Why am I not surprised by Michael Gerson’s recent milquetoast defense of the global warming movement coupled with his sorta, kinda indictment of the science behind the claims? It’s all very, very Gerson…perhaps it’s his way of being compassionate to the now scandal-ridden scientists in East Anglia.
Discussing the recent leaked email scandal, Gerson offers little more than the warmed-up leftovers of global warming alarmists’ favorite line “the emails don’t disprove anything.”
The claim of recent global cooling is deceptive. It is true that 2008 was cooler than 1998. But 1998 was the hottest year recorded since the advent of reliable records in the 1800s, while 2008 was the ninth-hottest. Despite yearly variations, the overall trend goes in one direction. All 10 of the hottest years on record have come since 1997.
Oh, come on, Gerson. As you say, the “advent of reliable records,” didn’t start until around 1850. So, that would give us just around 150 or so years of “reliable records.” So basically, it’s not that 1998 was the hottest temperature ever in the history of time and earth…it was the hottest year in 150 years.
Let’s put that number in perspective. 150 years is nothing but a blip in the earth’s total age of around 4.5 billion years. To suggest there might not have been other sharp spikes in the earth’s temperature in 4.5 billion years is a bit short sighted. But Gerson doesn’t just rely on “reliable sources” to come to that “hottest year” conclusion. He cites the “less reliable” sources as well….you know, the proxy data that the East Anglia scientists admitted they threw out. Gerson notes these “less reliable” sources when he says they prove warming continues:
The evidence is found not only in East Anglian computers but also in changing crop zones, declining species, melting ice sheets and glaciers, thinning sea ice and rising sea levels. No other scientific theory explains these changes as well as global warming related to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution. Over millennia, the climate shifts in natural cycles. But we seem to be increasing the pace of change so rapidly that plants, animals and humans may not be able to adequately adjust.
But that proxy data that Gerson cites has also recently been shown to be unreliable which is why the raw data gleaned from these proxy sources was scrapped by the East Anglia scientists. As Marc Sheppard explains over at the American Thinker, the proxy data used to reconstruct temperatures before the use of instruments in 1850 showed a marked decline in temperatures at the same time the actual measurements showed an increase…which in effect threw the entire reliability of proxy material into doubt. In other words, the proxy data was compared to the actual numbers and there wasn’t a match…at all.
If the proxy data was off this time, logic holds, it could have been off at other times (and therefore there could have been sharp spikes in temperature that were never shown in the tree rings, ice samples, etc). As such, the scientists involved in Climategate chose to “hide the decline” and attach the “actual numbers” to the reconstructed numbers, thereby creating the “hockey stick” graph.
And as for Gerson’s claim that “no other scientific theory explains these changes as well” as man-made greenhouse gas emissions, well, isn’t that pretty much the whole controversy right there?
The leaked emails clearly show that other theories are being dismissed before they are ever given rigorous scientific study and that there was a coordinated effort, not only to fudge the numbers, but to tamp down dissent and disagreement over the causes of global warming. Other theories such as solar activity and cloud formations have also been examined by independent scientists and some even suggest that climate trends are largely natural. And while these theories don’t get major play in the media, they do exist. The Competitive Enterprise Institute recently reported on one largely unreported study:
“In the IPCC view, climate change is mostly under the control of humans,” says Spencer [Roy Spencer, former NASA senior scientist for climate studies] “I believe temperature trends are essentially natural.” Spencer is not alone in this belief. Recently, a major study in the American Geophysical Union’s official publication, the Journal of Geophysical Research, supported earlier research in concluding that at least 80% and perhaps far more of the observed warming over the past half-century is natural. Factors well beyond our control, such as cloud cover, Spencer says, matter far more than we do.
And Gerson seems to concede these points when he says:
Some prominent climate scientists involved in these e-mail exchanges have clearly abandoned a profession for a cause. They appear to exaggerate their public certainty on disputed issues, shade the presentation of information for political effect, tamper with the peer-review process, resist reasonable requests for supporting data and urge the destruction of e-mails to avoid embarrassment.
But Gerson fails to stitch his two arguments together. He seems to be saying early in his column “hey folks, the science is decided…we’re to blame,” but then follows it up with questions about the science behind the theories. If, as Gerson states, “climate science is deep in a crisis of professional credibility” perhaps the conclusions these scientists have come to–that climate change is without a doubt human-caused–should also be doubted. And perhaps the economy crippling policies now being debated in Copenhagen should also be shelved until the scientists involved in Climategate regain their “professional credibility.”
Gerson’s compassion is clouding his judgment.