Note: the following was submitted to the Virginian Pilot as a guest editorial. They chose not to print this one. It only guest editorial I have submitted that they chose not to run. I guess the debate is over at the Pilot.
“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” – Richard Feynman
NASA astronomer James Hansen first used the term ‘Deniers’ to describe those who questioned the orthodox view of global warming in 2006 in a transparent attempt to smear skeptics by associating them with Neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers, going so far as to suggest that scientists and officials who disagreed with the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming be tried in Nuremberg style trials for crimes against humanity. Such is the civility of the climate debate.
There are very few who actually deny that the climate is changing or that man has some effect on it. But there are many of us who are skeptical of the claims made by Hansen and others who predict catastrophic consequences to fossil fuel use. It is the nature of skeptics that we do not all have the same doubts, but in general, skeptics believe that, the human contribution to warming over the last century is small and superimposed on a larger, cyclical change over which we have no control. We believe the sensitivity of the climate to increases on CO2 is far less than estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) and that it is diminishing as its limits are reached. We do not believe CO2 is capable of producing catastrophic climate change and that there is an inherent stability in nature that limits change. Most skeptics also argue that the benefits of a moderate increase in average temperature outweigh the harm. There are further benefits due to CO2 fertilization.
Claims of impending doom are advocacy, not supported by science.
Why such distrust of the climatologists in the IPCC and East Anglia Climate Research Unit(CRU?) Well, for most skeptics, it’s the same reason a policeman is suspicious of a person who runs away when they arrive. It’s not proof of guilt, but it is reason to take a closer look.
I first became suspicious when I saw the 1996 version of the Hockey Stick Graph, which started at 1400AD. That was the depth of the well documented Little Ice Age. Had the graph started at 1000AD or before, it would have included the Medieval Warm Period, also well documented by archeologists. Choosing 1400AD was clearly an act of deception, and knowing I was being lied to, I started digging deeper. For professional statisticians Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, it was claims of precision in paleoclimate reconstructions they knew were not possible with the data available. Across the world, scientifically literate non-climatologists smelled a rat.
The IPCC employs a unique method for publishing its assessments. Its scientists from the three Working Groups (physical science, likely impacts, and policy recommendations) present a secret final draft of their findings, then a Summary for Policymakers is negotiated by United Nations bureaucrats representing all member nations, most of whom are not scientists at all. The Working Group reports are then rewritten to conform to the negotiated Summary(really, I’m not making that up.)
At one time, contrary views could be suppressed by the IPCC and CRU and by control of the allocation of public research funding, but this is the age of the blog, and at least so far, the Internet cannot be suppressed. Steve McIntyre blogged primarily on statistical issues at ClimateAudit.org making the statistical deficiencies understandable to non-statisticians. WattsUpWithThat.com and ClimateDepot.com aggregate commentary from across the web. There are dozens of others, sharing information which has been withheld in the IPCC reports and providing critical commentary on mainstream articles and IPCC proceedings.
The recently released Summary for Policy Makers for Working Group II again differs greatly from the secret final draft submitted by scientists (and leaked to skeptic blogs.) At least one of the original authors, Dr. Richard Tol, has demanded his name be removed from the final product as it misrepresents the Working Group’s findings.
In the face of such deception, how can one not be a skeptic?