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Mona Becker: Anti-climate change stance disturbing

An email dated Dec. 29 recently came across my desk which was sent to all Carroll County employees from Commissioner Richard Rothschild, on behalf of the Board of Commissioners, congratulating them on a "job well done in 2013" and best wishes for the new year. A pretty standard, end of the year thank-you email from employer to employee, except for one point: sandwiched in the middle of the email was a two-paragraph diatribe on anthropogenic climate change.

The climate change text of the email was: "Additionally, there is encouraging news as evidenced by the link(s) below ... Climate researchers in Antarctica seeking evidence of catastrophic global warming encountered a different catastrophe they did not expect. They were stranded when icebreakers sent to rescue them became trapped in much heavier than expected ice. Read it and laugh ... and please, assure your children that any climate variations we are experiencing are part and parcel of normal cyclical variations. In other words, exaggerated claims of catastrophic anthropogenic (man-made) climate change are ... well ... an exaggeration. http://www.cfact.org/2013/12/28/antarctic-ice-blocks-ice-breaker-sent-to-rescue-climate-researchers-trapped-in-ice/. The U.S. Senate Minority Report also debunks the alleged 'consensus' on climate change: http://www.hatch.senate.gov/public/_files/USSenateEPWMinorityReport.pdf.

"During MACO, county officials were exposed to commentaries related to alleged catastrophic climate change from both state and federal agencies that lacked credibility and included zero factual data to substantiate claims. When confronted with evidence to the contrary, the state simply dismissed it. The state also imbedded assumptions of catastrophic man-made climate change into the New Generation Science Standards (NGSS) recently adopted by the Maryland State Board of Education. I am pleased that our employees do not exhibit this kind of behavior."

There are several items contained in the email that need to be addressed. The first is that, as a scientist who has spent time in the field, I would be appalled at anyone "laughing" at a situation where people are trapped, especially in such an isolated environment. Yes, they were rescued by helicopter and their lives were never really in danger, but the statement clearly shows the lack of knowledge of the board of commissioners on climate change.

They have mistakenly confused "weather" with "climate." Just as we have experienced a recent extreme cold period in North America, this is an isolated weather event, not climate change. Any eighth grade student in Carroll County could tell you the difference between weather and climate. It is part of the science curriculum. Climate is the weather conditions prevailing in an area over a long period of time. Not since the 1990s or 2000s (as the above links provided by the commissioners evaluate climate change), but over the last century and longer.

Almost every climate scientist, myself included, recognizes that there are background climatic variations that have played a role in shaping the Earth. But we also recognize that anthropogenic (man-made) changes are overriding the natural background variations. In fact, a study done in May 2013 by John Cook at the University of Queensland found that 97 percent of scientific papers (more than 4,000) on the subject of climate change endorsed anthropogenic warming. Among the scientific community there is wide-ranging consensus that we are beginning to observe anthropogenic climate change.

In reference to the Next Generation Science Standards, not "new" as detailed in Rothschild's email, these standards have been developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve (an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit education reform organization).

These standards have been thoroughly and painstakingly put together by professional organizations to help increase scientific literacy in the U.S., including the scientific literacy of climate change. It is disheartening to see this document attacked by the board of commissioners, which will be taught in Carroll County schools by Carroll County employees.

It is unfortunate that our board of commissioners continues to pursue their anti-climate change agenda. I am reminded of their 2011 "Environmental Summit" held outside Carroll County, in Pikesville, and for which they charged county residents to attend. I wrote a letter to the editor at that time expressing my concern over the direction of the county with regard to environmental issues. It is disappointing (although not surprising) that in two and a half years there has been no change in the viewpoints expressed.

I am not sure what the board of commissioners hopes to gain from this most recent anti-climate change stance, other than to continue their campaign of misinformation.

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