What’s the Big Idea?: We Need to Focus on the Big Picture

global warming
Oh, the irony…
Photo credit: Flickr/Vineus

The Big Picture?

This week, the House of Representatives’ Science, Space and Technology Committee unveiled the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act. This legislation wants to prioritize the way the National Science Foundation funds projects in life and chemical sciences, computer science, and mathematics based upon how the projects specifically address national needs. To increase the muddling between science and politics, the NSF would be required to justify the projects funded to Congress and how each benefits the national interests. The measure comes as the Republican-controlled House is pressured to cut federal spending and this would filter out projects with no tangible or timely returns. The bill would also limit the NSF from funding projects that already have funding from other federal agencies in an effort to prevent mission creep and double dipping. The bill fails to address how some projects are complex and have components that have benefits at multiple levels.

This legislation is the latest in a long line of efforts the GOP has used to hinder the scientific community from using its internal peer-review process to advance research and development which in turn would lead to the next generations of innovation desperately needed to sustain the United States’ leadership in science and technology. GOP efforts to appease the extremists within their party by slashing spending no matter who is affected are naive and short-sighted to say the least.

Beginning with the powers of the oil and gas industries masquerading as a conservative, grassroots Tea Party movement, conservatives have fought tirelessly to create an absurd climate debate instead of working on a bipartisan effort to ensure the sustainability of our planet. Congressional leaders have used ‘data’ gathered by conservative think tanks and biased institutes to assert the ‘science is still out’ about the man-made cause of climate change. Ultimately, what are their interests, protecting those who fund their elections or protecting…well, the rest of us? Who stands to lose by enacting cap-and-trade, emissions limits, or biofuel standards? The public as a whole? However, who wins if these and other efforts are in place to fortify our environment for future generations?

Also this week, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released the latest National Climate Assessment stating climage change is no longer a future threat. It’s here. Climatologists have sounded the alarm about global warming for over 30 years. Now the science is as solid as diamond and the consensus is strong. It is very apparent Congress will not actively take measures to grant future generations the awesome pleasure of enjoying our national parks as we have or enjoy time on local lakes or rivers. 

If there is something I’ve learned in the past couple weeks, it is the precious time we have with those we love can end at any moment. I cannot help but think what happens when I am gone? What do I leave behind? How can I show my children how much I loved them and wanted the best for them? It certainly is not doing everything possible to ensure I am victorious every election cycle by bowing to fundraisers.

What can we do to help?


It is past time to take back the power by electing members of Congress who can see the big picture by looking past this term in office to the selfless good they can do to help us all. The big picture is increasingly heating up as is our atmosphere.

The Audacity of Facts: If God Told Scientists to Warn Us of Climate Change, Would Skeptics Listen?


This will probably be my last soap box post for a while, but I couldn’t help myself. The title came to me last week and I have been sitting on it since. The body of the post is coming to me as I write (so much for background research). I think what sent me over the edge was the article I found and posted earlier this week about the continuous lies spewed on Fox News. This time, it’s about climate change. Many people watch Fox News (religiously). This is their major source of information and don’t fact check the 24 hour news channel.

I remember my first conversation with a climate change skeptic; dinner in Boston in 2008 at the ASM General Meeting. It was a friend of my boss from Omaha (not a scientist). There was nothing we could say that he would even consider as fact. As insiders (scientists), we tried to detail to him that the data are very clear and there is a virtual consensus among scientists that climate change is 1) occurring and 2) accelerated by man made actions. Needless to say, our blood was boiling. What would it take for someone to listen to facts?

Here it is four years later and we still have skeptics; for many reasons. They hold on to different flavors of skeptic Kool Aid; there isn’t even consensus among scientists, Climategate exposed the conspiracy behind climate change, the models are wrong or manipulated.

Over the past two decades, all published, peer-reviewed articles addressing climate, greater than 95% have stated both that climate change is occurring or about the affects the industrial revolution has had on climate.

Climategate some years ago leaked 5000 documents, mostly emails, between climatologists prior to an IPCC meeting. The leaked docs were filtered to skew the message and try to bias public opinion before the meeting. Several international advisory committees exonerated the authors of the documents from any wrong doing and stated no manipulation of data had occurred.

Models are just that…models. They are computer generated taking the most current data into account. The models are getting better, but even 20 year old models are showing to be accurate. The first IPCC meeting in 1990 released a model of average global temperatures through 2030. From an article by Ars Technica taken from a report in Nature Climate Change:

The most frequently cited projection estimates 0.7–1.5°C of warming between 1990 and 2030, which means we would see an increase of about 0.35 – 0.75 °C through 2010. (The range of values is a product of uncertainty about the exact sensitivity of climate to greenhouse gases.) The observed temperature trend through 2010 is about 0.35–0.39°C, depending on the dataset.

Spot on.

So, what will it take for skeptics to accept data as fact instead of propaganda from tree huggers? God, I wish I knew…