By Susan Crate, and Chris Parsons, Guest Columnists

If these words sound like words from a concerned adult when you were growing up, they are. We repeat them here because it seems that we need such reminders throughout our adult life. It is easy to slip into pettiness and squabbles, and thereby lose sight of the forest through the trees. Let us show you the forest in the context of global climate change.

­­We are disheartened to see Alan Moore’s recent Opinion piece in Broadside on March 1 using the mistakes in the IPCC and hacked climate e-mails as an excuse to deny the firmly established science of climate change. Mr. Moore is mainly echoing the words of many opinion and editorial writers in the past months, all of whom have lost sight of the big picture.

As members of a department with research in this area, we’d like to remind our campus community of the big picture. Ice cores from Antarctica show that the earth’s atmosphere has not had the levels of CO2 that we have today in the last 600,000 years. The same ice cores show how temperature directly correlates with those CO2 levels — the higher the CO2, the higher the earth’s temperature. And they show that humans have pumped those CO2 levels up. We are innovative, creative and imaginative enough to develop alternative ways of living on the planet that will turn out to be much more satisfying.

But why then, you may ask, do people squabble over this issue? This is largely due to their unrealistic expectation that we have zero uncertainty before we take action. Again, we ask our readers to give us examples in their lives of actions they have taken only when they had 100% percent certainty that they were doing what was right or what was needed.

So, in terms of global climate change, it is important to first understand that climate science is complex. How could it not be so? It is happening within the enormously complex Earth system that we inhabit and share with a myriad of plants and animals in a diversity of ecosystems.

There are parts of this earth system that we still do not fully understand, even without global climate change in the picture. Therefore, attacking a small number of studies that show that some previously held ideas about climate change may not be correct, or are not quite as correct as we previously thought, is not rational. There are literally thousands of scientific studies that have been thoroughly vetted and peer‐reviewed by the scientific community and they hold that the evidence for climate change is overwhelming.

Additionally, any research effort that is conducted by thousands of scientists over many years and many countries will contain some mistakes, some of which will be corrected in the peer‐review process before publication and others afterward.

Again, let’s see the forest through these trees. The bottom line is that we cannot wait for overwhelming scientific certainty because by then it will be too late to take the necessary actions. Instead, we must invoke the precautionary principle or, as a recent Washington Post editorial put it, we must take out “climate insurance.” These measures will move our economy towards renewable energy and away from non‐renewable energy, like foreign oil. They will also have many benefits including a healthier environment for future generations.

A final point is, shame on Mr. Moore for attacking our sustainability office. Perhaps Mr. Moore does not realize that this office exists and that those employed there work under the unequivocal support of our campus administration. President Merten signed the Campus Climate Commitment under which the office operates. The efforts and achievements of the George Mason University Office of Sustainability are many. The greening efforts at Mason have been ongoing since 2004.

Mr. Moore’s attacks to these efforts are nothing less than outlandish and childlike. Therefore, in the spirit of collegial debate and furthering our efforts to educate ourselves and our campus community, we challenge Mr. Moore to have a “civil and genuine debate” on climate change in which he and others of like mind produce the
scientific evidence to the Mason community to show that climate change is not happening and that it is not human caused.

Those of us who have and continue to commit our professional energies towards generating, through comprehensive studies, the scientific knowledge and increased public awareness of this critical issue are appalled by these deniers. Their actions disrupt a forward process of needed change to ensure that our children and the generations that follow have a home on Earth.

Susan A Crate
Assistant Professor

Chris Parsons
Term Associate Professor

With Departmental
signatures from:

Changwoo Ahn
Associate Professor

Nicole Darnall
Associate Professor

Robert B. Jonas
Associate Professor ESP Department Chair

R. Christian Jones
Professor, Environmental Science and Policy

Richard T. Kraus
Assistant Professor

Monica Marcelli
Lab and Research Specialist

Esther Peters
Term Assistant Professor

Lee Talbot

Albert P. Torzilli
Associate Professor