Friday, January 29, 2010

What next on Global Warming?

I really don’t know what to believe about global warming any more. I am not a scientist. I only had the minimum required science courses in college. How is the average citizen to know the truth on complex matters like global warming?

Some years ago based on what I could learn, I became convinced that global warming was real. I thought the preponderance of the evidence supported the theory. (See, My Conversion on Global Warming) While the official scientific community seemed on board, the critics of the theory would drag out some unimpressive skeptic who was maybe a meteorologist or a TV weatherman or a “scientist” in an unrelated field. The big guns were on the side of those who supported global warming. I was not going to get my science from college dropout Rush Limbaugh. I concluded global warming theory must be real.

I was dismayed that many on the right continued to deny global warming. I thought those on the right should accept the science and then join the debate over the solutions. Even if one accepts that global warming is a reality, there is still much to debate. In fact, I thought the right would have the better solution for combating global warming than the left.

The right generally believes in progress and could advance a search for technological solutions while many on the left saw no solution except “green” energy and a reduction in our standard of living. The right understands the concept of the market and concepts like pricing externalities while the left sees only authoritarian command solutions to problems. I wanted the right to stop denying there was a problem and instead advance arguments for conservative solutions.

Now, I am not so sure. I am back in the skeptics column. Recent events have pushed me back. Climategate was a bombshell. The revelations of destroyed data, doctored data, fraud and silencing of critics shook my faith in the science.

Last week’s glaciergate revelations that major simple math errors were in the IPCC report makes me further doubt the science. If the work of the IPCC and the scientist who developed the reports is so sloppy that they miss very simple subtraction and division math, then why should I accept their complex computer math models than I can’t understand?

The revelations that some of these glaciergate errors were intentional in order to create a sense of urgency is further cause to doubt the whole science of global warming.

In addition, responsible credentialed “real” scientists are starting to poke holes in some of the theory or at least say the situation is not as dire as it was previously thought to be. Just today, I read a report that says that the amplification of the global warming due to carbon cycle feedback is “significantly less” than previously thought. This is not the work of global warming deniers with an agenda but is a new scientific finding. Read it, if in doubt.

Despite climategate, glaciergate, and new scientific finding that cast doubt on the rate at which global warming is occurring and on the strength of the consensus, I am still not ready to become a full-fledged global warming skeptic. I am not ready to join those who say the whole global warming science is the hoax of the century. I think research should continue. I don’t think we should do anything rash like even consider new treaties or a cap and trade bill until we have more certainty of the science.

I am not alone in shifting back toward the camp of the doubters. A recent poll conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that only 50 percent of Americans now say they are "somewhat" or "very worried" about global warming, a 13-point decrease in only two years. The percentage of Americans who think global warming is happening has declined 14 points, to 57 percent. The percentage of Americans who think global warming is caused mostly by human activities dropped 10 points, to 47 percent.

Where should we go from here? The believers in the theory should stop circling the wagons and protecting fraudulent and sloppy science for one thing. If you want to persuade me the problem is real, fire those who commit scientific fraud and destroy data and fire those who can’t do simple math. Work on gaining he public trust again. Stop silencing dissenting voices. Stop being activist and be scientist and the let the science take you where it will.

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  1. Global Warming is real, there's no doubt about it. But the severity of it is still in doubt. One party wants to do too much, the other party wants to do too little. There needs to be common ground and agree on something that will be good for the planet regardless of the severity of the climate change.

  2. I come down in the global warming is primarily caused by natural forces. The Earth has been a lot warmer than it is currently before we started burning fossil fuels. I am all for developing clean forms of energy through tax breaks and incentives. However, until those forms are practical and efficient, we should not destroy the economy by making existing forms of energy unaffordable for the average citizen. Even those who believe in man caused warming say that the goals set forth to cut emissions would have little impact on global temperatures. A good book to read would be "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming."