Don Easterbrook’s Academic Dishonesty
The letter below was sent to The Bellingham Herald (local newspaper) and to Western Front Online (Western Washington University newspaper) on Monday January 9, 2011. I also called and left a message with the Bellingham Herald News Editor. I did not hear back from either newspaper.
Sir or Madam,
Don Easterbrook, a Professor Emeritus at Western Washington University has been promoting his belief that natural cycles of the sun and oceans are going to cause global cooling over the next few decades and this will offset the CO2-caused warming headed our way. In 2001, he announced that global cooling was about to begin and would last for the next 25 years. Of course, the previous decade was the warmest in over 150 years and 2010 is likely to be the warmest or second warmest year in that period. Easterbrook wants to persuade us to ignore global warming despite the fact that most of his peers, climate scientists, military and intelligence experts, health officials, and insurance companies expect major societal disruptions due to the current and expected human-caused climate disruption.
It is ok to be wrong. Science cannot prove an idea is true but only that it is false. Correcting mistakes is how science moves forward. But Easterbrook is not just wrong, he is playing fast and loose with the data. He was caught red-handed using a doctored graph in a 2007 conference (see http://bit.ly/goEkd3) and in subsequent articles and talks. Easterbrook not only edited these graphics to change the information they contained, but did so in order to minimize the evidence of recent global warming. This is, at the very least, academic malpractice. More recently (12/28/10) he incorrectly labeled a graph of temperatures for the previous 10,000 years to claim that most of these years were warmer than present. His “current temperature” was really 1855 and not the much warmer present day. He was notified of his mistake but refuses to issue a retraction (see http://bit.ly/dW6BOk). A good scientist corrects and learns from mistakes, but this seems foreign to Easterbrook.
WWU officials were notified of Easterbrook’s doctoring of data last May and again this January but have so far chosen to do nothing. Academic freedom must be cherished and defended but dishonesty should never be condoned – whether at WWU or any other institution of higher education.
Scott Mandia and Gareth Renowden
Scott Mandia is a professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, New York and has been teaching meteorology and climatology courses for 23 years.
Gareth Renowden is an NZ-based science writer and blogger, author of Hot Topic – Global Warming & The Future of New Zealand. He has written extensively on Easterbrook’s cavalier approach to climate data.
Update 01/15/2010: I have been told that the entire geology department at WWU disagrees with Don Easterbrook and they have now declared their position on the departmental website:
Human-induced climate change
Decades of scientific research have shown that climate can change from both natural and anthropogenic causes. The Geology Faculty at WWU concur with rigorous, peer-reviewed assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed significantly and that human activities (mainly greenhouse-gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s. If current trends continue, the projected increase in global temperature by the end of the twenty-first century will result in large impacts on humans and other species. Addressing the challenges posed by climate change will require a combination of adaptation to the changes that are likely to occur and global reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from anthropogenic sources.