Monday, February 16, 2009

Harrison Schmidt

It is difficult to know what to make of this article about former astronaut, former New Mexico Senator, and MIT-educated geologist Harrison Schmidt, written by the Associated Press.

The article says:
Schmitt said historical documents indicate average temperatures have risen by 1 degree per century since around 1400 A.D., and the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise.
It is difficult to see how Schmidt can be right in either of these claims.

The article is sloppy and doesn't say whether Schmidt is referring to Fahrenheit or Celsius degrees, but even if it's the former that would be a 6°F (3°C) degree increase in average global temperatures since the middle ages. I have never seen any scientific paper that shows anything like that, by a factor of at least 5.

Also, I thought it was well-established that the carbon dioxide being added to today's atmosphere by human activities is different than "natural" carbon dioxide by its carbon isotopes.

The AP article did not bother with any other opinions or appear to have fact-checked Schmidt's claim in the least. Nor did Tom Sharpe, the reporter at the Santa Fe New Mexican from which this article seems to have originated.

Could an MIT-PhD in geology really not know this? Or am I missing something?


Anonymous said...

I think that in order to evaluate Dr. Schmidt's remarks, it would help to see his list of publications in the last 30 years, along with a list of the companies upon whose boards of directors he sits. To be educated as a scientist is far different from practicing science, and I doubt he has published very many peer-reviewed articles since walking on the moon.

Dano said...

When my toilet leaks, I call an expert in a totally different field, like radiology, because the radiologist says things I like to hear.



MT said...

How old is he though? People stop making sense long before they stop being quoted.