Colin Bennett, Office of Sustainability

In response to “Global Warming: The Falsehood Coming to a Campus Near You” by Alan Moore:
In July 2007, President Merten signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment committing George Mason University to climate neutrality. That means that, as an institution, we are committed to reducing our total greenhouse emissions to zero. Considering the size of Mason, figuring out how to eliminate our emissions is no easy task. For the past year we have been working on our first-ever Climate Action Plan, which will, when completed, clearly lay out the steps that we need to take to achieve climate neutrality. To date, over 80 people from across Mason, including both undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni have actively assisted in creating this plan. Once it’s completed, we’ll need the help of every member of the Mason community to reach the goal of climate neutrality.

As such, it was with great disappointment that we read Alan Moore’s opinion piece in the recent edition of Broadside. While we fully support academic debate and scientific research, we feel that Mr. Moore’s piece was full of misinformation and claims that are blatantly false, and we are concerned that such misinformation seriously undermines the work that we are doing to reduce our collective climate footprint at Mason. In fact, it was difficult for us to find one true claim in the entire piece but since it appeared in the opinion section of Broadside, we can’t admonish the editors for allowing unchecked statements to be published. We would, however, like to set the record straight. Rather than go point-by-point, we’ll just address a few of the most egregious errors.

First of all, the two sources that Moore points to as evidence, The Petition Project and John Coleman, founder of The Weather Channel, have been largely discredited by the scientific community. The Web Site that hosts the petition references the National Academy of Sciences, however, this is what the NAS has to say about it, “The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal. The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.”

Sea levels are rising but not because of the melting of the Arctic ice cap, which is, in fact, floating ice. Sea levels rise due to the melting of land based ice, like the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, as well as due to thermal expansion. Contrary to what Mr. Moore states, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states, “The estimated rate of sea level rise from anthropogenic climate change from 1910 to 1990 (from modeling studies of thermal expansion, glaciers and ice sheets) ranges from 0.3 to 0.8 mm/yr. It is very likely that 20th century warming has contributed significantly to the observed sea level rise, through thermal expansion of sea water and widespread loss of land ice.”

Moreover, the melting of glaciers is not countered by the formation of glaciers in other parts of the world. Pointing to one, or even a few, specific regional examples when discussing a global phenomenon, in this case a global crisis, is flawed. The reason that “you never read about it in any of the news” is that there is scant evidence that any ice sheets are actually growing. According to NASA, “Scientists were able to conduct the first-ever gravity survey of the entire Antarctic ice sheet using data from the joint NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). This comprehensive study found the ice sheet’s mass has decreased significantly from 2002 to 2005.” Average global temperatures are rising; again, according to NASA “2008 is the ninth warmest year in the period of instrumental measurements, which extends back to 1880. The 10 warmest years all occur within the 12-year period 1997-2008.” That does not mean that there is uniform warming across the globe, but it does mean the planet is getting warmer.

Global cooling is often referenced by people that deny anthropogenic climate change – this is a case of grasping at straws. According to a paper originally published by the National Meteorological Society, “There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age. Indeed, the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then.”

Mr. Moore claims that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, however, according to the U.S. Supreme Court (Massachusetts v. EPA), it is. Furthermore, carbon dioxide is absolutely harmful; like any substance, it is toxic depending on the dose. To say otherwise is totally false. Global warming skeptics say this to distract from the fact that there is almost no scientific evidence to support their claims.

Mr. Moore claims to have “miraculously survived to this point” in the face of threats such as swine flu, avian flu, Ebola virus, the end of the Mayan calendar, floods and droughts; however, countless people around the world have not been so lucky. Most of the things that Mr. Moore lists are serious threats that kill at least hundreds of thousands of people every year. Referencing the end of the Mayan calendar distracts from that fact. Furthermore, this is an incredibly narrow-minded point of view that clearly represents the perspective of someone who lives a privileged life and knows very little about the inequalities that exist in this world. Almost all of the things he mentions are happening all over the planet. Just because Mr. Moore is unable to see beyond his own perspective certainly doesn’t make him right.

Again, we fully support academic debate and research and we are fully confident that research will clearly show that the vast majority of truly scientific evidence shows that climate change is, in fact, real, exacerbated by unchecked and unregulated human activity, and poses a serious threat to our planet and humanity. For decades, cigarette companies distorted the truth about the negative health effects of cigarettes; the same thing is happening here. Much of the so-called research that disputes anthropogenic climate changed is not peer-reviewed or even conducted by actual scientists to begin with. If you are interested in doing more research, we recommend starting with Mason’s own Dr. Shukla, a lead author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, at If you are interested in helping us in our fight against climate change, or otherwise want to help us protect the environment, please contact us at