incontrovertible. Being dispassionate toward dogmatic ideas is the hallmark of good research, and pushes the boundaries of the unknown. However, to entertain diametrically opposed viewpoints on unambiguous issues in the name of "balance" or "tolerance" is a mistake that scientists are prone to make -- one that gives the fringe a platform from which to continue their dangerous misinformation and disinformation efforts.
Airtime equals legitimacy. It is probably why past IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports have not had the urgency of the most recent one. Climate scientists are past the point of being polite. -- D.H., Ph.D., Tulsa, Oklahoma
DEAR R.I.P., I.C., and D.H.: I appreciate your communications. Some scientists, for various reasons -- especially for vested career "tenure" concerns, aligned with corporate interests -- refuse to accept peer-reviewed scientific reports and the consensus of the scientific community when it comes to the current climate and extinction/biodiversity loss crises.
This was the case earlier with the documented risks of DDT and other pesticides, and with the addictive and cancer-causing consequences of tobacco. I was writing and testifying that the "greenhouse effect" of carbon dioxide and other gas emissions would lead to global warming no less than 30 years ago! The naysayers came mainly from the fossil fuel industry, and had essentially bastardized the scientific method.
Here is Merriam-Webster's dictionary definition of the scientific method: "principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses." The biological and physical sciences, often linked with ethics, economics and mathematics, are grounded in objectivity. And like justice, they are impartial. Otherwise, self-interest, ideologies and other biases would distort the interpretation and application of scientific discovery.
Regrettably, vested material, industrial, military and other interests and aligned investors, politicians and regulatory agencies have too often failed to consider the ethics and consequences of their decisions. Otherwise, many of the problems we face today -- especially in industrial agriculture, the medical industry and veterinary services -- would not exist.
When science speaks truth to power and exposes the lies, deception and delusions of the status quo and "progress," we witness the anti-science backlash of political and corporate opposition, as with the Trump administration's inaction concerning the climate crisis and bungled response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sciences can help us build a "circular" economy that is sustainable and healthful rather than extractive and polluting. Generating safer alternative sources of energy rather than burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and not relying on hydroelectricity from ecologically hazardous dams (and now-unpredictable rainfall) are survival initiatives all nations must pursue. The fossil fuel industry's production of plastics -- predicted to soon exceed in mass the weight of fish in the oceans -- and of toxic petrochemicals -- linked to cancer, immune and endocrine system dysfunctions, sterility, birth defects and neurological problems -- must be terminated for the common good and the good of the commons.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)