Climate Change Information is Sanitized for Your Protection

Climate change information disseminated to the public has a huge political filter. This can be stated with certainty by many of us who have worked in the atmospheric science field for at least a few decades.

Progressing from my undergraduate education in meteorology at Penn State in the 1970s through forty years of professional practice while earning two graduate degrees along the way, I gained a lot of insight into the accumulation and dissemination of atmospheric knowledge.

In the 1970s, besides poor air quality, the three biggest air-related issues were depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, acid rain, and climate change. The climate change angst was in a state of flux, with a solid leaning toward the coming of the next ice age.

As the 1980s rolled in, progress was underway to limit ozone-depleting chemicals (chlorofluorocarbons) and to curtail acid rain by reducing power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, among other actions. Climate change concern was veering from cooling to warming and the “greenhouse effect” became the popular nomenclature (later to morph into “global warming,” then “climate change,” and more dire terminology).

Various international agreements and serious limitations on industrial and vehicle emissions apparently helped to limit ozone depletion and reduce the impact of acidic rainfall during the 1990s and 2000s. And even air quality in the U.S. improved dramatically. Atmospheric levels of key pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, and various sizes of particulate matter all measurably decreased, although challenges remained with various toxic air pollutants.

Yet, because of the complex nature of the climate-change challenge, multitudinous prophecies of climate doom came and went without fulfilment, and efforts to control the climate languished.

Nevertheless, the public was subjected to what seemed to be nonstop suppositions of airy Armageddon.  Worse, there didn’t seem to be any balance to the message of misery. No allowance was afforded for alternative viewpoints such as the benefits of increasing carbon dioxide, a plant nutrient, or that warmer climes are generally better for the biosphere than colder climes.

In the 2010s, my final ten years of professional practice were as an air-pollution administrator and air quality meteorologist for a large public health department. My primary focus was on research and keeping track of temperature inversions, which are key to poor air quality conditions.

A temperature inversion is a naturally occurring event where warm upper-level air sits atop cool lower-level air. This is a stable situation because light air is above heavy air, keeping the air from circulating. With a temperature inversion just above the earth’s surface, air becomes sluggish and air pollution concentrations can really increase.

In 2019 and 2020, during several days of continuous poor air quality in the communities of the health department’s jurisdiction, the local National Weather Service directed a reporter from a local television station to me for a discussion of the impact of temperature inversions on the extended period of bad air. However, apparently because managers at the health department were worried that I would not link the poor air quality from temperature inversions to climate change, I was prohibited from addressing the science behind the incident. Instead, they went on record and on camera to say that what we were experiencing resulted from and would increase because of climate change.

Of course, as in any authentic analysis, the truth is nuanced. There is some research to support the contention that climate change’s negative impact on temperature inversions and subsequent air quality. These conclusions would fit neatly with the narratives generated by “settled science.”

However, my own recent, first-of-its-kind, peer-reviewed analysis—supported by similar climate investigations—showed mixed results as to what climate change will do to temperature inversions. My research was specific to the area of concern by the local television station and would have offered a balanced, science-based view of the air-quality incidents.

This example of government heavy-handedness in the reporting of dispassionate scientific findings—one of many others—confirms that the public is right to be apprehensive of official proclamations whenever qualified professionals are strongly discouraged and even prevented from challenging dubious “settled science.”

A similar version of this article appeared originally at the Washington Times.

Anthony J. Sadar is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and adjunct associate professor of science at Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA. He is also author of In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big To Fail (Stairway Press).

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