- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The answers to the age-old questions: “Why can’t Johnny read?” “Why can’t Johnny write?” and “Why can’t Johnny do arithmetic?” are the solution to the inquiry “Why can’t Johnny think for himself?”

If Johnny had a solid elementary and secondary education in the fundamentals of the “Three Rs”, he might today be more skilled at the fourth R, reasoning. And we might not now be asking, “Why can’t Johnny think for himself about the magnitude of human contributions to global warming?” Or better yet, “Why does Johnny believe that the very gas he exhales is going to destroy his world? How can he be so easily duped?”

True enough, plenty of exceptionally well educated people do believe the same carbon dioxide (CO2) they exhale is contributing to runaway global warming. And, even more astoundingly, these same intelligent people believe we can show what this CO2 will do to our planet at the end of this century! But that still does not readily explain why the vast majority of folks have simply caved in to these rather preposterous ideas or why the public-at-large has great difficulty comprehending the complexity of climate change and the feeble attempts to predict it.

Regardless, a rapidly growing body of knowledgeable atmospheric and environmental scientists and engineers are becoming man-made global warming skeptics. These scientists and engineers, who typically are not beneficiaries of the bloated bag of government cash available for climate studies or are simply retired from the field, are discovering the substantial alternative explanations to “human-released CO2 = man-made global warming formula. Such alternative explanations include the overarching long-term balance in nature between what is exhaled by people and their industrial activities and what is “inhaled” by vegetation and the oceans, along with variability in incoming solar radiation, the disproportionate impact of cosmic rays on cloud condensation nuclei formation at different altitudes in the troposphere, and the combined contributions from naturally occurring El Nino, Pacific decadal and North Atlantic oscillation events, to name a few.

Why can’t Johnny even consider these alternative views. The problem is that Johnny has not been instructed in how to think - how to evaluate a proposed cause and effect, how to weigh alternatives, how to distinguish between hypothesis and reality, or simply how to put things into perspective. Instead, Johnny has been hobbled in his assessment skills by a woefully inadequate early education. And higher education generally does little to remedy his situation. At graduation, Johnny has been largely indoctrinated, not educated. Thus, his cap and gown do little to cover his understanding of “cap and trade.”

Johnny has been relegated to the lowly position of merely having to accept the testimony of “experts.” So, Johnny has now become vulnerable to intellectual bullying at a time when we need our Johnny to use his cognitive skills to help solve true dire global challenges, rather than simply acquiesce to elitist solutions to imagined potential problems. Real planetary perils we know exist now and require immediate attention include an unstable global market, looming pandemics, extreme poverty, undrinkable water supplies, malaria, AIDS, ethnic cleansing, and on and on and on.

If we can get back to teaching Johnny the fundamentals of the four Rs - reading, writing, arithmetic, and reasoning - maybe we can all breathe easier as he applies these basic skills to more complex issues like the true connection between CO2 and climate change. If not, we’re afraid those real-estate agents who are always selling swamp land in Florida to unsuspecting buyers will make a killing off our future graduating Johnnies.

Anthony J. Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist and co-author of “Environmental Risk Communication: Principles and Practices for Industry.” Susan T. Cammarata is an environmental lawyer practicing in Pittsburgh.


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