The Truth about Climate Change: Part I

This topic is a departure from the scope of my other articles, but I feel the topic is too important and contains too much misinformation for anyone to make an informed decision regarding “global warming” and now the more elaborate “climate change”. The topic will be split into 2 parts. The first part will be to go over what the science and historical facts actually suggest. The second part will go over the media alarmism, actual or proposed legislation, who profits from pushing the alarmist agenda, and why libertarians should be worried.

I promise that this topic will come full circle to libertarianism. It may not seem like it at first but it involves a working knowledge of scientific research on which the legislative proposals are predicated. Before we can denounce measures of proposed legislation, we must first understand the basis for such legislation. Furthermore, if we wish to defeat opponents, as Knies famously said, “He that would be victorious on the field of scientific research must let his adversary advance fully armed and in all his strength”.

 

Global mean temperature and what it means

Not surprisingly, most of the data used by greens are cherry-picked. One of the favorite measures is “global mean temperature”, which is calculated using arbitrary surface measuring stations around the world. The primarily problem of using global mean temperature is that the number of measuring stations used to calculate the average temperature is not constant; stations are added and subtracted. Time series data cannot be compared correctly if the observations are changing. In order to correctly predict time series, the same observations must be followed over time so that we are not left comparing apples to oranges.

There’s another problem in addition to this previous problem. During the fall of the Soviet Union from 1989 to 1992, thousands of their surface measuring stations went offline, most of which were in the colder region of Siberia. By removing several colder observations from the total data set, the result of course would be a rise in the average temperature, and that is precisely what happened in the 1990s, the supposed “hottest decade” ever recorded.

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Here is the graph compiled by Canadian economist Ross McKitrick that transposes the number of operating measuring stations onto global mean temperature. As we can see, the average temperature drops significantly as several thousand measuring stations in colder regions went offline due to the fall of the Soviet Union. The cardinal rule of statistics that we must all remember is that correlation does not imply causation. But at the very least, it is impossible to infer from data in which the number of time series observations has dropped in half, especially if the majority of those observations came from a specific region.

What global mean temperature means is this: the average temperature of arbitrarily located measuring stations, in which the number and location of stations is constantly changing. Half of these stations went offline during the 1990s, most of which were located in the colder regions of collapsing Soviet Russia. Keep these facts in mind next time someone mentions global mean temperature

 

The “Hockey Stick”

Let’s look at another example of the greens cherry-picking data (this term is more innocuous than “fudging” data). This next graph comes from Al Gore’s famous “hockey stick” graph, supposedly the fire bell in the night for which greens can rally around. The graph was compiled by Professor Michael Mann from the University of Virginia, first published in Nature magazine in 1998, and also appeared in the UN’s 2001 IPCC third assessment report.

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Glancing at the graph, one would be led to believe that the earth has been experiencing an overall cooling trend until about the 1900s, in which temperatures shoot up. Thanks greedy humans and your pernicious emissions. This is of course the springboard from which politicians launch their measures to “combat global warming”, most of which involve increasing the scope of government regulation and power of coercion over private matters. After all, the data is on their side.

Hardly. There are again several problems with the presentation of that data. First, one must understand how data is compiled and determined for eras in which measuring stations did not exist. Temperatures are determined by using proxy measurements, things such as tree rings, ice core samples, and past crop data in order to estimate temperatures.

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The problem is that 6 years earlier the UN’s 1995 IPCC second assessment report included the following graph. Hmm. Where did this Medieval Warm Period (MWP) go? Now that’s a special kind of magic. The MWP had been recognized by climate scientists for decades, and now it had been extirpated from existence. The data had not changed; its interpretation had. Unfortunately, the interpretation was for political reasons, not scientific reasons.

Assistant Professor David Deming claims he was approached by alarmists that misinterpreted one of his papers as in support of man-made global warming. They told him that the MWP had to go. Although the MWP appeared in the data, Mann made sure its representation in the graph was not seen. Is Deming’s claim true? Which UN graph was the “correct” graph?

 

M&M solve the Mann controversy

M&M is short for mathematician Steven McIntyre and again economics professor Ross McKitrick. Skeptical about Mann’s graph, they asked his team to replicate the data again, which shouldn’t be a problem for studies based on the scientific method. After a 3 year quest of obtaining the information from Mann and his team and reconstructing the study, the results were not looking good for Mann. Here is what M&M had to say on the matter:

Nature [magazine that originally published Mann’s study] never verified that data were correctly listed: as it happens they weren’t. Nature never verified that data archiving rules were followed: they weren’t. Nature never verified that methods were accurately stated: they weren’t. Nature never verified that stated methods yield the stated results: they don’t. Nature undertook only minimal corrections to its publication record after notification of these things, and even allowed authors to falsely claim that their omissions on these things didn’t affect their published results. The IPCC’s use of the hockey stick was not incidental: it is prominent throughout the 2001 report. Yet they did not subject it to any independent checking. … They allowed chapter authors to heavily promote their own work with little or no oversight. They published false claims about the hockey stick’s statistical robustness and have never made any effort to retract them.” [emphasis added]

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Ouch. So if Mann didn’t correctly present the data, what does the data say when accurately presented? The graph on the right is the reconstructed study by M&M. Mann’s 1998 values are the gray line and M&M’s recalculated values are the solid black line. As we can see, Mann did make the Medieval Warm Period disappear. McKitrick cites that the Hockey Stick is about 2 things: the conclusion of recent global warming is not supported by facts and that the 2001 IPCC report allows the flawed study to dominate the report, suggesting the possibility of bias in the report-writing process. Tell us how you really feel.

