BC Professors’ Core Science Textbook Contains Climate Change Skepticism

“Exploring the Earth System” is a required text in some core classes, despite (or perhaps because of ) its skepticism on climate change. / Amazon.com

“Exploring the Earth System,” a core-science textbook co-authored by Brooklyn College Professors Constantin Cranganu and Stephen Aja of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, appears to deny anthropogenic climate change or at the very least justify the arguments of the “skeptics” who deny human-caused climate change.

“It is the normal stuff that I see around from deniers,” said Physics Professor and founder of the Environmental Studies Program Micha Tomkiewicz, who was provided a copy of the text. “Cranganu is basically a scientific denier. I don’t want to be confrontational here but Cranganu knows precisely my attitude.”

Cranganu, whose career as an “oil and gas researcher” spans more than three decades, specializes in petroleum geology, geo-statistics, artificial intelligence methods, and hydraulic fracturing, among many other fields. He has been a full professor at Brooklyn College since 2008.

The Kingsman was tipped by an anonymous source with extensive knowledge on the subject matter as to Cranganu, in particular, being the author of the two chapters in the textbook titled “Taking Sides: Climate Change Debate” and “Four Essential Myths of Climate Change: Edenic, Apocalyptic, Babelian, and Themisian.”

While the text does not explicitly subscribe to either side of the debate, be it the “proponents” or the “skeptics,” it does present a greater body of arguments for the latter. It emphasizes, for example, the “scientific uncertainty in climate change studies” and “the limits of climate change science” using them as subtitles in bold typeface.

“Uncertainty can never be fully eliminated from scientific studies,” Cranganu wrote in the textbook. “If all aspects and feedback processes involving climate change are taken into consideration, the individual uncertainties multiply in a snowball manner and the final result may become questionable.”

“It is classic stuff, and very similar to what I see from The Heartland Institute,” added Tomkiewicz who, unlike many others, decided to go on-the-record. Most declined to comment as there appeared to be a perceptible unease from many of the College’s administrators and faculty by the fact that this content was present on campus.

A Brooklyn College spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity but who was provided with the relevant information regarding the matter, said that, “The college supports the academic freedom of its faculty and the role scientists play in analyzing and questioning theories and concepts.”

“Uncertainty is inherent in many climate processes,” a passage in the textbook reads. “There are limits to […] climate change science in particular […] our scientific knowledge about this subject will always […] contain varying degrees of uncertainty […] the knowledge of climate science will always face a shaping process imposed by the social world.”

This rhetoric is remarkably similar to that of organizations and individuals that outright deny anthropogenic climate change. Notable “skeptic” Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute once claimed that “victory will be achieved when…the public recognizes uncertainties in climate science.”

In fact, The Heartland Institute, which claims to be “the world’s most prominent think-tank supporting skepticism about man-made climate change,” once claimed that “there is no scientific consensus on the causes, extent, or likely future direction of climate change” and that “the mainstream media has pretty much given up its role as an independent reporter on these things and has become an advocate.” Its president, Joseph Bast, also called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “a joke,” an organization that Cranganu similarly goes after in his textbook, in which he questioned the organization’s legitimacy and credibility, and provided numerous examples of their “scientific conspiracy,” citing the “Climategate” leaked-emails scandal of 2009.

Somewhat contradictorily, Cranganu wrote in the textbook that “the climate change proponents are moving from their realm into uncharted waters of politics,” and that “we live in a time when highly polarized politics has complicated the intersection of climate change science with politics…which is reorganizing our way of thinking.”

The textbook, published in 2013 and then again in 2017, is assigned to students enrolled in both Aja’s and Cranganu’s “The Dynamic Earth” courses, which is both part of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department and a ‘Flexible Core’ option — a component of the “Pathways” requirements. According to CUNYFirst, there are a total of 118 students enrolled in both classes at the beginning of this semester.

While there appears to be no explicit connection between Kendall Hunt, which published “Exploring the Earth System,” and The Heartland Institute, the former did issue at least three books that have been officially publicized by the latter, including “Energy: The Master Resource,” by Robert Bradley Jr. of the Cato Institute. A representative of Kendall Hunt failed to comment on the matter.

Together with Americans for Prosperity, the Cornwall Alliance, and The Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and The Heartland Institute form the pentad that currently leads the propagation of climate change skepticism in the political sphere. In 2012, leaked internal documents from the latter organization showed donations by the Koch Foundation, General Motors, and Comcast, among many others.

One of the many inspirations on the ideologies of such groups is Ayn Rand, a Russian-American philosopher who, interestingly enough, is quoted at the beginning of one of the aforementioned chapters in “Exploring the Earth System.” “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individuals rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities,” the quote reads.

Before proposing solutions — of mitigation, adaptation, and geo-engineering — to climate change, Cranganu stated in the book that the “current global warming episode is real and humans have a partial contribution to it. The consequences of unbridled continuation of the current climate trend may be dire and threatening to our environment…[and] our lives.”

The word “partial” here is important because it contradicts the consensus of 97%-99% of climate scientists who, according to a statement by NASA, agree that climate change “is caused largely by human activities and poses significant risks for, and in many cases is already affecting, a broad range of human and natural systems.”

In fact, the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) released this summer, which essentially bears the signature of President Trump’s administration — which has been unfriendly to climate change — stated, with high confidence, that “human contribution to the global mean temperature increase…translates to…93%–123% of the observed 1951-2010 change.”

Human-caused climate change is determined, among many other methods, by the relative absence of carbon-14 in the atmosphere, in what is known as the “Suess Effect.” Carbon-14 is diminished in fossil fuels, such as petroleum and gas, do its radioactivity. Despite an increase in atmospheric presence around the 1960’s due to nuclear testing, its abundance has been declining ever since, an indication that the carbon in our atmosphere is from fossil fuels.

“Without our role there would basically be no climate change,” added Tomkiewicz. “We are reaching a record in terms of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is serious. Climate change is very complex stuff and if you are a bit lazy and don’t go through all the details then you are just going to follow the same crowd that you follow for other reasons.”

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