(CNSNews.com) - The political climate isn't good for scientists with dissenting views on global warming, leaving some researchers to fear that honest research could be blackballed in favor of promoting a "consensus" view.
A dispute erupted this week in Oregon, where Gov. Ted Kulongoski is considering firing the state's climatologist George Taylor, who has said human activity isn't the chief cause of global climate change.
That view is not in line with the state policy of Oregon to reduce "greenhouse gases," which are considered by many researchers to be the chief cause of global warming.
And Taylor is not alone.
Although a recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report summary said there is 90 percent confidence that human activity is the main cause of global warming, climatologist are far from unanimous in that view.
"It seems if scientists don't express the views of the political establishment, they will be threatened and that is a discomforting thought," said Alabama state climatologist John Christie, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Christie told Cybercast News Service that while research has not been politicized in his state, he's concerned about others. State climatologists in Virginia and Delaware as well as Oregon have faced scrutiny from state government officials for their views on global warming.
Christie stressed that Taylor and others do not deny that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are problematic to the environment, nor do they deny that global warming exists. Rather, he said, they argue that the matter is not as catastrophic as environmentalists argue.
Environmental groups have argued that global warming skeptics should be ignored or marginalized, but the American Association of State Climatologists urges policymakers to move cautiously when addressing the matter.
"Policy responses to climate variability and change should be flexible and sensible," the AASC says in a policy statement . "The difficulty of prediction and the impossibility of verification of predictions decades into the future are important factors that allow for competing views of the long term climate future."
The policy statement recommends that "policies related to long-term climate not be based on particular predictions, but instead should focus on policy alternatives that make sense for a wide range of plausible climate conditions regardless of future climate."
"Climate is always changing on a variety of time scales and being prepared for the consequences of the variability is a wise policy," it says.
Delaware state climatologist and leading skeptic David R. Legates recently filed a friend of the court brief opposing his state's position in a multi-state lawsuit to force the Bush administration to impose stronger regulations on autos.
The state's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control objected because Delaware has taken the position that changes are needed to curb the risk of rising sea levels.
In Virginia, Gov. Tim Kaine has sought to distance himself from state climatologist and global warming skeptic Patrick Michaels by noting that he is not a gubernatorial appointee.
But Michaels, a professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia, was appointed in 1980 by then-Gov. John N. Dalton (R), according to press reports. Nonetheless, Kaine insists that Michaels is speaking only as a research professor and not on behalf of the state.
There are 47 state climatologists, each recognized by the director of the National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They are typically professors of a state university.
Former Vice President Al Gore - whose film on climate change "An Inconvenient Truth" has been nominated to win an Oscar for best documentary - is the latest global warming proponent to echo allegations that skeptics are offering money to scientists to debunk global warming claims.
But Christie counters that it's the "alarmist" view that is driven by money.
"Follow the money," he said Wednesday. "To justify their funding, they have to show a huge problem."
There should be room for both sides of the argument, says Jan Curtis, a board member of the state climatologists group who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Center in Portland, Ore.
"It's a complex issue and we encourage open debate," Curtis said.
He declined to take a position in the global warming debate, but said of the skeptics, "They are concerned about the limited resources and our dependence on foreign fuels. They just believe you don't need the reason of climate change to do common sense things.
"The real issue here is conservation of limited resources as the population grows," Curtis said.
Climate Skeptics Now 'Relegated to the Fringe' (Feb. 2, 2007)
Oil Giant Accused of Funding Global Warming 'Disinformation' (Jan. 4, 2007)
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