news   |   academics & research

IU student, faculty speak out against climate change doubter's speech


Tim Ellison, a retired physicist and engineer, stands on a sidewalk. Ellison presentedto the IU Physics Colloquium Feb. 5 in Swain West about research he has collected relating to global warming. Courtesy Photo

A scientist who doesn’t believe humans are causing global warming was approved to speak at a meeting of physics professors and IU students Wednesday. IU community members expressed concern.

Will Holdhusen, an IU graduate student, was not offended by the controversial topic of the presentation, but said he was disappointed because the physics department allowed someone to speak on a topic they have not formally worked in the field of. Holdhusen said he researched the speaker and could not find any work published by him that related to the content of his presentation. 

“My issue is that the speaker had never studied the topic,” Holdhusen said.

Retired physicist and engineer Tim Ellison presented his perspective at the IU Physics Colloquium, denying human-caused global warming based on his understanding of research studies. The group meets once a week and is open to the public. Ellison was approved by a committee of five or six physicists, said David Baxter, chair of the physics department.

Baxter said he did not know the content of Ellison’s speech before submitting it to the committee.He said he thought there could be useful information in the presentation based on the title, “Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW): Science or Religion?”

“I had hoped that Dr. Ellison’s talk would contrast the great deal of science that has been done and continues to be done on the issues associated with climate change,” Baxter said in an email to the Indiana Daily Student.

Ellison said he believes that although the Earth’s temperature may be rising, it is not abnormal because the Earth’s climate has changed in the past. He said at one point he believed in human-caused global warming, but doesn’t after he realized he was just listening to what other people told him and decided to do his own research.

He said people are too concerned about global warming because the changes happening now are insignificant compared to previous centuries.

About 50 people attended Ellison’s speech. Throughout the presentation, audience members asked Ellison questions, challenging the data he presented and his interpretation of it.

One audience member asked why one of the graphs on Ellison’s slides did not include data from the past five years. Ellison said he was focusing on centuries, so the past five years are less important.

While there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat in the last 650,000 years, the warming trend is increasing at an unprecedented rate, according to NASA Global Climate Change. There is more than a 95% probability that this is because of human activity since the mid-20th century.

Lee Florea, a hydrogeologist who studies groundwater and the movement of carbon through Earth said there are three different ways scientists test if global warming is real. These include measuring and analyzing field data such as ice thickness and sea level increase, calculating what could happen to try to predict the future, and setting up models of ecosystems to test the effects of different variables.

Scientists have known for many decades that humans affect climate change, Florea said.

He said humans were not around for the previous times the Earth’s ecosystems adjusted, so it is unclear if humans will be able to adapt as the Earth goes through its next adjustment.

“Something will come out the other side,” Florea said. “We may or may not be a part of that picture.”

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

More in News

Comments powered by Disqus