Friday, July 06, 2007

Global Warming or Just Cooking the Books?

I've been a skeptic on mankind's role as a cause of global warming, what's properly termed "anthrocentric global warming" or "AGW" for three reasons in particular.

  1. It is a stretch to look first at a miniscule change in a minor component of the atmosphere to explain the outsized climate effects that are attributed to recent increases in carbon dioxide. There have been far larger fluctuations in CO2 the past that seem unrelated to climate changes. Conversely, there have been scores of very large and very rapid climate changes in the past that appear completely unrelated to levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If a theory is unable to explain either what has happened or what has not happened, of what use is the theory?
  2. The "science" driving the current debate seem unreliable. Computer models that are supposed to be incredibly sophisticated and comprehensive have proven as unable to forecast the temperature next week as they are to predict what we know of climate changes 200 years ago or 2,000 years ago. The other disciplines of which I am aware insist on "proving up" predictive tools by applying them against the known past to see how predictive they are. Whether the subject is national money supply, family budgeting, blood tests, or fuel usage in a 777, rational consumers expect predictive tools to be tested and proven. Such is not the case in the AGW debate. The tools are not only not proven, every time "proving up" has been attempted it has failed. Said the doctor to the patient, "All of our tests are inconclusive, but we'd like to remove both lungs anyway."
  3. In a troubling new development, those advocating acceptance of AGW have been avoiding the increasing numbers and sophistication of the counter-arguments, instead adopting ad hominem disparagement, labeling skeptics "deniers" or lackeys of the oil companies. AGW's loudest partisans fail to accept the valid concerns and questions, some very serious, of those who want at least as much evidence for the existence of AGW as there is for the Loch Ness monster. At the moment, Nelly is closer to proven.
Details, Details

Up to this point, I've been a skeptic, accepting the premise of global warming, but agnostic as to man's role. Troubling new evidence causes me for the first time to wonder whether—or by how much—the AGW crowd has been cooking the books.

The evidence supporting AGW is measured in very small units of change, typically on the order of an increase in temperature of one-half of one degree spread over a century, dispersed amongst a couple of thousand measuring stations. These monitors are recording daily temperature changes between 20-40 degrees, seasonal changes of a similar magnitude and cyclical variations of 10 or more degrees. That's a great deal of noise from which to extract a very small nugget of change distributed over ten decades, not to mention nine sunspot cycles. For the nugget of change to be real gold and not pyrite, it needs to be real and neither a mirage nor a figment of some researcher's overabundance of enthusiasm.

Cooking the books?

It turns out that much of the data that we've all been seeing and using in our discussions about whether or not the earth is currently warming—leaving aside man's role, if any—has been "adjusted." Adjusted by unknown persons, and by unknown amounts. The only certainty is that at least some of the adjustments have been large, far larger than the "nuggets" of warming allegedly found within the data.

Here's a look at one such set of data, from a government temperature monitor in Central Park, NYC. The upper lines shows actual (unadjusted) average daily temperatures in July over the past century. Note both the variability from year to year and that temperatures appear to have increased about a degree in the first 50 years while declining since.

After the manual "adjustment," however, the data has taken on the famous "hockey stick" shape, showing a lower average temperature in the early years with a pronounced and accelerating rate of increase in the last two decades. This is the data that is distributed and used. Voila, a crisis!

Adjusting This, Adjusting That

Skeptics question the adjustments. After all, any manual adjustment that increases the reported temperatures by three full degrees is a major adjustment. While both sets of figures came from NOAA, who actually made the adjustments? On what basis? The justification given is that the lower line reflects the effects of New York population changes over the decades, but working backward from the computed data, Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit found that the resulting answers seemingly "prove" New York has a current population of about 1.2 million. That'll be news to those who live there! This is the same data that "proves" a global temperature increase of .6 degrees over the last 100 years. As skepticism increases, the questions widen to include all the measuring stations and the reliability of all the data they produce.

Those of us who are skeptical—the "deniers" and "lackeys" who Al Gore and his proseltyzers demand accept their conclusions based soley on their assurances—have questions. Before we all march over the cliff of sacrifice demanded by AWG, those questions need better answers and those answers need to be supported by real data, not somebody's "adjustments."

Global warming deserves at least the same level of scrutiny that Nessy receives.

Religion and faith are great routes to Heaven, but they are not the tools we should be using to address climate change.

Related Links: Where Was Al Gore When Greenland Got Its Name?

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