December 16, 2009

Climategate's Stubborn Facts

By Dexter Wright

Mark Twain once said, "Get your facts first, then distort them as much as you please." By contrast, he also exclaimed, "How empty is theory in the presence of fact!" This pretty well covers the recent controversy over the altered global temperature data from Dr. Jones at East Anglia University in Great Britain.

What are the facts? Well for starters, scientists at the Smithsonian Institution tell us that during what is known as the Medieval Optimum, the Vikings were growing grapes in Greenland. An agronomist at Virginia Tech suggest that if you are planning to start a vineyard, the roots of the vines cannot be exposed to temperatures below 25oF or the vine will die. Even though there were no thermometers at the time of Eric the Red, this gives us a benchmark for reference. There are no vineyards in Greenland today because it is too cold. In fact, the Smithsonian reports that there is evidence which supports the theory that the Viking colonies later collapsed as a result of a dramatically cooling climate.

Other facts seem to stand stubbornly in the way of the global warming theory. Paleoclimatological records show that after the last ice age -- about seven thousand years ago -- the climate on earth reached a very warm period (much warmer than now) known as the "climatic optimum," which resulted in green pastures covering what is now the Sahara Desert in Africa. This fact contradicts the popular mantra from former Vice President Al Gore that we are warmer now than ever before.

Geologists tell us that the earth's climate has changed many times from hot to cold and back again. The prevailing theories are that over the last billion years, there have been at least four major ice ages. Since the end of the last ice age, we have been in what these climatologist say is an interglacial period. In English, this means that the planet has not yet transitioned to a climate of either beach balls or snow balls.

But what about the curve balls in ClimateGate? The swirling controversy concerns the infamous e-mails about the Jones global temperature data set. The recent e-mails published on the internet suggest that the data was deliberately modified to reach a preconceived conclusion. This data was used in the reports generated by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has concluded that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) causes global warming by absorbing infrared radiation. The vast majority of the report documents the measured increase in CO2. The report also represents climate change model predictions as "evidence" of the effects of this increase in CO2. Climate models are computerized forecasting aids, not evidence.

Atmospheric chemists will tell you CO2 is a trace gas in the atmosphere and is measured in parts per million. It seems a bit of a stretch that the tail can wag the dog, especially when CO2 absorbs such a narrow portion of the infrared spectrum. According to Dr. Fred Singer of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, the global climate change models cannot "hindcast" known climatic changes such as the Medieval Optimum, when good, vintage, homegrown wines could be enjoyed in Greenland. As forecasters at the National Hurricane Center will tell you, if a model cannot hindcast, it cannot be relied upon for a forecast. Could it be that the data was tampered with to agree with the global climate models?

Is this an isolated incident of over-pressured scientists caving in to temptation? Well, the cracks in the global warming theory began appearing as far back as 1998. Dr. Sallie Baliunas published a study that linked global temperature fluctuations to solar activity. This theory is not a new one, but meteorologists have been very reluctant to accept this theory because the physical connection has been hard to determine. Dr. Baliunas suggested that solar wind was the physical connection. Dr. Baliunas was maligned by many scientists among the global warming crowd in an attempt to discredit her work.

More recently, Dr. Bill Grey of Colorado State University claimed that the university had cut his funding for hurricane research because of his outspoken opposition to the global warming theory.

Even NASA has been caught making exaggerated claims. Late in 2008, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies reported that October 2008 was the hottest on record. They "corrected" the statement after two meteorologists caught the "error" in the data and posted their findings on the internet.

Another "error" was admitted by the National Snow and Ice Data Center when they under-reported the amount of polar sea ice in the northern hemisphere. It seems they had a "sensor drift" which prevented the detection of ice coverage of more than 190,000 square miles -- roughly an area the size of California.

Mr. Gore insists that the debate on global warming is over. With so many questions concerning the validity of the data, how can anyone believe this? John Adams once said that "facts are stubborn things." But we need to establish the facts concerning the data before the debate can begin.

Will these questions concerning the facts affect the upcoming Senate debate on cap-and-trade? Probably not, because cap-and-trade is not about global warming. It's about money. Like everything else in Washington, follow the money. The political left sees all the money being made in the energy industry, and they want it...all of it! Carbon-based energy is so intertwined in our economy that if you control the energy industry, you control the world's economies. And that is the everlasting dream of the political left.

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