2012-06-01 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

Global Warming And Selective Science
By Stephen Yaeger

Stephen Yaeger is a community activist and former science teacher. He pens the “Drawing On Science” column for The Wave.

I read Dr. Paez’ “Rising Tide” article and agreed that politics should play no role in the science of climatology. But when I got to the third paragraph I thought, “Well, here we go again.” Another piece on selective science (purposely leaving out salient points). I finished reading the article even though the distorted information concerning Global Warming was the same baloney and mythology I have read many times before, and it was not worth the effort to dwell on it. But it bothered me to think that such “science” is still being touted. I just had to take up the author’s challenge and pause to get the science right.

The author questions how scientists can predict climate change over a 10- year period when weather cannot accurately be predicted beyond seven days. He is correct on the weather but wrong on the climate. Weather is a short term, changing, chaotic event. The meteorologist depends on conditions existing at the time of his/her analysis; when conditions change, so does the interpretation. Climate analysis, on the other hand, rests on set, unchanging conditions, i.e. records of weather over a long period of time. This eliminates any changing or chaotic factors (since they have already determined the weather) thus making the understanding of climate trends more reasonable.

Computer models are simplified, mathematical representations of complex subjects. It’s true that the data being fed into the computer may be wrong but the data may be absolutely correct also and deemed wrong only if interpreted so by those who do not agree with it. Climate change models in no way predict actuality. They give the scientist an idea of what may or may not occur based on the parameters used. If a variety of parameters are changed the model changes accordingly. It then remains for the scientist to interpret and report (not predict) the results. Dr. Paez questions whether the computer, to determine climate trends, was fed the location of our solar system in relation to the center of the Galaxy. I admit this has me puzzled. What does the solar system’s location in the Milky Way Galaxy have to do with climate change on Earth?

The effects of cosmic radiation on Earth has been studied for many years. It has never, up to this point in time, been proven that such radiation “has a huge influence” on cloud formation. Scientists studying this facet of radiation know that clouds can form when exposed to such radiation under experimental conditions, but have not come to a definite conclusion as to cosmic radiation and cloud formation outside of the lab. Selective science again.

The IPCC scandal (University of Anglea’s Climate Research Unit) is used many times in anti-climate change discussions. The scientists involved in the so-called scandal were accused of falsifying data as proven in their emails to one another; that the data was rigged to support the premise that Global Warming is anthropogenic. Many investigations into the allegations have been conducted by a number of independent institutions and hundreds of individual experts. Their conclusions? There has been no rigging of data. The scientists involved were a self-protective group who did not want to share data. The only thing they were guilty of was stupidity.

Then there’s the Himalayan glacial meltdown which the author writes is overblown. According to deniers (with apologies to Dr. Paez) a meltdown never occurred. This overblown myth is based on a study that found the glacier on Karakoran Mountain has, indeed, had a short term growth rather than losing ground. But glaciologists measure glacial changes on a year-to-year basis. Their findings constantly show that there is an overall retreat of glaciers in the Himalayans as well as globally. Selecting a single glacier’s behavior, without expanding on the rest of the report from which it was taken, is an example of selective science.

Contrary to what the author writes the Pacific/Indian Ocean is not relatively quiet compared to the Atlantic Ocean. The most active area for hurricanes (cyclones) is the western Pacific Ocean with its wider expanse and warmer waters as compared to the Atlantic Ocean. In 2005/6 studies surprisingly revealed that Global Warming appeared to affect hurricane formation and intensity to a greater extent than theory predicted. There were 155 category 4 or 5 hurricanes in the Pacific/Indian Ocean regions from 1975 to 1989; the number increased to 244 category 4 or 5 hurricanes in the same region from 1990 to 2004. The North Atlantic Ocean hosted 16 and 25 respectively.

The Earth’s rotation has been slowing down since the moon’s formation millions of years ago. This is due to tidal and gravitational influences of the moon. Earth’s oblate-spherical shape dictates such a phenomenon. A rise in sea level will not influence a drastic decrease in rotation nor affect coastline patterns unless there is an extreme rise in water level and/or thermal heating of ocean waters. Since the end of the last ice age, some 12,000 years ago, there has been an average rise in sea level of about 4 feet/century. With a smaller amount of land ice today, ocean water levels rise at a much slower rate. There can be no drastic rotational decline today unless the waters rise to an extreme height in a short period of time.

Another attempt to discredit Earth’s warming is the comparison of other planets with that of Earth. Mars has always been a favorite. The author writes that NASA found Mars to be increasing in temperature. Mars’ atmosphere is 95 percent carbon dioxide, 3 percent nitrogen, and trace amounts of water with a blanket of dust particles which increase in numbers under certain conditions. Its density is 1 percent that of Earth’s density. Earth’s atmosphere is 0.39 percent carbon dioxide, 78 percent nitrogen and 0-4 percent water with a smattering of other gases. A 2007 NASA study of a series of photos taken on two Martian days, one in 1977 and the other in 1999 showed a marked difference in surface visibility. The 1977 photos reveal a bright surface while the 1999 photos show a darker surface caused by a higher degree of atmospheric dust particles than in the earlier photos. It was determined that in the 22-year period between photos Mars experienced a 0.65 degree Celsius temperature rise. But climate and dust conditions could not be determined; only weather and dust conditions on two specific Martian days. At this point in time there is very little evidence proving or disproving Martian warming. Selective science.

I had no problem with the “science” of Dr. Paez’ article, but his reference to Dr. Ivar Giaever drove me to my computer for some research. The good Doctor is a member of two advocacy think tanks: The Cato Institute and The Heartland Institute. The former advocates ideology over science and has published anti- Global Warming literature; the latter, partially funded by the Koch brothers, denies global warming outright and calls Global Warming scientists “terrorists.” These facts speak for themselves.

One can twist, squeeze, bend and selectively choose scientific observations to support his/her own beliefs regarding man‘s interference with Earth’s natural state, but there is no doubt, based on pure, honest, scientific investigations, politics aside, that anthropogenic influences has and are affecting the Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. “Laypeople frequently assume that in a political dispute the truth must be somewhere in the middle, and they are often right. In a scientific dispute, though, such an assumption is usually wrong.” – Paul Ehrlich, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology and Medicine.

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