Due to these developments, it is safe to say that the 1995 IPPC report is more accurate than the fudged 2001 graph in the IPCC report using Mann’s misrepresentation of the graph. The 1995 IPCC graph also corroborates with M&M’s reconstructed graph. It would appear that Deming’s claim is vindicated and that the greens had in fact colluded to make the MWP disappear.

 

The CO2 myth

The most prominent argument is that humans are emitting more and more greenhouse gasses, like Carbon Dioxide, causing the earth to warm. This means government should step in and enact a carbon tax or a carbon credit system to protect the environment. How accurate is this claim? Do man-made CO2 emissions cause the earth to warm?

it shouldn’t be surprising to see that again practically none of this is true. How about we first ask question whether or not CO2 emissions are even man-made? Surprise! Only 3% of CO2 emissions are caused by humans. The majority of CO2 emissions come from natural processes, such as volcanic eruptions and from the ocean releasing gas upon warming.

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But Al Gore says CO2 emissions are melting the arctic ice caps, and now the polar bear at the top of this article is going to drown (even though polar bears often swim). Although Gore excoriates CO2 emissions for killing the arctic, he oddly enough never transposes CO2 on the same graph as arctic temperatures. If CO2 emissions do cause warming, then one would expect for arctic temperatures to rise congruently with CO2 in the atmosphere. For your convenience, there’s a graph that does just that.

The bottom graph shows atmospheric CO2 with arctic air temperatures. Contrary to what Gore would posit, CO2 emissions do not appear correlated with temperatures. Atmospheric CO2 remains mostly steady during the 1920s – 1940s, yet arctic temperatures dramatically increase. Instead, what does seem to influence arctic air temperatures is (would you look at this) emissions from the sun. Wow. Who would have thought that as the sun emits more heat, the arctic would experience more warming.

 

No, the weather is not more dramatic

The alarmists claim that due to all this warming, the weather is becoming more severe. We will see higher record temperatures, more hurricanes, more powerful hurricanes and more damage caused, etc. The facts say otherwise.

hurricanes_making_landfall_in_the_us_vs_decade1

Let’s look at hurricanes first. If we believed the hype, we should see not only more hurricanes hitting the U.S. at an increasing rate but also we should see an increased frequency of more intense (category 3, 4, or 5) hurricanes. Neither of which is supported by facts. The blue line is category 1 and 2 hurricanes, the red line is category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes. We do not see any steady increase in the number of hurricanes nor do we see an increasing amount of more severe hurricanes. Like other climate phenomena, it tends to fluctuate, naturally, and these fluctuations do not agree with the claims of the alarmists.

The next rebuttal would be “Ok, how do you explain the increasing amount of damages due to weather?” Well, let’s just ask some MIT professors.

Statement by Kerry Emanuel, Professor of atmospheric science:

“The main hurricane problem facing the United States: the ever-growing concentration of population and wealth in vulnerable coastal regions”

“Rapidly escalating hurricane damage in recent decades owes much to government policies that serve to subsidize risk. State regulation of insurance is captive to political pressures that hold down premiums in risky coastal areas at the expense of higher premiums in less risky places. Federal flood insurance programs likewise undercharge property owners in vulnerable areas. Federal disaster policies, while providing obvious humanitarian benefits, also serve to promote risky behavior in the long run.”

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Now let’s look at temperatures. If the earth was warming, we would expect to see the U.S. setting more and more high temperature records. Again, the agenda pushed by greens is contrary to facts. As we can clearly see, the 1990s were not the hottest decade on record. The hottest decade on record was actually the 1930s, which had significantly less CO2 as the latter century, as also plotted on the graph.

So is the weather more dramatic due to global warming? No! The only drama about global warming comes from the greens when members from the scientific community challenge their claims. Contrary to what they would have you believe, there is no “consensus” on the issue. All of those figureheads that spout on about the need to address global warming are really only spouting a bunch of hot air.

 

 

 

So given all of the data we’ve seen so far, what can we infer?

1. The earth has often been a lot warmer centuries ago than it is today

2. The earth’s temperature fluctuates regardless of industrial human activity (sorry, there wasn’t much fossil fuel usage during the Middle Ages)

3. Global warming is not responsible for more severe weather

4. The science is far from settled on global warming or climate change.

 

To quote Thomas Sowell:

“Would you bet your paycheck on a weather forecast for tomorrow? If not, then why should this country bet billions on global warming predictions that have even less foundation?”

In part II, I will discuss the role of the media, legislation proposals, who profits from the alarmism (and it’s not who you think), what this means for liberty, and what the greens are trying to accomplish. Click here for The Truth about Climate Change: Part II.

 

 

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