Friday, November 11, 2011

Turning Up the Heat on Warming

A few weeks ago, with the release of the BEST (Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature) study on global warming, the usual suspects pronounced (once again) that the science was settled:
"Global warming study finds no grounds for climate sceptics' concerns" (Manchester Guardian)

"The scientific finding that settles the climate-change debate" (WaPo editorial page writer Eugene Robinson)

"A new analysis of the temperature record leaves little room for the doubters. The world is warming" (The Economist)
I'm sure that long-time NOfP readers weren't fooled, for several reasons.

First, the results were released before the study and its methodology were peer reviewed. This was startling, since warming alarmists have long contended that "skeptic" papers aren't properly peer reviewed. But it's consistent with alarmists' actual practice. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been faulted for relying on as much as one third non-peer reviewed input--indeed, the IPCC often uncritically cited advocacy articles from the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. The actual rationale behind the BEST study release is that a new IPCC report is being drafted, and the BEST researchers apparently wanted their data considered--whether or not confirmed. I've got no problem with pre-peer review release; it's just that one can't use such data to insist the debate is over.

Second, it's not clear the BEST data is the best data. For example, it appears that the BEST team made unspecified adjustments to the raw temperature readings. Plus they introduced some (probably) unintentional errors. And oddly narrowed the range of uncertainty in reported measurements. Also, BEST emphasizes its charts of temperature increases--but they stop around the year 2000. Charts of global temp trends since then are flat; indeed, lower-48 America data temp trends post 2000 are slightly negative.

Third, there's still an inconsistency between surface and satellite measurements, which could be significant. BEST says there's no urban heat island (UHI) effect, where denser population of cities create local warming not appearing world-wide and unconnected to CO2. But BEST relies on surface temperature measurements; satellite measured data shows far less warming. Consistent with that, NASA itself says summer temps in the Northeast U.S. are 7-9 degrees C higher in cites as compared with rural areas. Subtracting readings from weather reporting stations located where high-density structures have proliferated, U.S. temperatures have been flat for a century. So how could BEST rule out UHI? Beats me.

Fourth, at most, the BEST data tend to support a conclusion more limited than the media's uncritical airing. BEST says the earth is warming--by around 0.9C since 1950. That may be true. But global warming isn't the same as CO2 man-made warming, as Dr Mercury said on Maggie's Farm:
What term was missing from the article?


And carbon dioxide.

And pollutants.

And human.

Or anything related to the actual cause of global warming. Refute a few claims, the earth is warming, and that's the end of it.
Put differently, even if the earth is warming, BEST doesn't address, much less prove, that warming is caused by man, that increased atmospheric CO2 forces hotter climates, or that carbon cuts in the West would offset increased emissions in the developing world, or even that carbon cutting is cheaper than amelioration or adaptation. Which might be why a BEST team member, Professor Judith Curry, warned that interpreting BEST to have proved global warming skeptics wrong was a "huge mistake."

Conclusion: If not actually biased towards promulgating "proof" of global warming, the media, as a minimum, was sloppy. The so-called scientists have been wrong so far. Most of these errors probably are unintentional. Yet, scientists, like the rest of us, need money, and there's bigger grants available to the alarmist camp. So don't believe 'um when they say (again) "the science is settled." It isn't, nor have we established the "proper" policy reaction.


KitWistar said...

Interestingly, today's posting puts me in mind of some of the points from Bob in LA's posting on Monday 11/7....

Bob in LA said...

Yes actually I'm glad you brought that up. Its my experience that the left is a religion that will make up data to fill its needs. The conservative view I subscribe to takes the approach of acting on proven results. I challenge you to show where the thesis that 'both sides' make up fudge factor data. I understand fudge factor refers to the practice of adding a conservative safety margin to account for error. I'd love to see the left adopt one.

Oh Bloody Hell said...

>>> I'd love to see the left adopt one.

Bob, don't you know the Left is operating on Pascal's Wager? They don't need a safety margin... :^D