Scientists at Texas A&M University immediately took issue when top state officials cast doubt on scientific findings about climate change last month in their formal effort to block regulation of atmosphere-warming pollutants.

University logosNow, climate experts from A&M, Texas Tech University, the University of Texas and Rice University have teamed up to write a newspaper column for the Houston Chronicle, declaring that “the science of climate change is strong,” even if the state of Texas is challenging that science in administrative and court petitions. The column was published Sunday.

Andrew Dessler, a professor in A&M’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, told Texas Climate News that he and the other scientists were motivated to write the column by the state’s legal challenge of a federal finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are dangerous to human health and the environment.

The finding by the Environmental Protection Agency is a necessary prerequisite for proposed federal regulation of the gases, which Texas is trying to stop. The state’s challenge, filed by Attorney General Greg Abbott with the support of Gov. Rick Perry and other top officials, was largely based on claims that the leading international science body on climate change is not “objective or trustworthy.”

Besides Dessler, the other authors of the column disputing such arguments were Katharine Hayhoe, research associate professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech; Charles Jackson, research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics at UT; Gerald North, distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences at A&M; André Droxler, professor of earth science and director of the Center for the Study of Environment and Society at Rice; and Rong Fu, professor in the Jackson School of Geosciences at UT.

The scientists asserted that their own work and “the immense body of independent research conducted around the world leaves no doubt” about several key conclusions about climate change caused by greenhouse gases:

  • “The global climate is changing.”
  • “Human activities produce heat-trapping gases.”
  • “Heat-trapping gases are very likely responsible for most of the warming observed over the past half century.”
  • “The higher the levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the higher the risk of potentially dangerous consequences for humans and our environment.”

These conclusions are “not just our opinion,” the scientists declared, adding:

The national academies of science of 32 nations, and every major scientific organization in the United States whose members include climate experts, have issued statements endorsing these points. The entire faculty of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M as well as the Climate System Science group at the University of Texas have issued their own statements endorsing these views. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, there are no climate scientists in Texas who disagree with the mainstream view of climate science.

The column authors acknowledged in their first paragraph that “emails stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom and errors in one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports have caused a flurry of questions about the validity of climate change science.” [The panel, known as the IPCC, is the international science body criticized by Abbott in his petitions, which also discuss the emails.]

The column’s writers added that “Abbott admitted that the state did not consult any climate scientists, including the many here in the state, before putting together the challenge to the [EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases are dangerous]. Instead, the footnotes in the document reveal that the state relied mainly on British newspaper articles to make its case.”

Referring to the IPCC errors that have come to light recently, the scientists wrote: “While aspects of climate change impacts have been overstated, none of the errors or allegations of misbehavior undermine the science behind any of the statements made above. In particular, they do not alter the conclusions that humans have taken over from nature as the dominant influence on our climate.”

[Disclosure: Gerald North was an editor of The Impact of Global Warming on Texas, to be published by University of Texas Press. The Houston Advanced Research Center, publisher of Texas Climate News, commissioned the book. Its introduction was written by TCN editor Bill Dawson, who also taught an undergraduate course offered by Rice’s Center for the Study of Environment and Society from 2005-09.]

– Bill Dawson

Image credits: University of Texas, Rice University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University