Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vindication for Global Warming Skeptics

A global-warming skeptic is not a global-warming denier. The difference is somewhat like the difference between atheists and agnostics. I, and many others like me, don't claim that the earth is in a long-term cooling trend or that it's stable. In addition, even if long-term global-warming was certain, I have serious doubts about the quality of the computer models upon which claims are made that global-warming is caused by humans.

I consider myself an amateur scientist, with an appreciation for fact and the scientific method. Where science has been applied to medical research, it has had a major and direct impact on my life, and my appreciation is especially strong when I recall that it's only been a couple of hundred years since 'doctors' regularly drained blood from patients as a standard treatment for a variety of ailments, with absolutely no scientific basis for it.

However, despite my appreciation of science, I don't trust scientists much more than I trust politicians. Someone does some important research and analysis? Great! But don't just tell me the summary and expect me to accept it without question. What were the assumptions? What were the measurements? What was the analysis? Which statistical methods were applied, and why? If a reasonable theory has been developed, great! But are there other reasonable theories? Are there other plausible theories?

So, despite the 'consensus' of scientists often alleged by crisis-profiteers, crisis-careerists, and an easily duped media, I've remained skeptical that we have enough measurements or a thorough enough understanding of circumstances that impact global temperatures to reach a conclusion about the current long-term global temperature trend, or the impact of human activity on global temperatures. This has often felt like being a round-earther ridiculed by the official flat-earth dogmatists. But no one will get me to change my mind just based on alleged consensus while there are intelligent scientists who hold contrary views and provide reasonable explanations for their contrary views. The esteemed leading doctors of Western medicine had a strong consensus on the value of frequent blood-letting, so don't give me 'consensus.' Give me facts. Give me reason.

So today comes an article in London's Mail Online: Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995. Dr. Phil Jones, a leader in the man-caused-long-term-global-warmist theories, has admitted that the evidence isn't nearly as strong as many have been led to believe. Dr. Jones gives lucid statements that don't debunk the possibility that the earth is getting warmer in the long-run, and don't debunk the possibility that human activity is a dominant factor in whatever the earth's temperatures are doing. But read the article, and it will become apparent that this interview is a bellwether event because it virtually destroys the alleged certainty that has been so popular with the crisis-mongers.

The earth has not been getting significantly warmer in the last 15 years, as Dr. Jones admits, and as many skeptics have been pointing out. It may still be that the last 15 years has been an exception to the rule and perhaps the earth is getting warmer over a period of hundreds of years. But maybe not. The door is now almost fully open, where it was almost fully closed, to consider all possibilities, and not jump to conclusions based on inadequate data or inadequate, unproven computer models.

If Dr. Jones isn't enough for you, then consider the interview by Dr. Robert Watson, none other than the former chair of the IPCC itself. In an article at the Times Online, Dr. Watson responds to the rash of errors recently pointed out in some of the IPCC reports. While none of the errors I've seen reported are damning individually, Dr. Watson points out that together they indicate a significant bias, because every single error favors catastrophic predictions. If they were unbiased, as the tarnished current chair of the IPCC claims, then the errors would be roughly evenly distributed between those favoring catastrophic predictions and those opposing it.

So let's continue to study global temperatures. Let's continue to measure and improve how we measure. Let's continue to model global processes and improve how we model global processes. Let's continue to reason and improve how we reason.

And while we're improving science (and scientists), let's not damage or destroy national economies based on overreactions to false assumptions and irrational predictions. Let's also bear in mind that regardless of the long-term temperature fluctuations, whether up or down, we'll always need clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, so let's not throw out the baby of responsible environmentalism with the dirty bathwater of unproven climate-change fears.

Come, let us reason together.

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