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Is there scientific consensus on the truth and causes of global warming?

Yes, there is. Notwithstanding a small minority of outlier scientists who are speaking generally outside their areas of expertise and conservative groups whose political convictions or profit motive trump their reason and responsibility, there is wide scientific agreement that human activity is responsible for the alarming increase in global warming.

Like most communities that enjoy broad and deep educational opportunities, relative economic prosperity and sophistication, people in our community generally accede to the wisdom and historical contributions of science. This is evidenced by our community's acknowledgement that global warming is largely a function of human activity. In fact, there is frequent public ridicule and political insults aimed at "global warming deniers." This is not surprising since the failure to face the truths of global warming serves to inhibit systemic efforts to combat it. Thus deniers pose danger to our collective future. So, what paradoxical corollaries may be found in Sonoma County? At least two glaring examples come to mind: the anti-immunization movement and the efforts to prevent the fluoridation of public water supplies.

Clearly, there is consensus of expert opinion that immunizations and fluoridations are cost-effective medical interventions whose efficacy in preventing communicable disease and tooth decay is a matter of fact. These issues are beyond debate scientifically and medically. Witness that Hollywood celebrities champion anti-immunization while every relevant medical association and authoritative voice point out that such parochialism represents a clear and present danger to the public health.

Still, immunization deniers cling to a shopworn and fraudulent myth linking childhood autism with immunization. The "junk science" therein has been repeatedly de-bunked by the foremost epidemiologists and medical researchers in the world.

Meanwhile, there is no denial that whooping cough or pertussis, measles, polio, diphtheria, mumps and rubella have in the not-distant past devastated untold numbers of our people causing pain and suffering, disability and death.

Yet, astoundingly here in Sonoma County, where respect for climate scientists is evident, respect for medical authorities appears too often lacking. Dangerous percentages, around 20 percent, of Sebastopol residents elect not to immunize their schoolchildren and send them to school unprotected from disease. So outbreaks of diseases long thought to be eradicated are returning.

How puzzling that the same people who ridicule climate change deniers themselves deny the authoritative voice of medical science. This is not a mere fancy of oddball opinion; it is a significant danger to the health of our community.

A similar phenomenon exists in regard to fluoridated public water supply. Every dental and medical association in the nation has supported the efficacy of fluoridating our water to prevent tooth decay. While tooth decay is less frightening than measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough it is, nonetheless, harmful. Serious tooth decay causes gum disease and delayed speech and language development in children since healthy teeth are part of our speech mechanisms.

Speech and language delays are associated with poor educational achievement, social rejection, isolation and resulting maladaptive behavior in children. And tooth decay is largely preventable by the simple and inexpensive addition of fluoride to our water supply. Still, vocal groups spread false information and fear in an effort to prevent fluoridation.