Ann Marie Buerkle, the Republican challenger to incumbent Dan Maffei in New York’s 25th congressional district, is campaigning on a foundation of Cold Earther claims that global warming isn’t happening at all. Buerkle calls global warming a “myth”, and says that “the jury is still out on global warming”.
The jury is out on global warming? What jury is Ann Marie Buerkle talking about?
A jury is a group of people who have worked together for a long period of time in considering an idea, having been systematically exposed to all of the relevant evidence in a case, critically examining the many arguments made both in favor of and against a proposed judgment.
There is a jury-like group that has been working to consider claims about global warming and other manifestations of climate change. That jury is not made up of journalists or people from the general public, because they haven’t been systematically exposed to evidence and arguments about global warming. They haven’t worked for a long while to critically examine the problem, and so they may have opinions about global warming, but those opinions are not based upon the kind of thorough process that a good jury would use.
The jury on global warming is certainly not made up of executives and lobbyists from industrial corporations. They are defendants in the case, not neutral observers.
The jury that has been evaluating the case for global warming is made up of climatologists. They work to examine all available evidence in the matter, and come to a collective decision about which explanations best fit the evidence. They work methodically, far beyond the standards of juries in a court of law. Any claim made by a climatologist is questioned harshly by other members, and dismissed if there is any reasonable doubt. This scientific jury doesn’t just accept evidence at face value either, but replicates sources of evidence to test them, and test again, and then test yet again, to see if the evidence is as valid as initially claimed.
Ann Marie Buerkle says that “the jury is still out on global warming”, but that’s not true. It’s been years now since the professional jury of climate scientists rendered a solid, thoroughly tested judgment that global warming is happening, that it’s caused mostly by human activities, and that strong negative consequences of global warming are already being observed.
Every year, new evidence comes in, and the jury of climatologists continues to examine that evidence. The jury has concluded that the case for anthropogenic global warming continues to grow stronger, not weaker, over time.
There is no rigorous, professional jury to evaluate Ann Marie Buerkle’s ability to responsibly interpret scientific information and apply it to public policy. The electorate, often referred to as “the court of public opinion”, often makes judgments based on hearsay and innuendo more than on facts and reason. However, if there was a good jury to consider the environmental policies of Ann Marie Buerkle, I believe that it would deliver a decisive judgment: Buerkle is too sloppy and ill-informed in her consideration of scientific matters to serve as a useful member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman Dan Maffei, in response to Ann Marie Buerkle’s misinformation on global warming, assembled a group of a dozen scientists to discuss the issue in a more professional way. The message of the group was clear: “This demands action, not denial. Climate change is real.”