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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Global Warming as Mass Neurosis

via Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal:

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the mass hysteria phenomenon known as global warming. Much of the science has since been discredited. Now it's time for political scientists, theologians and psychiatrists to weigh in.

What, discredited? Thousands of scientists insist otherwise, none more noisily than NASA's Jim Hansen, who first banged the gong with his June 23, 1988, congressional testimony (delivered with all the modesty of "99% confidence").

But mother nature has opinions of her own. NASA now begrudgingly confirms that the hottest year on record in the continental 48 was not 1998, as previously believed, but 1934, and that six of the 10 hottest years since 1880 antedate 1954. Data from 3,000 scientific robots in the world's oceans show there has been slight cooling in the past five years, never mind that "80% to 90% of global warming involves heating up ocean waters," according to a report by NPR's Richard Harris.

The Arctic ice cap may be thinning, but the extent of Antarctic sea ice has been expanding for years. At least as of February, last winter was the Northern Hemisphere's coldest in decades. In May, German climate modelers reported in the journal Nature that global warming is due for a decade-long vacation. But be not not-afraid, added the modelers: The inexorable march to apocalypse resumes in 2020.

This last item is, of course, a forecast, not an empirical observation. But it raises a useful question: If even slight global cooling remains evidence of global warming, what isn't evidence of global warming? What we have here is a nonfalsifiable hypothesis, logically indistinguishable from claims for the existence of God. This doesn't mean God doesn't exist, or that global warming isn't happening. It does mean it isn't science.

2 comments:

Mitsu said...

That article is filled with distortions and misinformation. The author works for one of the most partisan global warming skeptic think tanks in existence; his bias shows. The NASA data he's talking about only refers to the warmest years *in the United States* --- if you take global temperatures (which really are the only relevant measure, since there are always transient local variations in temperature), the hottest year on record is 2005, and the ten hottest years (globally) are all after 1994. It's laughable to suggest, furthermore, that the fact that some areas are getting colder in any way discredits the science ---- the models all predict that, while the planet is warming overall, some areas will get colder, because of changes in weather, currents, etc. The North Pole is showing unprecedented warming, and many ice shelves in Antarctica have broken up --- all events that haven't been seen in a hundred years or more of observations, and as I mentioned before, the global temperature, measured in many different ways, has been the warmest in recent years by a large margin. Finally, the ocean sensor data only covers the last five years, and it's a new experiment ---- it's not even remotely "discrediting" the science.

This article is woefully wrong on the science and nothing more than an attempt at political spin. It's disgraceful that a major newspaper would print such a blatantly false "opinion" piece from a wholly unreliable think tank.

Halfwise said...

Mitsu,
Your faith in "global" temperatures is touching. The quality of individual temperature measurement is suspect in even the most developed countries, the mix of urban vs rural measurements has changed over the years, and unauditable adjustments are applied to the raw data, which then disappears from the public record, replaced by the adjusted data. If these were financial records instead of temperature records the keepers of them would be in jail for fraud or negligence.

Citing consensus among models is the most risible statement in your comment. The models do not represent reality, ignoring insolation and water vapour and wildly exaggerating the effect of CO2. The fact that they agree with each other while being unable to deal with the real world should cause you to pause before citing them in your arguments.

But maybe you are right, despite the raw data being flawed and the models not being worth anything. I doubt it, but I am biased so you can attack me ad hominem just as you attacked the author of the article. Whatever. If you are right, and CO2 concentrations and global temperatures are on the rise and are causally related, what authority do you cite that says this is a bad thing? If it is a bad thing, is it the WORST thing? Because it has certainly pushed a lot of other topics off the agenda. People are wasting their money on carbon taxes and carbon credits while real problems go unfunded.

True believers are so convinced of the virtue of the AGW mission that they have lost perspective and any sense of doubt. Carbon taxes and offsets are symbolic gestures that cost real money. It's criminal.

But thanks for stopping by this blog and bringing something resembling facts. Most of your counterparts just tend to shout insults.