scientific expertise. As a writer about
a wide range of subjects, I have maintained a basic approach to scientific questions. I seek information from
experts in the field. Instead of turning to Twitter or Facebook or possibly
biased websites, I look for people deeply involved in their fields of expertise,
people who have often spent a lifetime
gathering scientific data and working
with that data. I hope to represent secondhand that kind of expertise.
Why they care
SC: I don’t enjoy arguing, especially
with angry people who want to make
a science topic something that it’s not.
It’s much nicer to talk about soil and
flowers. But the most brilliant science
minds on the planet are researching
and writing about global warming and
climate change, and have reached vast
consensus on the big and daunting picture. I just can’t leave the idea hanging out there that there are somehow
“two sides.” Facts are facts; science is
science—with all its range and depths
GR: I am convinced by the science
that we are endangering our future generations by our failure to act today. I feel
not only that global warming presents
our most important twenty-first century
challenge, but that we are failing to meet
that challenge. Most important, the situation is critical: we may already be too
late to head off many of the consequences of global warming, and further delay
in addressing the many associated problems is unacceptable.
Global warming is an anthropogen-ic process; it is caused by greenhouse
gasses that have increased in our atmosphere. The outcomes of this warming
will include: widespread drought, catastrophic storms, sea-level rise causing flooding of coastal cities, and major
According to ninety-seven percent of
Gerry Rising: I’ve devoted much
actively publishing scientists, these are
• The Industrial Revolution led to
rapid increase in the use of fossil fuels,
Professional) I’ve gotten on-the-job
training, and I turn to Cornell Univer-
sity, or Penn State, or other land-grant
colleges for information.
time over the past twenty years review-
ing the literature related to climate
change, though I make no claim to
Sally Cunningham: My primary work
has been to synthesize and explain sci-ence-based information about gardening, and increasingly about ecosystems
and natural habitat—all topics that are
directly related to weather patterns
and climate. Over the years at Cornell
Cooperative Extension, through newspaper and television exposure and as a
A horticulturalist and a naturalist on climate change
BY SALLY CUNNINGHAM AND GERRY RISING
Sally Cunningham is a regional gardening expert known for teaching and writing about
horticulture. Gerry Rising is a retired math teacher who has written nature essays and books
for over twenty-five years. Though they’re not climatologists or meteorologists, their respective
interests have led to a shared concern about the environment.
Who is responsible?
Responsibility for greenhouse gas production is not distributed evenly around the globe. Today,
China is the leading contributor of greenhouse gases (twenty-three percent) with the United
States second (fifteen percent). Despite this seeming imbalance, we in the United States
contribute three times as much per person than the Chinese.
Who says so?
In 2009, eighteen US scientific organizations joined in the following statement:
“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous
scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the
primary driver.” Some of the eighteen: American Association for the Advancement of Science,
American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Medical Association,
American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, The Geological Society of America.
Almost 200 worldwide scientific organizations also hold the position that climate change has
been caused by human activity. Among them: Academie des Sciences, France; Academy of the
Royal Society, New Zealand; American Statistical Association; Australian Academy of Science;
Geological Society of London; International Association for Great Lakes Research; Islamic World
Academy of Sciences; Royal Meteorological Society, United Kingdom; Royal Swedish Academy
of Sciences; World Health Organization.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Summary for Policymakers. Available from: www.ipcc.
Marshall, George. Cooking the Books: How to Write a Contrarian Polemic on Climate Change. Available from:
Oreskes, Naomi and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt. (Bloomsbury, 2010)
Wadhams, Peter. A Farewell to Ice (Oxford, 2017)