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Global Warming: A Primer

The Science and Environmental Policy Project is one of the leading sources of realist research and analysis on climate change. It produces a weekly compilation of news and research on global warming which you can sign up to receive via email. SEPP was founded by Fred Singer, one of the leading realist scientists. For a great short summary of the current status of the climate debate, which rages hotter than ever before, see this presentation which Dr. Singer will deliver in Sicily next month. It covers in incisive fashion the most significant aspects of the debate. For a full picture, read it all. Here are a few excerpts.

Dr. Singer points out that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the supposed authority on which pretty much all global warming alarmism relies, has changed its approach to the topic in each of its reports:

The IPCC has wavered on methodology. Their Frst Assessment Report (FAR–1990) simply pointed out that both GH gases and temperatures have increased but paid little attention to the long cooling period (from 1940 to 1975). Their Second Report (SAR–1996) tried to show that observed patterns of warming trends (“fingerprints”) agreed with calculated patterns. Their Third Report (TAR–2001) simply claimed that the 20th century was the warmest in 1000 years (as if this proves anything). The fourth report (AR4– 2007) basically said: We understand all natural forcings – so everything else must be anthropogenic.

The alarmists are consistent in only one respect. No matter what the data show, or what analyses are brought into play, the conclusion is always the same: the Earth is warming catastrophically, and the only solution is government takeover of all free economies.

Climate alarmism is based on computer models, but those models don’t correspond to observations in the real world. In the realm of science, when a computer model is contradicted by empirical observation, the model is deemed to have been refuted. Only in the field of global climate do purported scientists refuse to recognize that basic principle. The linked paper explains in summary fashion how the alarmists’ models are contradicted by observation.

Two 20th-century climate trends are undisputed: the Earth warmed from around 1910 to 1940, and cooled from around 1940 to the late 1970s. The climate alarmists base their theory on a warming that they claim took place between 1979 and 1997. Whether that latter warming actually took place is, however, highly debatable:

The 1910 to 1940 warming is seen in the surface thermometer record; there were no balloon or satellite observations to provide independent confirmation. However, the proxy data of tree rings, ice cores, etc, all show this warming so that we can be fairly sure of its reality. Its cause is generally believed to be due to natural factors, although Wigley and Santer have claimed it to be anthropogenic (Science, 1998).

On the other hand, the reported 1979 to 1997 surface warming [Fig. 10] is not seen by atmospheric observations. [Fig. 11]. If one takes the near-zero atmospheric trends from radiosondes and (independent) satellite instruments [Fig. 5] seriously, then – because of “amplification” — the surface trend should be smaller – and therefore even closer to zero– especially in the tropical zone.

The fact that satellite observations do not verify the alleged surface warming from 1979 to 1997 is a huge problem for the alarmists. One might expect them to have a theory to explain the discrepancy, but they don’t. This graph shows satellite observations from 1979 to 2011:

Dr. Singer’s presentation explores possible explanations for the apparent rise in surface temperatures. Suffice it to say, for now, that the surface data are less than reliable and are biased in several respects toward warming. I was shocked when I learned that the data used by the IPCC do not even try to adjust for the urban heat island effect, which is well recognized. That fact, by itself, renders those data essentially worthless.

Beyond that, Singer talks about the frauds revealed by Climategate. The surface temperature data on which climate alarmism is based are heavily politicized. This is where the famous “hockey stick” comes into play, as well as the alarmists’ attempt to “hide the decline” through “tricks.”

One word about the relationship between Climategate and the “Hockey stick” temperature graph of Mann, Bradley, andHughes. When the graph was published [Nature 1998, GRL1999], public attention immediately focused on their claim that the 20th century was the warmest in the last 1000 years [Fig. 20]. It was then shown by McIntyre and McKitrick that some of the data had been fudged and that the statistical methodology used was faulty.

They also demonstrated that feeding random data into the Michael Mann algorithms would invariably yield a hockey stick curve. (Mann [PNAS 2008] has now quietly changed the hockey stick into a graph that shows both the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age [Fig. 21].) In any case, we know that the MWP, around 1000 to 1200 AD, was warmer than today, based on many independent investigations [Fig. 22].

But that fact (a warmer MWP) has little relevance to the question of the cause of current warming (if indeed such warming exists). Therefore, when the hockey stick was first published, my attention focused on the fact that Michael Mann’s proxy record seemed to stop in 1979 and that the continuing temperature data came entirely from the Jones analysis of surface thermometers. [I think this is the real explanation of “Mike’s Nature trick,” referred to in the Climategate e-mails that speak of “hiding the decline.”]

I immediately sent e-mails to Mann and questioned him about this point, asking him why his proxy temperature record suddenly stopped in 1979. I received back a rather brusque reply that no suitable data were available.

But I already knew that such data are indeed available [Figs23,24] and therefore surmised that his proxy data did not show the increase in temperature demanded by the surface thermometers. So he simply terminated his analysis in 1979 to hide this fact (his “Nature trick”) – in order to be “politically correct” and support the IPCC story of a temperature increase.

The Climategate e-mails make it clear why Mann terminated the Hockey stick in 1979. There is a huge irony here that should be readily apparent. As I maintain above, there was in fact no increase in surface temperatures after 1979, and therefore Mann’s (never-published) proxy temperatures are correct. He simply did not have the courage to believe in his own results. To emphasize this point, I show some of the several proxy data in the published literature [Fig. 25].

This chart shows global temperatures as reconstructed from ocean sediment data:

It has become glaringly obvious to nearly everyone who pays attention that the alarmists’ alleged data are wrong, and their computer models are contradicted by observation. Rather than dealing with these fundamental issues as scientists, the alarmists have shifted into the political arena, smearing their critics and trying to jam major economic changes down our throats before more voters catch on to the fact that global warming alarmism is a fraud–an immensely profitable fraud for those who perpetrate it and for the crony industries that stand to profit by banning the efficient production of energy, but a fraud nevertheless.

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