"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, July 18, 2011

Global Warming Hoax Redux

It will come as no surprise that the Regular Guy thinks that the "global warming" scare of the past two decades has largely been a hoax.   I thought so, and said so, early and often, for a lot of good and sufficient reasons:

1.  The same cabal of leftists, activists and "scientists" in academia told us when I was a teenager that the world was cooling and descending into an ice age.   The prescription:  more government intervention and less evil capitalism.   Funny how they always have the same prescription, no matter what the diagnosis is... it's almost as if selling the prescription matters more than whether the science is right.

2. The notion that the earth is "warming" or "cooling" over a short period makes no sense to me, and never did.   The planet is 5 billion years old.   It has warmed or cooled in cycles throughout that period.   Human life is a blip.   The industrial age is a blip of a blip.   It's arrogance to think that we're having an important effect on climate compared to, oh, the freakin' Sun, for instance.

3.  I don't trust professional scientists:  they, like anyone else, have career incentives that are geared toward getting appointments, getting grants, getting money.   Once they're down the path toward a theory of global warming, it becomes hard to break through that institutionalized set of incentives.   Haven't these people ever read freakin' Thomas Kuhn and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions?

4.  Human error and human laziness.   Are you telling me that there's no chance that the people who are reporting temperatures at thousands of locations across the globe aren't making routine mistakes all the time?   That the thermometers aren't getting out of calibration?  That the locations of the thermometers aren't changing their characteristics?  (A thermometer located in a field in 1950 is read every day by an ever-changing series of technicians who are more and less dedicated and more and less intelligent and more and less precise and more and less attentive to details; meanwhile, the field gradually is surrounded by buildings and parking lots and cars and activity.   Voila!   The average temperature changes over time.   Surprised?   I'm not, and I don't think anyone with a remote sensitivity to human nature should be.   But that doesn't mean that the actual temperature has changed a whit.

So this article from Forbes struck me funny today, and particularly the sentence I've bolded below:
There is no statistically significant warming trend since November of 1996 in monthly surface temperature records compiled at the University of East Anglia. Do we now understand why there’s been no change in fourteen and a half years?

If you read the news stories surrounding a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Boston University’s Robert Kaufmann and three colleagues, you’d say yes, indeed. It’s China’s fault. By dramatically increasing their combustion of coal, they have increased the concentration of fine particles in the atmosphere called sulphate aerosols, which reflect away solar radiation, countering the warming that should be occurring from increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide....

Reality may be a bit simpler, or much more complicated.  But the reason this is all so important is that if there is no good explanation for the lack of warming, then an increasingly viable alternative is that we have overestimated the gross sensitivity of temperature to carbon dioxide in our computer models.

One problem is that we really don’t know how much cooling is exerted by sulfates, or whether they are just a convenient explanation for the failure of the forecasts of dramatic warming.  The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which grants itself climate authority, states that our “Level of Scientific Understanding” of the effects range between “low” and “very low,” with a possible cooling between zero (none)  and a whopping 3.5 degrees (C) when the climate comes to equilibrium (which it will never do).  That’s a plenty large range from which to pick out a number to cancel about as much warming as you’d like.
On the one hand, the amount of sulphate aerosols from coal-burning power plants in rapidly industrializing China (and presumably India too) are presumed to have a significant effect on temperature.   On the other hand, the very people who have foisted "global warming" on us, the UN's IPCC, don't have the foggiest idea of what the nature and magnitude of those effects are.   Somewhere between 0 and 3.5 degrees (C)?   Really?   When the whole theory of global warming is based on a one-century temperature change of less than 1 degree (C)?   Really?

Science depends on having its hypotheses be falsifiable when confronted with evidence.   A belief that cannot be falsified is not science, but religion.   The global-warming religion won't let its hypothesis be falsified; it demands that we accept it as "settled."   But we can't make serious political and economic decisions based on a hypothesis that is, at bottom, a tenet of faith, not science.  And we certainly can't bet our world economy (and the lives of real, not hypothetical, human beings) on a conjecture that depends on measurements that include a factor (the effect of sulphate aerosols) that we don't understand and can't measure within, oh, 350% of the magnitude of the thing we're trying to measure (global temperature).

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