An Open Letter to the Science Museum of Virginia

An open letter to the Science Museum of Virginia
(From its resident scientists)

Eugene G. Maurakis, Ph.D.
Director of Science Education and Museum Scientist
Science Museum of Virginia
2500 W. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23220 November xx, 2009

Dr Maurakis:

Our group and others have become aware of a proposed display at the Science Museum of Virginia. The display is an interactive Kiosk that deals with climate change, or what used to be called global warming. In examining the interactive content of the display, we believe that the content is not based on known scientific data regarding climate change. In fact, several underlying assumptions about climate change are not addressed but are implied.

The clear implication from the content of the display is that significant climate change in Virginia has occurred in the last few decades, that these changes will continue to occur in the foreseeable future, and that they are all brought about by anthropogenic forces, namely green house gas emissions (CO
2) into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. We believe that the scientific foundation for such an hypothesis about the significance of past or predicted climate change in Virginia is absent. Furthermore, the implied anthropogenic cause of such climate change is not defended and remains baseless. The Science Museum, through its strong inferences in this display, plays into the foolish global warming mania that has swept the political world. Since it is incumbent on the Science Museum of Virginia to deal with science and not politics, changes in the content of the display should be considered if the Science Museum is to maintain any credibility as a scientific and teaching institution in our community.

Temperature cycles on the planet have existed since the beginning of the planets existence. In recent times (relevant to mankind’s existence on the planet), we have experience a gradual warming trend from the end of the last great ice age over 12,000 years ago until today. Since we are now in one of the many inter-ice age periods, the climate is warming. We are approaching the end of this warming period, based on historical evidence, and we will inevitably slip back into a period of ice age climate with severe cooling and glaciation. These inter-ice age warming periods are brief, relative to the ice ages per se, and they are not caused by anthropogenic green house gas emissions. This should be obvious. The cause(s) of ice ages and their inter ice age warming periods are not precisely known but likely result from solar and orbital forcings on the planetary climate. Furthermore, briefer cycles of warming and cooling exist within longer ice age cycles. The medieval warming optimum (circa 1000-1300) and the “little ice age” (circa 1600-1900) are such examples. They too were not caused by man
burning large quantities of fossil fuels. Even within these smaller warming cycles, we find warming and cooling periods that span only 2-3 decades. The warming period of the 1940’s, the cooling period in the 1960-70’s, and now the current warming trend that peaked from 1998-2002 are such examples. These periods are also not caused by green house gas emissions since they do not correlate with temperature changes (the atmospheric CO2 continues to rise while the temperature oscillates). This conclusion too should be obvious. These temperature cycles, which have the shortest periods, are predominantly due to oscillations in ocean currents and heat convection. These oscillators include the Pacific Decadal Oscillator (PDO) that has a 30 year period and the el nino oscillator with a much shorter 2-3 year period. The PDO likely accounted for the cool trend in the 1970s and the warming trend of the 80-90s. If the cycle stays true, the next 10-30 years will be cooler than now, all while the atmospheric carbon continues to rise. The Science Museum should offer displays that educate Virginians to these facts also.

As these natural changes in temperature occur, they produce concomitant changes in climate. In colonial times during the last “little Ice Age” it was possible to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island without getting wet. Now that is not so. These changes occur rather slowly and allow for human, plants, and animals to adapt. Scare tactics implying that the natural warming of the last PDO cycle in the 1980-1990’s will produce dramatic change in Virginia’s climate, such as severe drought, are not supported by the facts and are irresponsible to propose. Current studies clearly show that over the last century there have been no increases or change in the frequency or severity of thunderstorms, tornados, and hurricanes (Balling RC and Cerveny RS.
Natural Hazards 29: 103-112, 2003) and the death rate from natural phenomena (severe weather, droughts, storms, earthquakes, etc) has actually fallen significantly over the last 50 years in the US (Goklaney et al., The Civil Society and Climate Change, Death and death rates due to extreme weather events: Global and US trends 1900-2006. November, 2007). This occurred even as more people flock to hazard prone areas like the east and west coasts. The only calls for dramatic climate change come from failed IPCC climate models, political demagogues, and Hollywood. Prediction and fiction are not fact. There simply is no credible data to suggest that the mid-Atlantic region will become severely drought stressed as the museum’s display would suggest. There is also no credible evidence to imply that any climate change is the result of anthropogenic carbon emissions. Show us the data, not outputs from spurious models that repeatedly have failed to predict the way the world truly exists.

The people of Virginia deserve better from our science museum. They deserve to hear hypothesis that are based on the best scientific evidence and not self-serving speculation or hype. Additionally, they need to hear the actual empirical evidence per se so that they can formulate their own best judgments about global warming, climate change, and man’s role in it. To do less would be to reduce our science museum to a propaganda tool for groups with political agendas. We have enough of that today and the Science Museum of Virginia should be a bastion of truth for our citizens.

Martin J. Mangino, Ph.D. and Randy Randol, Ph.D.
Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE), Richmond Chapter