Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Paucity of Evidence - Today, from the halls of academia, to editorial boards and newsrooms, to all levels of government, to Hollywood, global warming (along with all of the predictions of both widespread drought and catastrophic flooding caused by melting glaciers) is mentioned as a mathematical certainty. The unanimity of opinion can even be seen in such ostensibly nonpartisan venues as the Oprah Winfrey Show. On October 27, 2005, Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, Ph.D., Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University was a guest on the program to discuss the “scientific fact” of global warming (along with noted Hollywood climatologists Leonardo DiCaprio, and Larry David of Seinfeld fame). “Scientists agree there’s no longer really any argument,” said Dr. Oppenheimer. “The climate is changing. Human beings are largely responsible, and it’s just going to keep getting warmer until we act to remove the pollution.” He went onto say that, “The last 50 years stick out like a sore thumb,” he says. “The temperature’s gone up and up and up. It bears the imprint of human activity.”

It is not entirely surprising that Dr. Oppenheimer would reference the last 50 years, as it was during the last few decades that we developed the technology to accurately measure solar activity, atmospheric particulates and ozone production. Left unstated by Dr. Oppenheimer is the fact that after more than twenty years of study, anthropogenic global warming as a theory is still not completely verifiable. Although the environmentalist Left works tirelessly to create the appearance of a confluence of opinion in support of such a theory amongst establishment scientists, in fact, there is still significant controversy within the scientific community. And those who proclaim their certitude regarding man-made global warming often do so while hiding their personal agendas in order to appear like disinterested parties. (It would be perfectly fair to note Dr. Oppenheimer’s past involvement with environmental activist organizations such as Environmental Defense.)

To be fair, available evidence from international weather stations suggests that certain areas of the Northern Hemisphere have had noticeable increases in atmospheric temperature over the past decades. It also cannot be denied that concentrations of atmospheric CO2 have increased as well. According to data collected from the Mauna Loa Observatory, the concentration of atmospheric CO2 was just over 316 parts per million (ppm) in 1960. CO2 concentrations increased to 338 ppm in 1980 and to 377 ppm in 2004. At this point however, there is no foolproof way to determine if the increase in temperature stems from increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (versus the 97% of CO2 that is produced through natural processes), increased amounts of water vapor, higher than normal solar activity, or whether this simply reflects the effects of temperature cycles that have been seen throughout the history of the Earth.

At best, global warming is a hypothesis based on computer models. But the very fact that there are at least six different models describing the effects of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and tropospheric ozone suggests that there are differences in the perception of even the potential impact, with most of the models predicting changes in atmospheric temperature, varying from 1 to 6 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years. Moreover, a fundamental question that remains as of yet unanswered is what is the correlation between the patterns of observed atmospheric warming with models that take into account anthropogenic and natural factors. The best available science suggests that any such correlation is less than perfect.

In the Spring of 2006, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) published the first in a series of 21 reports “aimed at providing current evaluations of climate change science to inform public debate, policy, and operational decisions.” The April 2006 report entitled “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences” scrutinized discrepancies between observed and simulated surface and lower atmospheric temperatures since 1979. The 21 authors, who included global warming believers and skeptics, were able to reexamine previously recorded temperature observations and compare them with simulations from climate models.

Although they were able to conclude that correcting errors in the observed data allowed for a reduction in the divergence between observed and predicted temperatures, the models showed a significant lack of predictive value for warming in tropical areas. According to the report, “[i]n the tropics, most observational data sets show more warming at the surface than in the troposphere, while almost all model simulations have larger warming aloft than at the surface.”

This is not an insignificant finding, as the very fact that current global warming models do not hold up in areas where solar heating is greatest (i.e.: the tropics) calls into question the veracity of the models - and the hypothesis that they are designed to support. As we will see in upcoming posts, there are more questions about the climate change theory than there are apologists to cover up the discrepancies between paradigm and reality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Although the environmentalist Left works tirelessly to create the appearance of a confluence of opinion in support of such a theory amongst establishment scientists"

The problem of so many contrarians is that there is always this conspiracy of leftists involved in their analysis of the scientific debate.

It detracts from your argument.