After Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott formally challenged the federal conclusion that greenhouse gases are harmful pollutants, the Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger asked if he had consulted with any of Texas’ own “eminent climate scientists” before filing petitions that dismiss scientific conclusions about global warming as the product of “colluding and scheming.”

TAMUAbbott replied that he had not done so: “Not yet and here’s why. At this stage we’re not focused on, nor need we be focused on, needing to prove anything from a scientific basis ourselves.”

Actually, it seems highly doubtful that the attorney general will want to consult members of Texas A&M University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences – a respected academic body in the field of climate science – if he’s looking for Texans with the appropriate scientific expertise to help him make his legal case.

After Abbott filed Texas’ petitions against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “endangerment finding” regarding carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, key members of the A&M department’s faculty told the Washington-based Wonk Room blog that the department as a whole stands by the EPA’s conclusion about greenhouse gases and by the principal conclusions of the international scientific body on climate change that Gov. Rick Perry’s office, announcing Abbott’s petitions, said had been “discredited.”

Kenneth P. Bowman, who heads the A&M department, sent Wonk Room this statement:

“I believe that (the) EPA finding is based on good science, as do all of my colleagues in the Atmospheric Science Department here at Texas A&M.”

John Nielsen-Gammon, a professor in the department and the Texas state climatologist, wrote to the blog:

“[It is] apparent that if atmospheric concentrations of the six greenhouse gases continue to rise due to human influence, the earth would eventually reach a point where there would be massive disruptions of ecosystems, changes in sea level, decreases in air quality, and so forth that would, in particular, substantially harm the public welfare of those generations forced to experience them. So anthropogenic increases of greenhouse gas concentrations clearly present a danger to the public welfare, and I agree with the EPA’s findings in that sense.”

Wonk Room blogger Brad Johnson asked Nielsen-Gammon about “specific risks relevant to Texas” from greenhouse emissions and received this reply:

“Potential Texas vulnerabilities include sea level rises, droughts, floods, estuarine ecosystems, and agricultural productivity. The possible adverse economic impact of future greenhouse gas emission control strategies on Texas industries also represents a risk associated with global warming.”

Abbott’s petitions, which he filed on behalf of Perry and other top state officials, particularly targeted for heavy criticism the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is the world’s most authoritative scientific body on the subject but has come under accelerating criticism in recent months over leaked or stolen emails and revelations of a few errors in its voluminous 2007 reports on global warming.

Andrew Dessler, another professor on the A&M department’s faculty and author of “The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change,” published by Cambridge University Press, told Wonk Room:

“I, along with all the other faculty in the department, agree with the main conclusions of the IPCC.”

In late 2007, the 23 members of A&M’s atmospheric sciences facultyunanimously endorsed the IPCC reports issued that year with a joint statement. It included the assertion that manmade climate change “brings with it a risk of serious adverse impacts on our environment and society.”

Asked by Wonk Room if recent attacks on the IPCC’s credibility have prompted any revision of that position by the Atmospheric Sciences faculty, Dessler replied that “the department stands by its (2007) statement. You can quote me on that.”

Contacted subsequently by Texas Climate News, Dessler declined to elaborate further.

Another professor in the A&M department, Gerald North, told the Agence France-Presse news service at the annual meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science last weekend in San Diego that climate science is “quite healthy” despite recent critiques tied to the IPCC’s troubles.

“It’s easy (to) vilify scientists, but scientists cannot go into the gutter and turn the attacks the other way,” AFP quoted North as saying. “But the climate science paradigm is in fact quite healthy. We just have a lot of challenges about how we communicate.”

– Bill Dawson

[Disclosure: Gerald North was an editor of The Impact of Global Warming on Texas, to be published by University of Texas Press. The book was commissioned by the Houston Advanced Research Center, publisher of Texas Climate News. The introduction was written by Bill Dawson, editor of Texas Climate News.]

Image credit: Texas A&M University