A Change of Mind On Climate

Dear Congressman Hultgren,

I was unable to attend the constituency session you held with the League of Women voters. We have common ground, based on reports, and that’s heartening. As you, I’m loath to give up on the improvements to the environment we’ve seen since the 1970s and pleased that you oppose this administration’s proposed budget cuts to the EPA.

On another matter, I’d like to relate a story of a climate skeptic, whose criticism once sat near the core arguments of those denying anthroprogenic climate change. His perspective threw doubt “on the very existence of global warming,” by his own admission.

Richard Muller, a noted physicist at the University of California Berkeley, didn’t accept that the historical data showed abrupt and fast-rising global temperatures — the so-called hockey stick data. The data must have been misused, misunderstood, or misapplied, he argued. Something must be wrong, he argued, as such an abrupt and rapid change just didn’t make sense to him — until, he did the science himself, funded in 2011 by a grant from Charles and David Koch.

I won’t get into the circular debate on how chaotic science would be if every scientist refused to acknowledge peer-reviewed science until they had done the work themselves. But, that’s what Muller did, and the results marked a sharp turnaround in his outlook on global climate change.

“My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases,” Muller wrote in a New York Times op-ed in July 2012. (The emphasis is mine.)

This is an important episode in science and the debate about global climate change. I’ll side with science on human-caused climate change (and, yes, the consensus is overwhelming in the range of 97%); Pope Francis, who says climate change is the moral challenge of your time; the Pentagon, which cites climate change as its foremost security challenge; and, I could go on.

And, true, as you noted, the quest to right this ship is to advance our knowledge and use of sustainable energy resources and decrease reliance on burning fossil fuels. I’m encouraged by advancements in solar energy, even the ironic decision of the coal industry museum to install as solar grid.

The statement, as reported, that you made that climate change is real but you’re unconvinced that humans are causing it leads us to complacency instead. This point is now the tip of the argument for those who would blunt action in service to expanding oil, gas and, even, coal production and use. Companies have billions of dollars in booked assets sitting in the ground, assets that bolster stock values and multi-million dollar executive bonuses. This is where the money really places its weighty thumb on the scales of debate.

We don’t have time for complacency and even Exxon and Shell argue that the US must stay in adherence to the Paris Climate Accords. Can you join us in this fight? Perhaps you’d like to join the bipartisan Congressional Climate Solutions Caucus to do more where you can, in Congress.

Best to you,
Jack Shipley

Member, McHenry County Citizens Climate Lobby
Owner, Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters, Crystal Lake, IL

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