Climate Science 101: Holdren, Lubchenco Take Congress Back to School

Members of Congress took a brief trip back to high school science class Wednesday morning, complete with science experiments, sports analogies, raised voices and a bit of name-calling.

“There is no alternative theory that the minority is proposing,” he said, “so the deniers have decided to use a small number of emails as a way to cast doubt, … as a reason why we should stop all efforts.”

As an analogy, Markey said that if the body temperature of a child went up two degrees, no one would accept that as the “new normal” for that child; they would use the science available to return her to a normal level.

If that wasn’t clear enough for the congressional audience, he added another analogy: baseball statistics. The percentage of players hitting more than 40 home runs in a season spiked in the 1990s. But once Major League Baseball started cracking down on steroid use, the number of home run hitters normalized to pre-1990s levels. Just as ballplayers wanted to keep steroid use quiet so they could keep slamming homers out of the park, he said, climate change skeptics and coal and oil companies today are trying to keep evidence of humans’ role in climate change quiet so they don’t have to clean up their industries.

Markey was not the only one patiently trying to explain the science.

Lubchenco pulled out pitchers of water and performed actual science experiments for the representatives to demonstrate the effects of ocean acidification. Increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to increased levels of dissolved CO2 in oceans, which raises the acidity of seawater over time. She used chalk to represent the shells of the small organisms that form the base of the food pyramid and partially dissolved them in a vinegar-water mixture representing the projected acidity of future seawater.

Markey thanked her for refreshing their knowledge of high school science.

Matthew Berger, solveclimate, 2 December 2009. Full article.

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