19 Apr 2008, 11:57am
Latest Climate News
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Our Climate Numbers Are a Big Old Mess

By PATRICK MICHAELS, Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2008

President George W. Bush has just announced his goal to stabilize greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025. To get there, he proposes new fuel-economy standards for autos, and lower emissions from power plants built in the next 10 to 15 years.

Pending legislation in the Senate from Joe Lieberman and John Warner would cut emissions even further – by 66% by 2050. No one has a clue how to do this. Because there is no substitute technology to achieve these massive reductions, we’ll just have to get by with less energy.

Compared to a year ago, gasoline consumption has dropped only 0.5% at current prices. So imagine how expensive it would be to reduce overall emissions by 66%.

The earth’s paltry warming trend, 0.31 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since the mid-1970s, isn’t enough to scare people into poverty. And even that 0.31 degree figure is suspect.

For years, records from surface thermometers showed a global warming trend beginning in the late 1970s. But temperatures sensed by satellites and weather balloons displayed no concurrent warming. …

Then it was discovered that our orbiting satellites have a few faults. The sensors don’t last very long and are continually being supplanted by replacement orbiters. The instruments are calibrated against each other, so if one is off, so is the whole record. Frank Wentz, a consulting atmospheric scientist from California, discovered that the satellites also drift a bit in their orbits, which induces additional bias in their readings. The net result? A warming trend appears where before there was none. …

There have been six major revisions in the warming figures in recent years, all in the same direction. So it’s like flipping a coin six times and getting tails each time. The chance of that occurring is 0.016, or less than one in 50. That doesn’t mean that these revisions are all hooey, but the probability that they would all go in one direction on the merits is pretty darned small.

The removal of weather-balloon data because poor nations don’t do a good job of minding their weather instruments deserves more investigation… For example, weather stations are supposed to be a standard white color. If they darken from lack of maintenance, temperatures read higher than they actually are. After adjusting for such effects, as much as half of the warming in the U.N.’s land-based record vanishes. Because about 70% of earth’s surface is water, this could mean a reduction of as much as 15% in the global warming trend.

Another interesting thing happens to the U.N.’s data when it’s adjusted for the non-climatic factors. The frequency of very warm months is lowered, to the point at which it matches the satellite data, which show fewer very hot months. That’s a pretty good sign that there are fundamental problems with the surface temperature history. …

But every climatologist must know that Greenland’s last decade was no warmer than several decades in the early and mid-20th century. In fact, the period from 1970-1995 was the coldest one since the late 19th century, meaning that Greenland’s ice anomalously expanded right about the time climate change scientists decided to look at it. …

This prompts the ultimate question: Why is the news on global warming always bad? Perhaps because there’s little incentive to look at things the other way. If you do, you’re liable to be pilloried by your colleagues. If global warming isn’t such a threat, who needs all that funding? Who needs the army of policy wonks crawling around the world with bold plans to stop climate change? … [more]

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