Some Thoughts About the Global Warming Debate

Usually, when I post something on the blog, I might look at it a second time shortly after posting (to make sure I didn't miss anything in proofreading) and then go on.

But, last week's post about the Orwellian behavior of the pro-global warming zealots* during the recent switch from dry to wet weather in the Midwest has stayed with me. That post is here. Please go back and read it (if you haven't already) before you read the rest of this post. And, now, with the discontinuation of the data set that convincingly demonstrated the world has stopped warming, I thought it was time to survey the state of climate 'science.'

One of the most unfortunate aspects of the global warming debate is the zealots, perhaps because of their extreme forecasts, get all of the publicity. A classic example of the above comes from Friday's Guardian in the U.K.:

So while there is still a lot of uncertainty about the Earth's exact climate sensitivity, and while it's an important question to resolve, from a policy standpoint, it really doesn't matter. Whether climate sensitivity is 2°C or 3°C or 4.5°C, we're not doing enough to avoid very dangerous climate change in any case. From a policy standpoint, climate sensitivity will only be a relevant issue once we start to take serious steps to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

So, let's not worry about the scientific details, let's overturn the world's economy first! Typical zealotry.

Or, this post from about ten days ago that claims we are "incinerating the planet" as world temperatures are falling, record late season snows are accumulating, and the way to prevent catastrophe is to -- get this -- eat fewer cheeseburgers!

Of course, temperatures aren't even warming as indicated by the (pro-catastrophic global warming Hadley Center in the UK) HADCRUT 3 data.

So, let's move the goal posts. Just like the NASA data several years ago, the Hadley Center has "updated" the temperature data with earlier years getting colder and recent years getting warmer.
Version 3 of the data (the first graph) shows no warming trend (if anything, slight cooling, red trend line) while version 4.2 shows warming (trend trend line). If the data doesn't agree with the hypothesis change the data! A total perversion of the scientific method. I have used version 3 the entire history of the blog and for all of my global warming presentations of the past decade. I resolved to stick with it whether it showed temperatures rising or falling and had no way, when I chose it, to know it would show temperatures staying the same for a decade and a half.

As the evidence for the zealot's case for catastrophic global warming weakens, the absurdity increases. Recent stories tying global warming to cheeseburgers and prostitution shows the desperate position to which the climate zealots have fallen.

With the above mind, I came across (h/t Bishop Hill) a rather extraordinary essay about the state of the global warming debate. While I urge you to read the whole thing, I want to post several of its salient points as they pertain to global warming zealotry:

The global warming craze is dying down. People, as Mackay noted, are coming out of it one by one and that process is accelerating with every passing day. Governments are cutting subsidies for green technologies not only because they don’t work, but because government coffers are empty. They’re broke. The politicians no longer mention it because it no longer gets votes and indeed just attracts a baleful hostility from a cash-strapped electorate, worried about paying their soaring power bills in the midst of the worst recession in living memory.
The reputation of climate science has taken a terrible beating, with one iconic symbol after another brought down by the skeptic blogosphere. The arrogant and at times criminal behaviour of some of the alarmist scientists involved, such as Peter Gleick, has further eroded any respect for it. Within the field and in related ones, researchers are now emboldened to question the supposedly “settled” science. Across the world, the carbon trading market is dead. The journalists specialising on the environment are finding their jobs disappearing or under threat, and are consequently moving on to other more viable niches. Basically, the popular media are deserting the party. High principles about saving the planet are all okay, but one’s livelihood is so much more important, isn’t it?
The whole political movement has already made too many poor inward-looking decisions and from any conceivable strategic viewpoint, their position is by now unrecoverable. The mainstream politicians are avoiding them like the plague or keeping them in the waiting room for a change, and there’s an emergent pattern of alarmists being released from hitherto safe sinecures like NASA, the BBC and certain prestigious news outlets in places like Washington, amongst others. The embarrassment factor has just got too big and the establishment is, as they euphemistically say, reconfiguring its posture.
Their reaction to that message is to scream ever more loudly, ever more dire warnings of the increasingly terrible things about to crash down on us. 
Even the science wing of the cause is trapped in that same obsessive compulsive loop. No matter how many times they try to rehabilitate things like the hockey stick, it’s by now irrelevant. Even if they could get it to successfully run the length of the skeptic gauntlet, it would still be irrelevant. Crying wolf louder and louder, results in people not listening, harder and harder. That’s the basic syndrome and they’re by now already well into diminishing returns.


