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Convenient Untruths
Some who clamor for statist answers to this alleged climate crisis employ dodgy measurement techniques.


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Deroy Murdock

When Nobel laureate Albert Gore, Jr. collects his Peace Prize in Oslo today, he should tell the gathered Norwegians exactly what he meant when he remarked about global warming: “Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem,” Gore said in the May 9, 2006, Grist Magazine. “Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.”

“Over-representation?” Is that anything like misrepresentation?

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Gore’s approach infects the debate and even the methodology of so-called “global warming.” From the former vice president to unseen academics, some who clamor for statist answers to this alleged climate crisis employ dodgy measurement techniques, while others embrace hype and fear-mongering to promote massive government intervention to combat an entirely questionable challenge. Worse yet, this applies to reputedly objective researchers, not just opinionated activists.

This official U.S. Historical Climate Network temperature-measurement station in Hopkinsville, Kentucky is near a chimney, and above a parking lot, air-conditioning gear, and a barbecue grill.

For starters, U.S. temperature data suffer from the “garbage in, garbage out” syndrome. As surfacestations.org meteorologist Anthony Watts discovered, numerous NASA and National Oceanic and Space Administration temperature sensors are situated not in open fields at uniform heights, as required, but near parking lots, beside central-air exhaust ducts, and even above barbecue grills. These artificially elevate temperature reports.

Since 1970, previously whitewashed temperature sites have been painted with semi-gloss latex. Because it absorbs more heat, Heartland Institute scholar James Taylor wrote in November’s Environment & Climate News, “latex paint at official temperature stations may account for half of the U.S. warming reported since 1970.” Thus, America could reverse half the detected post-1970 warming that aggravates climate activists, simply by stripping this latex paint and whitewashing these observation structures.

Stranger still, NASA adopted a new technique in 2000 to calculate average annual temperatures. NASA essentially gave a 0.27 degrees Fahrenheit (0.15 degrees Centigrade) “bonus” to readings for the last seven years.

However, Canadian statistical analyst Steve McIntyre of ClimateAudit.org caught NASA’s mathematical mistake. After the space agency admitted and corrected its glitch, America’s warmest year shifted from 1998 to 1934. Among the corrected data, only four of the top 10 warmest years occurred since 1953, versus five among NASA’s discarded Top 10.

Global-warming enthusiasts should clarify why America was hotter during the less-developed Great Depression, yet cooler in purportedly carbon-choked 1998. In fact, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004 were cooler than 1900 — three years before the launch of the Ford Motor Company.

“The alarmists who trumpeted recent years as ‘warmest ever!!!’ in the United States (by a mere tenth of a degree) now dismiss this reversal — 2000 and subsequent years being cooler than 1900 — as just being a tenth of a degree or so,” said Competitive Enterprise Institute scholar Chris Horner. “Well, either that’s a big deal whichever direction it falls, or it isn’t. Which time are you lying?”

Meanwhile, the British High Court of Justice ruled October 10 that Gore’s picture, An Inconvenient Truth, peddles convenient untruths. Mr. Justice Burton determined that “some of the errors, or departures from the mainstream, by Mr. Gore…in the course of his dynamic exposition, do arise in the context of alarmism and exaggeration in support of his political thesis.” The court ordered that British secondary schools could present Gore’s movie only if students receive a Guidance Note distancing the Education Department from “the more extreme views of Mr. Gore” and admitting there are two sides, not one, to global warming.

Justice Burton cited nine points in Gore’s “political film” that either were “apparently based on non-existent or misunderstood evidence” or “upon lack of knowledge or appreciation of the scientific position.” Among them: Despite Gore’s contrary claims, melting polar ice caps will not raise sea levels by 20 feet any century soon, global warming is not melting the glacier atop Mount Kilimanjaro, nor did it intensify Hurricane Katrina, nor are polar bears dying due to melting ice.

In this connection, it’s fascinating to trace the evolution of Stanford University professor Stephen H. Schneider, founder of the journal Climatic Change.

“[O]ur calculations suggest a decrease in global temperature by as much as 3.5 degrees C,” [6.3 degrees Fahrenheit], Schneider wrote in Science in 1971. “Such a large decrease in the average temperature of Earth, sustained over a period of few years, is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age.”

Schneider’s worries then switched from global cooling to global warming.

“[T]o reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change,” Schneider said in the October 1989 Discover, scientists must “capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.” Schneider added: “Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

“Cold, hot, who cares?” the Detroit News editorialized after Schneider’s U-turn. “Environmental extremists often seem more interested in scaring the bejabbers out of the American public than in getting at the real facts.”

U.C. Santa Barbara emeritus professor Daniel Botkin recently lamented in the Wall Street Journal that some of his warming-oriented colleagues believe “the only way to get our society to change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe, and that therefore it is all right and even necessary for scientists to exaggerate…‘Wolves deceive their prey, don’t they?’ one said to me recently.”

Oslo’s applause notwithstanding, egregious errors, distortions, and lies have no place in what is supposedly unbiased scientific inquiry regarding one of Earth’s most controversial questions.

– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

© Scripps Howard News Service



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