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Rants, Raves, Interesting Science & Awful Puns
July 7, 2008

The Penitents

Accepting Guilt By Accusation

Many commentators have made the point that Global Warming has become a secular religion. Humanity has sinned in daring to apply its intellect, initiative, and industry to elevating itself from superstition and ignorance, and creating comfort and abundance on a scale the world has never seen. Hence, for offending the sensibilities and arousing the envy of parasitical elements who could never, by any measure, produce anything worthwhile that people would freely spend their money on or vote for at the ballot box, they must be made to atone by the imposition of higher prices and taxes, along with repressive laws and restrictions, all contrived with the object of denying them the better living that their labors have earned.

But for sinners to become penitents and pay their dues, they must first submit to their accusers by accepting their guilt. In the case of Global Warming, this is demanded through the repeated assertion that the mild warming of 0.60K that the Earth experienced on balance through the last century was primarily caused by human activities. My first reaction was to ask, why? How could anybody tell? The warming recorded in the period known as the "Medieval Climatic Optimum" was higher, and that wasn't caused by human activity. And neither was the even greater warming of the Holocene, 6,000 years ago. If those times of warming were the results of natural causes, what reason is there to suppose that the more recent example was any different? How do you distinguish the effects of anything humans do, and what measurable difference, if any, they make to what would have happened anyway?

It turns out that the most reliable means is generally agreed as being the "fingerprint" method, which compares the observed pattern of warming with that calculated from computer models. While agreement wouldn't strictly prove an anthropogenic cause, it would be consistent with it, while a mismatch would argue strongly for natural causes. Climate models all predict that if greenhouse gases are the driving factor, there will be a unique fingerprint in the form of a warming trend increasing with altitude in the tropical troposphere and peaking at around 10 km altitude. Changes due to solar variations or other known natural causes will not yield this pattern.

In fact, satellite and balloon measurements not only fail to show this pattern but yield the opposite. This is clearly shown in the U.S. Climate Change Science Program report issued in April, 2006, and yet the Executive Summary inexplicably claims agreement between observed and calculated patterns, contradicting what the report itself documents. It tries to get around this in the body of the report by suggesting there's something wrong with the balloon and satellite data. Since most people only read Executive Summaries, a widespread wrong impression has been created. More on this in Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, 2008, by S. Fred Singer, ed., Science & Environmental Policy Project, published by the Heartland Institute,www.heartland.org

Another example, I guess, of "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."

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