2009-12-25 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

Global Warming: Faith or Science?
By Vince Castallano

The publication of private emails from a climate research group in Great Britain has cast serious doubt on the scientific basis of global warming. Supposedly disinterested scientists have been found to be manipulating the data to justify their theory of catastrophic global warming. These emails have been described as stolen or hacked, but, increasingly, it is looking like they were leaked by someone in that research group in order to expose a scientific fraud.

This data was the basis of the UN’s recent policy statements on global warming.

This is the data on the most profound scientific question of the 21st Century, and the leading advocates have been cooking the books?

Only the intentionally obtuse can ignore the implications of this obvious intellectual fraud.

This fraud has been suspected (but unproven) for two primary reasons: the data that supposedly proved global warming was NEVER released to other scientists so they could confirm the analysis and the conclusions. The second reason was that anyone who doubted the prediction of catastrophic global warming was not answered with facts; instead they were ridiculed as a “denier” by a compliant main stream media.

Is it a coincidence that the choice of words was the same as that used to ridicule those who claim the holocaust never happened?

Both of these reasons are plainly visible in the leaked emails. In fact, after stone walling requests to release the data for years, one of the principle scientists said he would erase the data rath er than release it. Of all the leaked emails, this is the most damning admission. If the data would prove global warming, wouldn’t you release it?

Let me confess that I know nothing about climate science. Unfortunately, total ignorance hasn’t stopped politicians, poets and gym teachers (none of whom could pass freshman statistics) from expressing very definitive conclusions about subjects they know nothing about.

But this article isn’t about climate science, this is about measurement and computer modeling and I do know something about those subjects. I don’t know if the planet is getting warmer. But I do know that what is offered as proof of global warming is just nonsense.

The entire global warming theory is based upon the answers to three separate questions. 1) current measurements of temperature, 2) measure ments of temperature in centuries before reliable thermometers and 3) a computer model that tries to correlate those changes with other factors on the planet.

Let us start with the simplest of the three. What is the average temperature of the planet today? Better yet, let’s make it even simpler to illustrate the magnitude of the problem. What was the average temperature of Rockaway today? How would you go about calculating such a number? In the sun? In the shade? What time of day? What about cloud cover? Was it raining? Does temperature of the surrounding water affect the land temperature? What about wind (amount and direction)? What about the placement of the sensor? What about nearby concrete or asphalt? Even if you can take a bunch of measurements all over Rockaway, how do you combine them to calculate an average? And is that the mean, median, mode or some weighted average to compensate for (or mask) weakness in the raw data? When you really start to think about it, the measurement of temperature outside of a laboratory is quite a meaningful problem.

But even if you can create a methodology to get reliable data, in the end you must concede that it is arbitrary. A different methodology would yield different results.

And this is the easy problem.

A more difficult question is the temperature in the distant past. Since you can’t take temperatures directly, you must estimate them by proxy (tree rings, ice cores, goat entrails, tea leaves, etc). Even assuming you can find a reliable proxy for temperature, a rough estimate is not good enough, you must find a proxy that is precise to within tenths of a degree! Precision at this level outside a laboratory is not science, it is fantasy.

Then you have another problem. Even if you can get a reliable temperature proxy for a given location, how do you get enough data to calculate an average for the planet? Just what were the temperatures in Siberia in 1492? How about North Dakota? What if there are no trees or goats available? And to create a trend I have to figure out how 1492 was different from 1493.

Do you see how the assumptions are piling up? Do you see how the outcome (whatever it is) is the result of the assumptions, not the data! And finally we have the problem of creating a computer program with the task of modeling something as complex as the entire planet. This, to be polite, is a fool’s errand. We are not sure how to handle cloud cover, or evaporation from the oceans, or the ozone layer, or the variability in sunlight, and our understanding of atmospheric chemistry is primitive but I am certain of one thing.

Anyone with a political axe to grind (or a book to sell) can make a couple of assumptions to manufacture whatever result he wants.

Voila! You are done! What time is the press conference? When does the book tour start? Al Gore made tens of millions of dollars with his book (and is poised to make a lot more), yet he doesn’t take his own advice since his personal carbon footprint is the size of a small town. Or perhaps his advice is only meant for the plebeians while the patricians are exempt? When leading advocates act this way, just how sincere are they?

I still don’t know if the planet is getting warmer, but when scientists claim conclusions from data stretched to the breaking point and then threaten to erase the data rather than show it to you, I get very suspicious. If you want to believe in global warming, be my guest. People believe in God too, but it is a matter of faith, not science. Frankly, at this stage of our scientific understanding, global warming has a lot more in common with religious fanaticism than science.

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