Speaking about man-made climate change on ClimateWire

ClimateWire recently published a three-part series reporting on global warming and its alleged impacts along the Gulf Coast, with a special focus on my hometown — Mobile, Alabama.

The journalist — Daniel Cusick — did a pretty good job (I knew him from back in my newspaper days). In three very detailed stories he reported all sides fairly, I think, and showed how this isn’t just an international or national issue, but very much a local one.

Here’s the section where I appear in the first story, which is titled “Ala., which has much at risk from climate change, argues it doesn’t exist“:

The state (Alabama) also has its share of climate skeptic political pundits.

J. Pepper Bryars, a Huntsville-based writer and former press secretary and speechwriter to Alabama’s previous governor, Bob Riley, has cited Christy’s work in a handful of op-eds written for the state’s major news outlets. He has characterized climate scientists and activists who adhere to warming theories as being “more like Nostradamus staring down into a bowl of water” than “Galileo peering through a telescope.”

In an email exchange with ClimateWire, Bryars laid out his views more fully, including some caveats that give credence to the known effects of climate change in the state but ultimately dismissing the science behind it.

“Skeptics of man-made abrupt climate change aren’t questioning thermometers or yardsticks. Temperature and sea-level measurements taken in the past and present are facts that we don’t dispute,” he said.

“However, we’re skeptical of future predictions based on computer models that have been proven inaccurate, especially when the proposed remedies sound a lot like long-held political goals of the far left: transfers of wealth via cap-and-trade schemes, greater government control over production and consumption, and regulation over sovereign democracies by non-elected international bodies of supposed experts.”

The next article in ClimateWire’s series focused on the small barrier island off the coast of Mobile County — Dauphin Island. It’s a great little fishing village, with the same soft white sands of Panama City Beach and Destin but without all of the crowds. It still has the feel of a small town, which it is. For years some of the island’s beaches have been eroding, though, and many blame global warming.

The article is titled “Ala.’s Dauphin Island meets ‘Years of Living Dangerously,'” and here’s the part where I’m quoted:

But there are others in Alabama who view Dauphin Island’s fate on different terms and who believe any relationship between the island’s slow destruction and climate change is an abstract scientific theory looking for a landscape to fit its fuzzy assumptions.

Such arguments, made by residents like Mobile native J. Pepper Bryars, a former press secretary and speechwriter for Alabama’s last governor, Bob Riley, in a recent op-ed in the Mobile Press-Register is that barrier islands like Dauphin Island are ephemeral landscapes, where “every few years it shifts, shakes and remakes itself like Mother Nature’s personal Etch-a-Sketch.”

It’s Mother Nature, not climate change

As for the role that human-induced climate change has in aiding that process, Bryars and like-minded Alabamians remain deeply skeptical.

They point to data compiled by Christy, the state climatologist, that show Alabama’s climate has experienced only modest warming over the last half-century and that extreme weather events happen with no greater frequency or intensity than they ever did.

“Why are the changes and threats any different from past decades? Global warming advocates usually rely on two arguments: There’s been a lot of bad weather lately, and the computer models show it’s only getting worse,” Bryars wrote.

“But is that accurate, at least on a global scale? No,” he added.

In a subsequent email exchange, Bryars acknowledged that “parts of Dauphin Island may be in greater danger of erosion that they were a few decades ago, but how about a few centuries ago? We must understand that the shoreline now wasn’t what Mother Nature made 500 years ago, and it won’t be what she makes 500 years from now, either.”

On the question of beach nourishment, Bryars added, “We may win, but it may come at a great cost. Residents and taxpayers will have to weigh the gains, risks and costs as the battle continues.”

Again, I think Climatewire did a fine job with the series. Sure, they have a perspective on the issue, as most well-informed people do (especially journalists), but to their credit the reporter and editors certainly allowed me plenty of room to make my point.