WASHINGTON, DC – I did not invite astronaut Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17 to hear his views on climate change, but that's the topic that created the most fireworks at the ScienceWriters2018 conference today.
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Schmitt is an expert in this field, mainly because he was the last 12 people who stepped onto the lunar surface during the last Apollo mission in December 1972. He also served as a US Senator from New Mexico for a single six-year term and is currently a member of the National Space Council's User Advisory Group.
He is known as the first professional scientist to graduate with a Ph.D. in geology. At age 83, he holds an adjunct professor of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, focusing on fusion research (and the potential to use helium-3 from the air as a future fusion fuel).
Schmitt is controversial because of his views on another scientific topic: he questions claims that industrial emissions contribute significantly to climate change, even though such issues run counter to the increasingly accepted scientific consensus. For example, in 2016, he co-authored an opted essay in The Wall Street Journal titled "The Phony War Against CO2." (See this review of Climate Feedback.)
I was the organizer of today's session at George Washington University, hosted by Jeffrey Kluger, editor of Time magazine for Science and Technology. Among her colleagues was Valerie Neal, a space research curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; and Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council of the White House.
In my opinion, there are few people who are more apt to think about the Apollo Anniversary than Schmitt. (Yes, there are three other living Moonwalkers, but Schmitt was the one who took the call.) I knew about the climate contretemps, but I did not think it would matter in the space discussion.
Boy, I was wrong
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Climate Policy is a big deal for the scientific community, especially given the UN IPCC report that we could be in a climate crisis around the year 2040. At the end of the session, The New York Times Nicholas St. Fleur With the help of science journalist Betsy Mason, she spoke to the elephant in the room, so the exchange went: "data-reactid =" 32 "> Climate policy is a big thing for Scientific Writing, especially in light of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report Last month, projecting that we might be in the EU in the midst of a climate crisis around the year 2040. At the end of the session, The New York Times Nicholas St. Fleur turned to the elephant with the help of science journalist Betsy Mason in the rough m. So the exchange went:
St. Fleur: "In 2009 we wrote a story entitled 'Vocal minority insists that everything was smoke and mirrors' where we cited you, Dr. Schmitt Essentially from people who think that the moon landing was fake, and here is someone who was actually there and walked on the moon, you said, "When people decide that they are the facts of history and the facts of science and technology Deny technology, you can not do much with them. … I'm sorry for most of them that we failed in their education. "
" I wonder if you see any irony in your statements and in your views on climate change as one of the leading deniers of climate change, when there was a huge report coming out last week [talking about]the risk and what's going to happen … as soon as 2040. I'd like to know if you see any irony in your views about people who denied people walking on the moon. Your views on climate change.
Schmitt: "I do not see any irony. I am a geologist. I know the earth is not nearly as fragile as we usually think. It has gone through climate change, it is currently undergoing climate change. The only question is, is there any evidence that humans are causing this change?
Audience Choir: "Yes!
Schmitt: "Right now In my job there is no evidence. There are models. But models of very, very complex natural systems are often wrong. The observations we make as geologists and observing climatologists show no evidence that humans cause this. Now there are a lot of unknowns. For example, we do not know how much CO2 is being released from the southern oceans due, for example, to the natural climate change that has taken place since the last ice age.
"The rate of temperature increase on the surface of the Earth and in the troposphere is about the same at this time, especially since the Little Ice Age, which was not caused by humans." Nor was the medieval warm period caused by humans. That's the only skepticism I have: What's the cause of climate change?
"Normally, until the industrial revolution, we've always assumed that climate change is a function of solar cycles – and in fact, it's still very strong evidence that that is the case. Well, no, that's no irony. As a scientist, I expect people to question orthodoxy. And we always did that. Unfortunately, government funding, especially the United States government, is forcing science into what the government wants to hear.
"This is a very dangerous thing happening in science today, and not just in the climate, I see it in my own lunar research, and if NASA is interested in a particular conclusion, then the proposals for funding come So, a very, very serious problem, and I hope that the science journalists in this room will be deeply involved in the question of whether science has been corrupted by the source of the money that is now driving what researchers are doing and what they are doing conclusions are. "
Betsy Mason : " I just want to say that I'm a geologist, and I think you might want to think about it for geologists on this subject