Wednesday, June 21, 2006

USA: Global Warming, Hot Air and Junk Science Republicans, Gore

So Al Gore comes out with this movie about Global Warming. Then many Republicans and the right wing blogosphere jump all over him, claiming that his central idea, that greenhouse gases are causing the warming of the earth are basically wrong. Lets just say that "alarmist" and "chicken little" are the least of what Mr. Gore gets called.

But, here is what I don't get. Why call the guy out, when you are the ones being dumb?
Hey, I am as skeptical as anyone. Liberals and/or environmentalists have based more than one regulation or restriction on claims based on "Junk Science" - anything from citing findings which many reasonable scientists think is bogus or selectively quoting from scientific studies without looking at the whole picture. An example is over-stating and over-excagerating the danger of nuclear power plants - without mentioning the clean and safe power plants in Japan and France. Or supporting a "clean" alternative fuel, without mentioning you need energy from polluting conventional sources to produce it.
Back in the early 90's, you could read articles by climatoligists and other scientists skeptical about global warming. The point was, sweeping policy changes (very expensive ones) were being proposed world-wide to reduce emissions, but there was an informed argument by some scientists that at its core that central premise was shaky. Sounded reasonable, call me a GW skeptic, so get busy and research the issue further.


For the past couple of hundred years, scientists try to figure out things using the scientific method, which involves reasoning, and examining things - rationality and empiricsm as the eggheads call it. What you basically do is use the tools available to you to examine a phenomenon (like climate changes the past centuries), looking for particular trends (in cooling or warming), and see what kind of explanations these trends have (natural causes, or man-made greenhouse gases). If you find there is a warming trend this century you compare it with previous warming trends and eliminate different explanations. If your data shows explanations for change due to natural causes, or as part of a general trend in warming, you can eliminate greenhouse emissions as a cause. That precisely was one of the most solid arguments made by a few scientists, more than a decade ago.
But check this chart.
The time series shows the combined global land and marine surface temperature record from 1856 to 2005. The year 2005 was the second warmest on record, exceeded by 1998. This time series is being compiled jointly by the Climatic Research Unit and the UK Met. Office Hadley Centre. The record is being continually up-dated and improved. The principal reason is to detect climate change due to global warming through an increase in temperature in the instrumental record. Increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities are most likely the underlying cause of warming in the 20th century.

The key references for this time series are:

Jones, P.D., New, M., Parker, D.E., Martin, S. and Rigor, I.G., 1999:
Surface air temperature and its changes over the past 150 years.
Reviews of Geophysics, 37, 173-199.

Jones, P.D. and Moberg, A., 2003:
Hemispheric and large-scale surface air temperature variations: An extensive revision and an update to 2001.
Journal of Climate, 16, 206-223.

The 1990s were the warmest decade in the series.
The warmest year of the entire series has been 1998, with a temperature of 0.58°C above the 1961-90 mean. Nine of the ten warmest years in the series have now occurred in the past ten years (1995-2004). The only year in the last ten not among the warmest ten is 1996 (replaced in the warm list by 1990).

Conclusion: These scientists are saying is that man-made factors in the form of greenhouse emission, are causing a warming of the earths temperatures, and that the past decade was one of the warmest on record.
Hypothesis, using the same scientific method lets look at what most scientists think? Start with the "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was "Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme", and which claims its mission is to "evaluate the state of climate science. they claim that:

the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities: "Human activities ... are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents ... that absorb or scatter radiant energy. ... [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations"

Thats what the World Government - Egghead position. Data Well what do the specific scientists that study climate think? Not by a yes or no result in a poll, but whether they consider it good science. That as scientists, with their research, education, and experience in their respective fields, believe that the conclusion that greenhouse emissions cause a global warming of temperatures,is sound and that it was reached through the rigorous application of the scientific method by many of their peers. Sound enough, that they themselves base their continued work and research on these conclusions. To find out, lets see what they themelves say in publications, in the scientific journals which are subject to review and criticism from their peers.

That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "climate change" (9).

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.

This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies. Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.


IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years, all major scientific bodies in the United States whose members' expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements. For example, the National Academy of Sciences report, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, begins: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise" [p. 1 in (5)]. The report explicitly asks whether the IPCC assessment is a fair summary of professional scientific thinking, and answers yes: "The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue" [p. 3 in (5)].

Others agree. The American Meteorological Society (6), the American Geophysical Union (7), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling (8).

WHO'S JUNK SCIENCE??? So what do the Republicans say about this? As The New Republic points out, they simply keep on embarrassing themselves, denying the obvious or obscuring it. TNR breaks down a WSJ article that is based on faulty science, and is content to merely pick apart small differences in opinion among scientists, then making sweeping generalizations about it. Yeah right, and it was also theoretically possible that the blood from the gloves and socks was planted, and that the blood at the scene was not O.J.'s. That works in Court - sometimes - but not as real scientific fact.