Thursday, August 02, 2012

Climate convert remains in sin

One of the things that has frustrated me about the debate over global warming is the extent to which it has taken on the aspects of a religious dispute. This is reflected in the common formulation of the question. "Do you believe in global warming?" It has manifested itself in the outrageously dishonest conduct of some of the leading scientific proponents of warming.

And, if you do believe, it appears that you must accept the entire catechism. Global warming exists and proceeds from Man. It is a sin that threatens our existence and requires expiation through the renunciation of fossil fuels and the human flourishing that these have made possible.

And therein lies the problem. One can admit the theoretical possibility that greenhouse emissions could raise average temperatures. There seems to be a sound scientific basis for supposing this to be possible although determining whether it has happened -  given the complexity of the issue and the relative recency of direct temperature measurements - seems very difficult.

But let's put that aside. One can acknowledge the likelihood that man-made global warming has occurred and may continue to occur. Many scientists have so concluded althought there are significant dissenters.

But even that conclusion does not bring us to the Inconvenient World of world of Al Gore. (Actually, its been quite convenient for him.) Doomsday scenarios do not automatically follow from a "belief in" global warming.

Let's use a recent example from this very website. My Purple Wisconsin Jim Rowen wrote a post about a former warming skeptic, William Muller, who has come, praise Gaia, to believe. Dr. Muller came to the altar in a recent column in the New York Times.

In fact, Jim tells us, Muller, with all the fervor of a convert, believes the UN "hadn't raised the climate change alarm loud enough."

That's true in a limited sense. Muller claims to have found a stronger correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide and less evidence for the contribution of solar activity than a 2007 report by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But,  in an another sense, it's not true at all. Alas, Dr. Muller persists in heresy. He continues to question, writing that "[t]hese facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism" although they do raise the bar for alternative explanations.

More significantly, Dr. Muller continues to deny fundamental doctrine. Here is how he concluded his piece:
It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.
Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.(Emphasis supplied.)

Just so you know. I guess Gaia is not through with Dr. Muller.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.


Anonymous said...

Yes, climate supporters have "behaved badly". But do you professor ever provide any balance?

And before anyone complains about the sources, note the professor linked to two prominent conservative blogs.

Here is an interesting twist...note the group responsible for the study's funding.

Tom said...

Great post, that hit all the major problems I have with global warming alarmism.

The idea that the climate we have currently is the "right" or "best" one and that increasing it (or decreasing it, for that matter) will somehow send human civilization into ruin is beyond unsupported, it's ludicrous.

I'm always amazed when I see historical charts of temperatures - they show the exact same patterns, including the big spike, that we are seeing now. Yes, this current spike looks higher, but the idea that we should be comparing our current method of measuring temperature (millions and millions of data points around the world) vs. the way we measure what the temperature was thousands and thousands of years ago (minimal samples from minimal locations) is bad science.

Likewise with CO2 densities. Look at current CO2 densities around the world and you'll see substantial variation around the world and even at the same location over time. Yet they want us to believe that samples from the incredibly few places on earth that have stayed cold enough for thousands and thousands of years to maintain constant ice can teach us something significant about global CO2 levels way back when.

And why the obsession over surface temperatures? Don't the varying temperatures throughout the vertical atmosphere matter? The warmth of the oceans throughout their depths? Even underground temperatures?

Mere day-to-day meteorological science and prediction isn't terribly good. They can't accurately predict whether it's going to rain on my house more than an hour (if that) away. We get percentage chances. The idea that these scientists can accurately predict what the global average temperature will keep doing over the next few years, even, is laughable.

Marc Eisen said...

Well, here's how Muller started the column:

"CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

"My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases."

For a global-warming skeptic to take solace in this requires a good deal of creative thinking. Kind of like Democrats who, despite the results, still think the recall was a good idea.

John Foust said...

Science. It works. Evidence can change your mind.

And the Professor runs for the religious rhetoric... where faith and feelings rule the roost.