Junk trash garbage pile

I agree with Roger Koopman’s premise (guest column, Nov. 4) that both sides of controversial issues should be taught in the classroom. Perhaps then Koopman could summarize what he believes are the salient features of his scientific argument, since I looked in vain for enlightenment from the websites he cites.

I knew about friendsofscience.org before his recommendation. If you are looking for objective analysis, don’t go here. Their argument goes something like: “human activity does not account for the well documented rise in CO2, but if it did that’s not a problem because CO2 does not contribute to global warming, but in any case global warming is not really happening.” These “scientists” are confident of their bottom line, even if unsure about their argument.

Cfact.org was a new one, but I checked and there is no science there, only diatribes about how liberals want to control our lives.

Sepp.org was set up by Fred Singer, famous for arguing that secondhand smoke doesn’t cause cancer. It turned out he was being paid by the tobacco industry, as documented in "Merchants of Doubt." Later he weighed in on climate science.

Judithcurry.com looks more serious and I will read further. The attraction and harm of all these sites is that they encourage wishful thinking and avoidance of inconvenient truths, reminiscent of Chamberlain’s 1938 declaration of “peace in our time.”

This is not the first time that Roger Koopman has objected to the science curriculum in Montana classrooms. As a member of the legislature in 2007 he introduced House Bill 796, which mandated that alternatives to evolution be taught. Thankfully, that bill died in committee.

If deniers would say exactly what their argument is, we could teach it to the school children. One argument is that climate has been changing for millennia, without human influence. But all climate scientists recognize this. It does not follow that we are not influencing it now.

Back in February, there was a proposal that William Happer put together the definitive case that humans have nothing to do with climate change. Happer was then on the National Security Council and a distinguished physicist who dabbled in climate science. The project never happened because, I am sure, upon further review there was no defensible case.

That 97% of climate scientists say we have a problem is common knowledge. The weakness of the 3% is less appreciated. I have looked: there is no Galileo or Newton or Curie among them. Many apparently don’t understand the consensus argument.

Like Koopman, I disagree with the “world-is-coming-to-an-end” narrative, but there is much uncertainty, with potentially big dislocations already starting. I suspect that the strong correlation between political orientation and positions on a science question arises from the belief that dealing with climate change inevitably requires only government action, not private enterprise. That is not necessarily the case.

If a revenue-neutral carbon tax were put into effect, entrepreneurs would have incentives to, say, develop a cost effective way to extract carbon from the atmosphere and make fuels from it. See for example the U.S. House’s bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, HR 763. There are ideas out there, but raising capital is difficult as long as polluting with CO2 is free.

I ask my conservative friends to take a careful look at this. You know that continuing to bury your head in the sand is a losing proposition politically. Doing nothing in the face of dangerous uncertainty is not conservative, it is downright reckless. We need to be arguing about ways forward, not promoting junk science in Montana classrooms.

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David Andrews of Missoula is a retired physicist, former technology company executive and former school board president.

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