Hot and Cold

Written by Drew on August 13th, 2007
I don’t have a stake in the Global Warming debate. If it turns out that man is responsible for increased global temperatures, I’m ready to do my part in reducing my carbon footprint. However, I’m not interested in making major changes in my lifestyle until that point is proven. I don’t make enough money to purchase “carbon offsets” like Al Gore.

I must admit that my thinking started to shift on Global Warming. Until recently I believed that the furor over Global Warming was the result of climate change Chicken Littles bent on scaring everybody back into the nineteenth century. Then I saw last week’s cover story in Newsweek, “The Truth about Denial.” Newsweek is not known for objective reporting, but the piece, written by Sharon Begley, did make me wonder whether Global Warming deniers are fighting a losing battle. You have to read over the biased reporting, such as the story Barbara Boxer tells about a conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil offering scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting reports that advance human-driven climate change. Ten thousand dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions that have been poured into research for the other side.

What really got me thinking was a piece published a few weeks back in National Review, a highly respected conservative weekly. It too had a cover piece on Global Warming, “Game Plan” by Jim Manzi. So even National Review has accepted that human beings are behind Global Warming. As compelling as that point may be, I was bothered by Manzi’s opening statement: “It is no longer possible, scientifically or politically, to deny that human activities have very likely increased global temperatures” (emphasis added). What does that mean? If I told you it is no longer possible to deny that I very likely have $100 in my pocket, would you be convinced that I did?

But now I’m really confused. Last week Steve McIntyre published an interesting story on his blog Climate Audit (the site is down due to high traffic). McIntyre was investigating the data and methods NASA uses to determine mean temperatures for the U.S. and discovered a Y2K glitch in their systems. He notified NASA of the problem, and they immediately made a correction, crediting him for the discovery. According to the new data, 1998 is no longer the hottest year ever; now it’s 1934.

Four of the top 10 years of US CONUS high temperature deviations are now from the 1930s: 1934, 1931, 1938 and 1939, while only 3 of the top 10 are from the last 10 years (1998, 2006, 1999). Several years (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004) fell well down the leaderboard, behind even 1900.
McIntyre’s work doesn’t prove much, but it does highlight a problem that makes many of us uncomfortable. Global Warming proponents have not done their homework. And it’s going to take more than a rock concert to get the public to agree to slowing down our economy and upsetting our lifestyles in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Some of us have to drive to work in the mornings.

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jeff @ says:

    There are plenty of good reasons to get away from a fossil fuel based energy system (not the least of which is that petroleum tends to attract tyrants like Hugo Chavez).

    But reversible, man-made global warming? Not so much. It’s a house of cards based on unprovable assumptions, using data guesstimated from unreliable sources (like the width of tree rings), and ignoring factors we don’t even begin to understand (like solar influence on global temperatures – sort of important, given that the sun is the biggest factor in those temperatures). When you add in that the most vocal proponents of it without exception don’t take it seriously enough to change their lifestyles… nope, not buying into it without a lot more proof.

    Seems like more watermelon environmentalism to me – green on the outside, red on the inside.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I’m Jim Manzi, the guy who wrote the NR article that you reference.

    The reason that I say it is very likely that human activity has increased global temperature is because the basic physics of infrared absorption mean that more CO2, all else equal, will increase temperature and we’ve put more CO2 into the atmosphere. We can’t prove at a level of scientific certainty that there has been an incremental, attributable global temperature impact because the global climate system is so complex. More imprtantly, therefore, we don’t really know how much temperature impact more CO2 will have in the future – it could plasibly range form negligble to severe.

    Jim Manzi

Leave a Comment