Stepping back from the problem, I think we should be guided by a complete reversal of the current environmental priority. From now on, we should save people first and then the Earth, rather than the other way around. If any policy injures people in favour of the name of the environment, it gets scrapped. People first, planet second. A nice simple mantra.
Some environmentalists actually do think that’s already the priority but the boots on the ground reality is the other way around. Environmental policy is pushing the poor of the developed world into things like fuel poverty and butchering its way through the defenseless in the developing world. The victims know that too. As a typical example, read the article on VAD below, but there are lots of other instances.
Replace food staples with biofuel crops and let the food riots begin. Refuse to let the developing world have access to better GM seeds, and let the crops fail. Let them starve. Don’t allow them funds to build power plants, leave them without light and heat. Don’t let them have access to DDT, let millions die needlessly of malaria every year. The list is endless but the common denominator of them all, is spending lives to save the Earth from various perceived but illusory threats.
Explicitly and publically swapping the priority in this way is not some sort of optimistic stab at a solution on my part. If you really want to protect the environment, then that’s actually the only way of achieving it, especially if you want to get the developing world on board. One of the key reasons why the whole green project failed, was that the developing world not only distrusted it, but always despised it for its rank hypocrisy. It’s the people of the developing world who are on the bleeding edge of environmental policies. That’s why they torpedoed Copenhagen and every annual climate clam bake since. They’ll do the same to any future ones too, unless there’s a sea change in the politics of the environment.
When the ordinary person is prosperous and feeling good, it gives them the time, the leisure and the disposable wealth to care about things beyond life’s essentials. It’s not difficult to get them interested in the environmental fundamentals such as clean air and water, and conservation of endangered flora or fauna.
Conversely, when people are hungry, desperate or under economic stress, care for the environment drops to the very bottom of their list of concerns. Every honest opinion poll in the developed world has been showing this since the recession began. In the developing world, if desperate people need heat and light, they’ll keep doing things like burning every tree in sight until there isn’t a single one left, Haiti being an extreme and terrible example of the latter.

I agree with most (again, please read the entire essay) of the above and I want to elaborate on two points. I am completely convinced that too much dishonesty in climate science exists (often caused by "noble cause corruption") and that it is immoral to deprive people in the developing world access to food and energy at reasonable cost so as to reach the unattainable goal of controlling the weather.

But, I have an even more important worry not mentioned in the essay: What if the growing minority of scientists that believe the world is going to significantly cool are right? What if, in three to five years, we need to sound the alarm about global cooling?  Will we have any credibility left?! 

We know that cooling is worse for mankind than warming so if it appears likely, measures will have to be taken to prevent mass starvation. Will we be able to get governments and people to listen to us? I fear, as long as we are talking about cheeseburger cures for global warming we will be viewed as laughingstocks.

* It will be interesting to see if the climate science community that considers itself to be reputable speaks out about this manipulation of the data. 

By no means is everyone that believes global warming is a catastrophe a "zealot." I have many friends and associates that believe global warming is a serious problem. The difference between them and what I define as the zealots is, 1) they weigh the evidence differently than I do but their opinions are evidence-based, and 2) they are open to other ideas. The people I'm labeling as zealots are completely closed-minded and ridicule every piece of counter-evidence regardless of how valid it might be. 


  1. Mike I don't understand how this happens - why was this temperature data good for a century then suddenly they decided that it was all 'too warm' and adjusted downwards?

    When I ask this question in other forums I almost always get a PHD that throws a bunch of technical jargon about 'normalizing' and how they have better methods that show things were measured incorrectly - but it seems disingenuous to me. This is the same data that was used to 'prove' that we were warming that suddenly is being changed in the past to 'prove' things are worse than we feared.

    What exactly is the basis for taking a century of data and saying it was 'wrong all this time' - and why isn't it being laid out in very plain terms to be transparent about the process. In each case when these *public* datasets are adjusted they are done without any notice and then a small asterisk is put up saying the new values were adjusted - but I've yet to see any rational explanation that passes the smell test as to why it was needed.

    I never in my life considered that scientific data, once published and accepted, would be subject to wholesale manipulation. It is frankly frightening that it can happen.

  2. Oh - sorry one more thought...

    You asked: Will we have any credibility left?!

    My answer - *IF* the world cools at all - not only will no one take it seriously - but science as a whole may see itself treated as a crackpot religion (take your pick - everyone has one they like to make fun of).

    And I'm being serious - the danger of banging the hysteria drum - is that if you are wrong you will turn people against you - and in this case with the sides setup (in the public's eye) as 'science' vs 'anti-science' - if the 'science' side turns out to be wrong it could shatter the public perception of science.

  3. As a scientist who has done digital signal processing, I can _imagine_ that there could be reasons to readjust/recalibrate/etc. However, Delurm is correct that this sounds "disingenuous", in fact I'll go so far as to call it propaganda.

    BTW, what are the error bars on this data set? Any bet that they get bigger and bigger the further in the past we go? But that would just muddy the message.

    I hope science weathers (pun!) the current controversy. It is politics that should suffer, but its public perception is already shattered!

    Nice post Mike, other than the length ;)


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