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The job of university professors is to present all sides of any scientific argument.

A Southern Oregon University professor believes students and the public need to hear the considerable case against global warming to help spur critical thinking.

Biologist John Roden will give a talk called “Global Climate Change: Why Are There Still Skeptics?” at 7:30 tonight, in the Meese Auditorium in the SOU Art Building, as part of the school’s Distinguished Lecture series showcasing campus professors. It’s free and open to the public.

Emphasizing that he doesn’t oppose the “climate change paradigm,” Roden says it rests on a three-legged stool: that the climate is warming, it’s human-caused and it will bring catastrophic results. And if any one of those is disproved, the paradigm collapses.

In his talk, “Global Climate Change: Why Are There Still Skeptics?” Roden says he’ll objectively outline the arguments of skeptics, many of whom, he notes, are members of think tanks and universities, including famed physicist-author Freeman Dyson.

“The paradigm of climate change is considered to be beyond dispute,” says Roden, “but I will present the arguments of well-credentialed skeptics … that are seldom put forward in the media, but I won’t present them as true or right. They all have valid counter-arguments.”

Roden, who in his 20 years at SOU has been researching redwood tree rings as an indicator of climate change in the past millennium, notes that our climate has gone through radical changes over vast spaces of time, all without man-caused greenhouse gases.

Roden notes that concentrations of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, today is 440 parts per million in the atmosphere, but in the Jurassic period was a vastly more dense 700,000 ppm, “yet the planet wasn’t more than 20 degrees warmer.” This is because the gas has a ceiling at which it doesn’t increase heat from trapped sunlight, he says.

Some skeptics believe the climate is warming, but people aren’t to blame, in which case, “what are we worried about?” says Roden. Others believe humans are causing it but predicted damage won’t materialize.

The job of university professors is to present all sides of any scientific argument, he says.

“Students enjoy that. They’re not so myopic they only want to hear one side,” says Roden.

“My problem with predictions is that most environmental organizations go to extremes in their predictions, because it’s very hard to get lazy Americans off their butts and do something,” he says.

“Industrial organizations paint a rosy picture of the future and also go to extremes, and if you believe them, you’re naive,” he says. “But the truth is in the middle somewhere.

“I’m not worried about it because I don’t think some of the predictions of catastrophe are credible. But I don’t want to say I’m not concerned. I don’t want to say nothing is going to happen.”

Mail Tribune, 21 April 2011