We are dismayed by PAW’s article covering two Princeton physics professors’ opinions concerning climate change. Professors William Happer and Robert Austin reportedly criticize climate scientists for “group think” and claim that “only a few have looked at the raw data.”
This is false. Climate scientists have been testing hypotheses concerning the causes of climate change for decades and subjecting these findings to review and further testing. The 4th Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for example, cites numerous published scientific studies that examine “raw data.” Professors Happer and Austin provide neither data, nor analyses, nor references to peer-reviewed literature to support their contentions.
Moreover, many of the factual claims reported in this article are demonstrably incorrect. For example, the assertion that human emissions are not causing atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations to rise contradicts numerous studies (enumerated in AR4 chapter 1.3). The statement that “there is no evidence that the rate (of contemporary sea-level rise) is increasing” similarly contradicts abundant research (summarized in AR4 chapter 5.5, plus more recent references). And it is blatantly wrong to claim that climate scientists have “ignored the fact that there are several periods ... where no warming has occurred.” The ability (or inability) of climate models to reproduce successfully the 20th-century observational record is one of the primary measures used to evaluate our understanding of Earth’s climate (e.g., AR4 chapter 3.2, 9.3, 9.4).
It is unfortunate that both the tone and content of this article contributed to the very sort of polarized, groundless advocacy that Professor Austin claims to wish to avoid.