Inside global warming

You’ve probably heard by now about what the press is calling “Climategate”:  the release of internal emails and documents from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University that reveal some questionable practices on the part of climate researchers.  Those questionable practices are bad enough in any case, but particularly unforgivable when the reports and data are being used by governments throughout the world to make important decisions.

I’ve long been skeptical of the entire “global warming” debate, and especially skeptical of those so-called scientists who claim that the science behind the dire warnings is solid and irrefutable.  The information revealed recently shows that I was right to be skeptical.

When I first read reports of the released documents, I thought that the press was taking things out of context and making things look much worse than they actually are.  But then I came across the raw data.  The quotes in the media are not at all out of context.  The researchers really did say that they can’t account for the recent decrease in global temperatures, that they intentionally altered data, deleted emails, and actively suppressed information that did not fit the pre-determined outcome.  They also attempted to suppress dissenting views by manipulating the peer review process.  In short, they weren’t doing science, but rather corrupting science to further their own agendas.

It’s difficult to say what those agendas are.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that money is high on the list.  The amount of money distributed in grants for climate research is staggering, and that gravy train will continue as long as there’s a perceived threat.  The more dire the warnings, the more money pours in for research into determining the extent of the problem and finding possible solutions.  A researcher who concludes that there is no problem will find that his funding is not renewed.

This case is a very good example, too, of what happens all too often when government funds scientific research.  In this case, the government agencies funding the research existed in large part because of the perceived problem.  As long as the research they were funding continued to support the existence of the problem, the government agency would receive more funding.

The fundamental problem with the whole global warming debate is that nobody really knows whether or not the temperature is rising.  I’ve seen data that indicates a decrease in global temperatures, some that shows essentially no increase, and some that shows a marked increase.  And that’s just from readings of supposedly accurate instruments since 1885 or so.  Prior to that we only have reconstructions that use various methods like dendrochronology (tree ring dating), ice core sampling, lake sediment core sampling, and many others.  Each of those methods has a certain margin of error and some of them (dendrochronology in particular) might not even be appropriate for the purpose of estimating historical temperatures.

There are very large disagreements among the many global temperature reconstructions I’ve seen, to the point that I can’t imagine how any researcher can say that his method is correct.  Most of them don’t even come close to agreeing with the observed values for the last 130 years, meaning that either the reconstruction method is unreliable or the observed values are in error.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the Contemporary Time Series and Historical Proxies charts at  Understand, JunkScience doesn’t make those charts:  they get the charts from reports published by other researchers.

Any honest researcher looking at the data has to say, “I don’t know.”  There just isn’t any credible data to show a significant (if any) long-term warming trend.  There might be one, but the data doesn’t show it.  Certainly not to my satisfaction, and anybody trying to convince me otherwise better be prepared to support their interpretation with hard data, and explain why conflicting data is irrelevant.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not out-of-hand dismissals and ad hominem arguments.

It’ll be interesting if the recent revelations of questionable practices at the CRU result in similar revelations at other climate research facilities.  I’ll also be interested in what effect these revelations have on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen next week.