• Climate

Analysis of “Wake up, Obama, climate change has been happening forever”

Posted on:  2015-09-10

Reviewed content

Published in New York Post, by Betsy McCaughey, on 2015-09-07.

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Scientists’ Feedback


The scientists unanimously qualify this article as misleading and flawed in its reasoning. The author asserts that “many scientists are predicting the onset of two or three centuries of cooler weather—which would mean bigger glaciers.” As the scientists point out, however, glaciologists have collected “crystal clear” evidence for accelerating glacier melt and retreat, which scientists overwhelmingly attribute to human-induced global warming, and scientific consensus warns that a continued rise in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations will produce further global warming.

See all the scientists’ annotations in context



Martin Truffer, Professor of Physics, University of Alaska Fairbanks

This article seems to proclaim that because there is natural variability in climate, there can’t possibly be human-caused climate change. This is like saying that sea-level change cannot be due to ice loss, because sea level goes up and down every day with the tides, without ice melting.

The fact is that global temperatures keep rising, and the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere has reached a level that is unsurpassed during the time human civilization has existed. We are in the middle of conducting the greatest climate experiment. Uncertainties in models mean that we don’t know exact outcomes, but the forcing of greenhouse gases is understood sufficiently well that the risk of large changes in climate is very high.

Undoubtedly, natural variability means that there will be cooler trends that interrupt the general warming, but it also means that there will be times with unusually high rates of warming. Scientists who proclaim to know that we are heading into decades of cooling stand on very thin ground.

Stephan Harrison, Associate Professor in Quaternary Science, University of Exeter

This article is highly misleading and biased. It fails to recognise that scientists have good understanding of the ways in which climate change occurs and the ways in which we can differentiate between natural variability in the climate and climate change produced by human greenhouse gas emissions.
Obama was also correct in using Exit Glacier as an example of how contemporary climate change is leading to the retreat of glaciers. This pattern of glacier melt is seen in all of the world’s glaciated mountain regions. Arguing whether one glacier started its recession slightly earlier or slightly later than others is to miss the point.
The article also tries to suggest that Arctic warming is not new. What it fails to reveal though is that the recent warming covers the whole of the Arctic region; previous warming was much more regional.

Finally, the article claims that scientists are predicting a long period of global cooling. While climate change does not mean that all regions of the world will warm uniformly, the overwhelming scientific consensus is clear that a continued rise in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations will produce continued global warming. This view is supported by all the world’s major academies of science and by the recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

David Bahr, Associate Professor, Department of Physics, Regis University and Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado

Betsy McCaughey incorrectly confuses the historically slow retreat of the Exit Glacier with its vastly more rapid retreat over the last 25 years. Manmade climate change is directly related to the historically unprecedented and rapid melt of Alaskan glaciers. Scientific study after study shows that most of the world’s glaciers are melting at an ever-increasing rate that cannot be explained by natural cycles alone. Only human activities could generate the speed-up in melt that we have observed over the last 25 years in Alaska and around the world. Glaciologists have collected tens of thousands of measurements from glaciers, dating back over 120 years, and the evidence of accelerating glacier melt and retreat in response to manmade warming is crystal clear. Any other conclusion is willfully ignoring the data, the facts, and the conclusions of the entire glaciological community. Ignoring this level of certainty about the human causes of melting of glaciers is analogous to believing that the Earth is flat, all evidence to the contrary.

Mauri Pelto, Professor of Environmental Science, Nichols College

Alpine glaciers did retreat rapidly during the first half of the century, but not from 1950-1980 when many alpine glaciers including several in Glacier Bay, Alaska did advance. The volume of Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets was also stable during this period. Today, it is the ubiquitous and rapid volume loss on glaciers that is remarkable, and one of the many different lines of evidence that have convinced the vast majority of scientists that the current warming is caused by man. Glaciers in equatorial and arctic latitudes, wet and arid climates, large and small, ending in lakes or the ocean are almost all retreating. Out of the 250 glaciers I have worked on, at present 242 are retreating, six have disappeared and one is stationary.



These comments are the overall opinion of scientists on the article, they are substantiated by their knowledge in the field and by the content of the analysis in the annotations on the article.

Alexis Berg member picture

Alexis Berg

Research Associate, Harvard University

This article rehashes a tired old argument that because natural forces have caused climate change in the past, current climate change is no big deal. In fact, every line of evidence now points to man-made greenhouse gas emissions as the primary driver of ongoing (and projected) climate change.
The article also tries to pin the “global warming theory” on president Obama, while the reality is that it reflects the consensus diagnosis of the climate science community.

Jan Lenaerts member picture

Jan Lenaerts

Assistant Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder

An extremely subjective, unsubstantiated article. It includes several misleading and flawed statements and cites irrelevant experts.

Andreas Schmittner member picture

Andreas Schmittner

Associate Professor, Oregon State University

Contrary to overwhelming scientific evidence and conclusions of the vast majority of climate scientists, the article claims that climate will be cooling in the future and that the recently observed warming is not caused by humans. It is misleading in suggesting uncertainty and doubt about human causes of climate change, whereas in reality there is very little uncertainty and doubt on that point.

Joseph Shea member picture

Joseph Shea

Assistant Professor, University of Northern British Columbia

The article contains many misleading and simply false statements about climate and glacier change.

Ilissa Ocko member picture

Ilissa Ocko

Climate Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

This article is plagued with inaccurate information, flawed logic, and quotes from individuals who lack climate science merit.

[1] See the rating guidelines used for article evaluations.
[2] Each evaluation is independent. Scientists’ comments are all published at the same time.

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