ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Sunday, February 12, 2006

On Global Warming and the Hockey Stick - Redux

H/T Just One Minute

It's good to see that the scientific community is finally - finally!!! - going to revisit the methods and assumptions that went in to the creation of this graph on average temperatures from centuries ago:

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(The red line represents a warmer medieval period, the blue represents a consistent temperature over centuries, followed by a huge temp increase in modern times - and is promoted by the greens worldwide as evidence of global warming.)

Here's an excerpt from the WSJ article:

Academy to Referee Climate-Change Fight
Scientists' Group Agrees To Congressional Request to Study Temperature-History Charting
February 10, 2006; Page B4

Seeking to resolve a scientific dispute that has taken on a rancorous political edge, the National Academy of Sciences said it had agreed to a request from Congress to assess how well researchers understand the history of temperatures on earth.

The study by the academy, an independent advisory body based in Washington, will focus on the "hockey stick," a chart of past temperatures that critics say is inaccurate. The graph gets its name because of the sudden, blade-like rise of recent temperatures compared with past epochs.

The controversy took a sharp political turn in July when Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas), head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, launched a probe into the work of three climate specialists who generated the graph, including Michael Mann, now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Mr. Barton's inquiry drew a rebuke from several scientific societies as well as fellow Republican Sherwood Boehlert of New York, chairman of the House Committee on Science, who called it a blatant effort to intimidate global-warming researchers.

Over a year ago, two Canadians (who've been viciously attacked as being pawns of the oil industry) discovered that the data used by the scientist that created the graph had some issues... They saw that the data showed that the Earth was much warmer centuries ago (which they refer to as the Medieval Warming Period), which therefore pointed to the possibility that the Earth has cyclical variations in temperature which are normal. Thus, the sharp upward trend shown in the graph above (which the two Canadians are not disputing) could be explained by this natural phenomenon. But for some reason, Mann (the scientist that did the original research on the temperatures from centuries ago) felt that it was important to skew these temperatures and normalize them - so that the temp increase in modern times became all the more striking.

One of the most damning quotes which came out of the controversy was from this Global Warming researcher:
"With the publication of the article in Science [in 1995], I gained significant credibility in the community of scientists working on climate change. They thought I was one of them, someone who would pervert science in the service of social and political causes. so one of them let his guard down. A major person working in the area of climate change and global warming sent me an astonishing email that said "We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period."
D. Deming, Science 1995

I posted on this last year
, but here's the powerpoint of the presentation that these two researchers gave to an audience in Washington, D.C. which covers the subject in some detail. There are several other articles of interest (such as this one) which are a bit more technical, and I'll see if I can dig them up and post them here as well.

The net here is that the scientific community is finally going to act like scientists and do some validation of findings that have been presented to them. Who would have thought that the hockey-stick graph would be accepted purely on faith by scientits? I suppose that, like all humans, if something looks like it will conform to our preconceived notions on a topic, it must be accurate.

Oh, and if you're interested in having a real impact on the lives of people worldwide, forget slowing the increase in temperature by 1/4 of a degree over 20 years.... check out the efforts of the Copenhagen Consensus, where economists identify other causes that have a better return for the costs involved (ie potable drinking water, eliminate disease, malnutrition, etc, etc).

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler