Wednesday, June 25, 2008

20 Years of Hot Air

Monday marked the 20th anniversary of Dr. James Hansen's first testimony before the Senate on Global Warming. Here are some scattered thoughts on the occasion.

Hansen's original presentation was a combination of staging and luck. The luck was that the country was in the middle of a major heat wave. The high the day that Hansen gave his presentation was a record 98 degrees. Hansen told his audience that the current heat wave was directly caused by global warming and that things would only get warmer. 98 degrees remains the record for that date. The high temperature for the anniversary was 86.

To be sure that the audience got the message, the air conditioning was turned off and the windows opened the night before Hansen's presentation.

I was skeptical from the beginning for several reasons. One was that other scientists were warning that sulfur dioxide emissions were going to cause an ice age (this was different from the ice age predictions of the 1970s). I already knew about the Little Ice Age which ended in the mid-19th century. To say that the world has warmed since the end of a natural cold period and that humanity is responsible is a lot like making predictions based on the temperature rise between January and August and projecting into September.

Later predictions went back 400 years - to the height of the Little Ice Age.

At one point the IPCC accepted someone's doctoral thesis on historic temperatures based on tree rings. This was convenient because it showed that the Little Ice Age was an insignificant local event and that recent temperatures had risen sharply in a graph named the "hockey stick". Later investigation showed that the statistical calculations used to produce the hockey stick were flawed and always produce the same graph regardless of the input. The hockey stick graph is still used by global warming believers.

There is considerable difference in global temperature when you look at the land station based records that Hansen's department at NASA keeps and satellite-based readings. NASA manages to hit the world's warmest spots and miss the coolest.

Temperatures reached a plateau around a decade ago. This was not included in any models. After the fact, it was decided that the oceans must be absorbing heat but will suddenly release it in the near future. When you have to adjust your models for major events like this it is known as fudging your figures.

A new batch of deep ocean probes failed to find warming. In order to square with the new theory that recent warming has been going into the ocean, a lot of effort is being put into redefining the historic record to make it colder.

Nearly all land-based weather stations are affected by the uban heat island effect. NASA is supposed to be compensating for this but it is questionable how accurate these corrections are. In most cases, the corrections are greater than the recorded warming trends. A tiny mistake in these corrections could show a warming or cooling trend where none exists.

Hansen has insisted that any scientist who denes global warming must have been paid to express these views by the oil and coal industries. In his view, any amount of money is enough to taint a source.

In the last 20 years, huge amounts of money has been given as grants for studying global warming. This money is only available to warming believers. For some reason, this is not seen as tainting results.

On the 20th anniversary, Hansen called for arresting and trying oil and coal executicves for crimes against humanity. If it turns out that he is wrong and mankind beggars itself for nothing, should Hansen and Al Gore be tried for similar crimes?

No comments: