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Letters to the Editor

'Crank' that

Michael Hopkins October 12th, 2011

They say people in glass houses should not throw rocks. In his letter “Mistaken environmentalists” (Sept. 14, Gazette), Mickey McVay seems to suggest that those who say that humans might have contributed to climate change are ignorant idiots.

He then throws a rock and says that Earth’s atmosphere is 95 percent water vapor. Actually, it is about four-fifths nitrogen. Most of the rest is oxygen. Water content varies quite a bit and is at most a few percent. This has been known for well over a century.

The composition of the atmosphere is part of Oklahoma’s science standards for grade six. He seems to think he has made a point when he says that climate changes over geologic time. My name is not Kern, I accept geology. And so do scientists.

I might suggest Peter Ward’s “The Medea Hypothesis” as an interesting, although controversial, book on naturally caused catastrophic climate change in Earth’s history. That climate changes over geologic time does not mean that man can’t change it too.

McVay ridicules the very notion that carbon dioxide could be climatically significant. Scientists know what frequencies of electromagnetic radiation (light, etc.) carbon dioxide and other gases absorb and how much. Thus, they can calculate the greenhouse effect the atmosphere should have, and it agrees with empirical measurements.

As for the sun, scientists know about solar variability. They use satellites to directly measure it. The rising-temperature trend has happened in spite of a current cooling trend for the sun. Might I suggest that if someone has to suggest that a strong majority of scientists and an overwhelming majority of relevant scientists are undereducated morons, then he is a crank?

—Michael Hopkins

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10.12.2011 at 06:58 Reply

This letter is one of frustration.  Yet one must again and again come to expect pathetic arguments from science deniers like those who pretend man can't affect climate, those who think the Earth is 6000 years old,  those who deny that vaccines work, etc.    The utter disregard for facts a common motif for such groups.

For anyone who says that the claim that scientists are idiots is not explicate,  all I have to say is that if scientists never considered the possibility that a change in Earth's temperature might have sometime to do with the Sun then they really are idiots.  But scientists have considered it and measured it.    And mentioning natural climate change as if those who study climate change know about it is to say that they are ignorant.  He is not very veiled at all about implying that  thinking that carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse is stupid.   There is no way around it.  He really is saying that scientific community is a collection of idiot and ignoramuses whether it is explicate or not.

Notes and references:

I claim that science has known Earth has an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere for well over a century.  Here is proof:

  • The story of the earth's atmosphere
    By Douglas Archibald (1904)
    See the chapter starting on page 17.

The sixth grade science standards:

  • page 26.
    Found via: which says it is updated for spring 2011.
    "The atmosphere is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and trace gases that include water vapor. "

The reference to Kern is ironic.  He seems to have the role of the Gazette's resident geology denier.   No one who pays attention to either creationism or climate "skepticism" could possibly fail to notice creationists are often climate skeptics as well.

The mainstream science is quite aware of natural climate change is pathetically simple to document.  I mentioned one controversial book on the subject in my letter.  The main purpose is to point out a book deals with Earth's past climate and also what is happening now.   Here is a  book by a paleontologist that I have not read to show that it is hardly alone:

  • Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet
    by Donald R. Prothero

I only recently finished reading a book by a paleontologist that has a chapter gives an Earth-history  perspective on the current global warming:

  • The Evolutionary World: How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civilization
    by Geerat J. Vermeij

He concludes that short-term the consequences are dire, but a long-term (i.e. millions of years) a warmer climate is more productive after life can evolve to adapt to it. 

Heck just grab any book on global warming by a scientist.  You will undoubtedly find mentions of the geologic record.   Most will undoubtedly mention the studying of the last hundred-thousand years of temperature changes using atmospheric samples trapped in ice.  And frankly every small child with an interest in science to the degree that they will read books on it will know the climate is not the same know as when the non-avian dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Calculated and measured greenhouse effect:



10.12.2011 at 11:32

Michael, we can always count on you to back up your arguments with facts.  Damn shame people like Mickey think opinion is greater than fact.  Of course, it's even more of a shame that he'll never stumble onto this site and see all the links you posted, and if he did he wouldn't entertain them because they conflict with his existing belief structure.

I'm surprised you didn't point out that the opinion on man made climate change coming from a self-described 'Oily' reeks of bias.  I'd say that's the easiest way to discredit a blowhard like Mickey.