Whether you agree with her views or not, you’ve got to admire her pluck. At an age where many of us (me) were stealing our parents’ booze and worrying about our social lives, 15-year-old Portland High School student Kristen Byrnes has made a name for herself in worlds of climatology and politics.
As an extra-credit assignment for her honors Earth Science class, Byrnes created “Ponder the Maunder” (http://home.earthlink.net/~ponderthemaunder), a Web site devoted to her in-depth analysis of the causes of climate change. Using charts, graphs, and diagrams, Byrnes demonstrates that “the Earth’s warming climate is a result of natural variance and that man made changes in the warming climate in the last 40 years are negligible at best.” Instead, Byrnes places more weight on the effects of the El Nino Southern Oscillation and solar activity. And she does all this “without financial or political bias,” and with “common sense, something that is seriously lacking in the debate on this issue.”
While she purports that the effects on climate of man-made carbon dioxide emissions are minimal, the aspiring paleontologist (or criminal scientist, or architect — she’s still not sure) points out that fossil fuels are still running out. She warns against overpopulation and urges people on both sides of the debate to invest in renewable energy sources.
Byrnes devotes one section to examining Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, dissects the movie point-by-point, and concludes: “An Inconvenient Truth is a political commercial that misrepresents a whole area of science.”
In doing so, the high schooler has earned many new (mostly conservative) friends. “Bravo, Kristen,” Noel Sheppard wrote on NewsBusters, a blog aimed at “exposing and combating liberal media bias.” “You’ve quickly pinpointed what folks much older than you choose to ignore.”
So far, Byrnes — who self-identifies as disinterested in politics, although her step-father claims she’s “left of center” — says she’s received about 3000 e-mails, from laudatory scientists who wanted to adopt her, as well as from disgruntled researchers who disagree with her findings. She’s remained open to constrictive criticism and has made some changes based on people’s comments.
She was less receptive to matchmakers who hoped to land this smart catch for their sons. “Of course there were a number of parents who tried to hook me up with their teen boys,” she writes wearily in an e-mail. The closest one was in New Hampshire, “and mom said NO!”