MU scientists speak on climate change, AGU project

Scientists agree on its occurrence, if not its source.

The American Geophysical Union announced last week it would relaunch a project to answer questions regarding climate change and global warming.

An article printed by the Los Angeles Times stated 700 scientists would be going toe-to-toe with their critics and those who disagree with research done on the subject, but the AGU said the article is inaccurate.

“AGU is a scientific society, not an advocacy organization,” President Michael McPhaden said in an AGU news release.

The project, known as Climate Science Q&A Service, allows journalists to submit their questions via e-mail to members of the AGU, who then respond with answers. The organization’s unexpected media attention might be a result of the controversial subject they are attempting to address.

“Climate change, I think, is the huge issue of the century, and there is a lack of leadership in dealing with it,” MU geography professor Mark Cowell said. “I think it’s a problem that people in both parties aren’t paying serious attention to it."

According to MU professor Anthony Lupo, a self-proclaimed skeptical scientist, there is no debate about whether climate change is occurring. But, some scientists, like Lupo, disagree with global warming being a result of mostly human activity.

“There are people that are saying climate change isn’t occurring, but nobody who’s a scientist," Lupo said. "I think they are folks who don’t understand enough about the climate that are saying ‘Oh, it’s not occurring at all.'”

Politics have played a role in stalling legislation regarding climate change in the U.S. This was most recently manifested through a federal cap-and-trade bill, which Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., once heavily supported, even proposing his own cap-and-trade legislation along with then Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

The 2010 Republican Primary in Arizona had McCain’s opponent calling him out-of-touch, because he supported the climate change legislation. Starting in 2009, McCain labeled each cap-and-trade bill as a cap-and-tax bill, which he fundamentally could not support.

“I think generally what you are seeing is scientists are speaking out more because no one else is taking the leadership role in this issue,” Cowell said. “There has been a lot of misinterpretation of the facts, both willfully and unintentionally, so I think scientists are trying to set the record straight.”

Although Lupo said he believes some legislation is a waste of taxpayer dollars, he also agreed new sources of energy would reduce pollution.

“Some of the things that we want to address that we think we’re addressing with climate change need to be done anyway,” Lupo said. “For example fossil fuels are not going to last forever, nor are they the cleanest source of energy.”

Last year, Cowell and MU geography professor Michael Urban attended an international conference regarding climate change and what could be done internationally to begin fixing the problem.

“Most of the rest of the world takes it pretty much for granted that these things are happening and need to be addressed,” Cowell said. “The only sense I can make of it is the U.S. has the most at stake to lose by some of the policies that would affect us economically to address climate change.”

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