(The title of this post is a quote from John Maynard Keynes.) Today I want to look at different responses to new information about global warming.
I’ll go first: In my archives I found a Usenet post of mine from 11 Aug 1988. In response to a suggestion that global warming was caused by waste heat from power plants, I wrote:
Waste heat does not contribute significantly to global warming. It is all (if it’s really happening—we probably won’t be sure until its too late) caused by the greenhouse effect. I agree with Brad—burning fossil fuels could well be more harmful to the environment than nuclear power.
Since I wrote that, enough new evidence has been gathered to overcome my scepticism. Man-made global warming is very real.
Daly argued that the marked global warming of the last 7 or 8 years was caused by the confluence of a Solar Maximum with 2 large El Nino events in 1998 and 2002, and not by human-generated CO2. Daly went on to say that this could be expected to reverse itself over the period 2003-2006 as we moved towards a Solar Minimum and (likely) La Nina. JQ and I both agreed that this presented a real test of the reality of CO2-induced global warming.
What is the result so far? Well, any objective observer could only conclude that there hasn’t been any noticeable cooling at all to date. Have a look at the data for Global Mean Temperature compiled by GISS and kept on the NASA website. They show that average temperatures for the first 4 months of 2004 remained well above the long-term (1951-1980) average of 14°C, by amounts varying between 0.43 and 0.64°C. If Daly had been correct (i.e. that CO2-induced warming was a myth), you would have expected average temperatures to have fallen back to well below the long-term average by now, instead of remaining well above it.
Given the new information, Parish changed his opinion:
I now think we should ratify and seriously implement the Kyoto Protocol without delay (even though it’s only a minimalist first step); and enact carbon taxes and an international carbon credits trading scheme designed to create price signals leading to quicker adoption of non-carbon-based energy sources.
Third, Louis Hissink. Hissink claims that the increase in surface temperatures is caused by the urban heat island effect. Following our lengthy discussion in the comments of another post, he finally looked at the GHCN data, broken down into urban, suburban and rural stations. He was able to remove the warming trend from the urban data by subtracting 1.25 degrees from the more recent measurements. After doing this, Hissink found that there was still a warming trend in the rural stations. Some people would then have been forced to form the conclusion that the warming trend was not caused by any urban heat island effect, but Hissink is made of sterner stuff. He writes:
In fact data I posted on Bizarre Science recently showed that for the weather stations in urban and suburban areas showed no rise in temperature for the last 50 years, and while a rise in rural temperatures were measured, we now know that this is a data artefact from poor sampling support, closing of stations, and a bias towards urban stations.
And on his blog:
There is something not quite right here. It is almost as if the data were designed to show there is no such thing as UHI, and that the increasing rural temperatures prove that global warming is happening.
One therefore concludes that there is something not right with the mean temperature data now classed as urban, suburban and rural. One is reminded of mal-odours in Denmark.
If the data contradicts his theories, well, something must be wrong with the data.
Fourth, anti-Kyoto activist John Humphreys. It used to be the case that satellite temperature records disagreed with surface measurements and showed almost no warming or even slight cooling. Global warming sceptics seized on this as evidence that warming was not happening. However, as more data as accumulated and improvements have made in the analysis, the satellite data has come to show warming. The only dispute between the scientists is about how much warming is occurring. Fu et al reckon that it is about 0.2° per decade (the same as the surface data), while Christy and Spencer calculate that the warming is only 0.08° per decade. However, Humphreys, apparently unaware of this, writes:
Satellite and weather balloon estimates of temperature over the past 25 years are consistent with each other and provide us with the best measures of temperature change in the earth’s troposphere (the atmosphere within the first 10km of earth). They clearly show that temperatures have decreased 0.1 degrees Celsius since 1980.
His statement is, needless to say, incorrect. In the extensive comments to his post you can see the results of my attempts to persuade him to post a correction. Humphreys accused me over and over again of lying, called me “angry and bitter”, wrote “you’re too busy hating the enemy”, and then denied that he had attacked me personally:
I checked your links… and then checked with some other experts. I found that there is continued uncertainty. My data was not wrong, and it never has been. I will indeed ignore your next link because (a) it probably says what your last ones said; and (b) you have shown you have no credibility or decency.
You have personally attacked others. I have not personally attacked you, and yet you lie once again and say that I have. I have pointed out several of your lies and you have not retracted one of them. You have not been taken out of context and you know it – another lie. Consistent with your character, I expect you’ll respond to this post with more lies.
Humphreys steadfastly refused to admit that the satellite data showed warming, writing
as I’ve already said (and you seem to have ignored), I’ve checked with my source and it hasn’t changed. It still shows a 0.1 degree decrease in temperatures since 1980.
His source? This page, which actually says:
The overall trend in the tropospheric data is near zero, being +0.04 C/decade through Feb 2002.
Now this statement is out of date (with the latest data the warming trend is +0.08), but it does not say that there has been a 0.1 degree decrease since 1980.
At least Hissink noticed that the data contradicted his theory, Humphreys didn’t even get that far.
Fifth is our old friend Iain Murray. His tactic in the face of all the new data supporting the global warming theory is not Hissink’s contention that the data must be wrong or Humphreys’ steadfast refusal to acknowledge its existence. Instead, Murray goes on the attack and accuses the scientists of not changing their minds in the face of new data. In the National Review Online he writes:
Scientists change their minds when data contradicts their models—except in one area, the relatively new scientific discipline known as climatology.
What! The climatologists are the only phony scientists? What about all those biologists that refuse to recognize all the evidence that disproves evolution?
The fact that the satellite data now shows warming? Murray says that proves that those rotten climatologists have been cooking the books:
But atmospheric data from both satellites and weather balloons show only a trifling rise in temperature over the past couple of decades, while the surface temperature has been rising steadily. In 2000, a National Research Council study confirmed the data’s discrepancy with the model.
The proper scientific response would be to reexamine the models and adjust them to fit reality. But that hasn’t happened in climatology. Instead, there have been repeated attempts to manipulate the satellite data fit the models. Recently, a study published in the journal Nature tries to hammer the square peg of the satellite data into the round hole of the theory, using a method that satellite temperature experts John Christy and Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama at Huntsville had considered and rejected as incorrect in 1991.
Murray neglects to tell his readers that Christy and Spencer’s method shows satellite warming of 0.08° per decade. He also has no evidence that Fu et al (the study published in Nature) set out to concoct a result. It’s tough being a climate scientist. Get a result that Iain Murray doesn’t like, and he’ll accuse you of dishonest practices. As for the dispute between Fu and Spencer about how much warming the satellites show, I don’t know enough about the science to know who is right and neither does Murray. However, Fu et al’s work went through peer review and was published in Nature, while Spencer’s criticism was published in Tech Central Station without any peer review, so if I had to bet, my money would be on Fu.
Murray finishes off with this:
Perhaps global warming theory is closer to religion than to science.
Where have I heard that sort of argument before? Oh yes, from the Institute for Creation Research: Evolution is Religion–Not Science.