Al Gore''s slide show to the contrary, the snows of Kilimanjaro are not disappearing because of global warming. Unlike other ice fields that are clearly being eaten away by rising temperatures, Kilimanjaro is a special case where local factors that have little to do with global warming are at work.
So says a provocative new article published by Philip Mote, a University of Washington climate researcher, and Georg Kaser, a glaciologist from Austria''s University of Innsbruck.
The article is prime distortion fodder for the climate change denial lobby. Mote worried about that, but decided that science is all about seeking answers and publishing conclusions.
Mote is a friend of mine, and I know he spends a fair amount of time thinking about communicating science in ways that lay people can make sense of. He was a co-author of the first in the series of reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published this year, speaks regularly at conferences, and has a wry sense of humor about the politics that hover over climate science like a smelly miasma.
Politics and science don''t mix well. Science is a rigorous process of developing explanations for phenomena through careful study based on evidence and logical reasoning. Explanations often are nuanced, with caveats about what isn''t known. Politics, on the other hand, traffics in intangibles, which often leads to pushing of emotional buttons with oversimplifications and scurrilous nonsense.
But politics, for better and worse, is the forum for acting on information turned up by science. To be worthy of attention, that information must be credible and presented without regard to whose agendas might be affected.
Even though the Kilimanjaro findings may be an inconvenient complication for Gore and company, Mote and his colleagues were right to publish. The movement to limit greenhouse gas emissions is better served by sticking scrupulously to the facts. Let the climate change denial lobby traffic in misrepresentations; sooner or later, it will catch up with them.
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