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Reader's view: Armchair science makes real scientists cringe

On April 17, a misinformed reader submitted a mistaken opinion piece to the News Tribune (A Geologist’s View: “Alarmist reports on global warming usually don’t suggest tough measures”). The writer, Rolf Westgard, is a frequent newspaper contributor but has never been a climate researcher. His comments reflected a nearly complete misunderstanding of the Earth’s climate.

First he claimed there has been no warming in the past 17 years. This is a claim readers can check for themselves. NASA puts its data online; readers can see the temperatures for each of the past 17 years, and yes, the Earth has warmed during that time.

What about his claims of ice loss? Well, readers can go to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. One of its senior scientists, Mark Serreze, recently said Arctic ice was in a “death spiral.” Since satellite records became available, we have lost approximately 50 percent of the area of summer ice and 70 percent of the volume of summer ice in the Arctic.

Westgard’s comments about sea level rise also minimized the impacts. How do I know? I wrote a major review article on oceans and climate change last year with leading oceanographers from around the world. The consensus of scientists is that oceans will rise by three to four feet by 2100. There are approximately 150 million people worldwide who live within one meter of the current sea level. Westgard won’t be around in 2100; neither will I.

I just think I should do something about climate change for our future generations. Let’s quit burying our head in the sands of ignorance.

John Abraham


The writer is a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.