A personal journey of discovery for me has ended today. Whatever skepticism I held about the efficacy of global warming theory has been satisfied by a new study that confirms the broad claims made by climate scientists that the earth is warming and that there is a very strong correlation with human activity that is causing it.
Still to be determined; how much and how fast the earth is warming and what threat this poses to civilization in the near, mid, and distant future.
I began as a believer in AGW theory back in the 1990’s. But as the political agenda of those promoting this theory became more and more evident — anti-capitalist, anti-western, and anti-growth –my skepticism kicked in and I began to pay more attention to the small, but growing group of scientists who dared question orthodoxy. Also contributing to my skepticism was the attitude of most of the climate change community who, rather than countering skeptics with reasoned, rational arguments, began a smear campaign, referring to their opponents as Nazis, equated them with Holocaust deniers, and accused them of being in the pay of big oil and other large corporations. This contributed to the notion that they had something to hide, or that they were guilty of cooking the books in deference to their pet theories.
Gradually, despite the politics being played, the science being challenged, and the refusal of many AGW scientists to grant their critics the normal legitimacy one would expect from those dedicated to the scientific process, my skepticism was melting. This piece at The Week last year gave me much food for thought, as one of the more credible skeptics, Bjorn Lomberg, had changed his mind and now supported AGW theory. Then, more recently, one of the major players in the Climategate affair, Michael Mann, was cleared of wrongdoing by the very well respected National Science Foundation. Mann had also been exonerated by the East Anglia lab whose emails became public in the Climategate matter.
My thinking on global warming had nearly come full circle. But for me, one of the most compelling skeptical arguments that resulted from the Climategate email dump, was that the temperature stations around the world that had contributed data over the last 150 years may have given false, or inaccurate measurements. The arguments in favor of that conclusion were logical, reasoned, and made a lot of sense.
Now a new study, led by a skeptical scientist and funded by the Koch Brothers among other skeptics, has confirmed, through independent analysis of the data, that research done by Mann and Dr. Phil Jones, as well as NASA and NOAA, was remarkably accurate in showing how the earth has warmed. There are now 4 graphs done by 4 different studies that confirm - unequivocally in my opinion — that the earth is warming and that it almost a certainty that it is because of human industrial activity.
The claim was that many stations have registered warming because they are located in or near cities, and those cities have been growing - the urban heat island effect.
The Berkeley group found about 40,000 weather stations around the world whose output has been recorded and stored in digital form.
It developed a new way of analysing the data to plot the global temperature trend over land since 1800.
What came out was a graph remarkably similar to those produced by the world’s three most important and established groups, whose work had been decried as unreliable and shoddy in climate sceptic circles.
“Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK,” said Prof Muller.
“This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.”
Some background on the group who conducted the new study, the Berkeley Earth Project:
The project was established by University of California physics professor Richard Muller, who was concerned by claims that established teams of climate researchers had not been entirely open with their data.
He gathered a team of 10 scientists, mostly physicists, including such luminaries as Saul Perlmutter, winner of this year’s Nobel Physics Prize for research showing the Universe’s expansion is accelerating.
Funding came from a number of sources, including charitable foundations maintained by the Koch brothers, the billionaire US industrialists, who have also donated large sums to organisations lobbying against acceptance of man-made global warming.
“I was deeply concerned that the group [at UEA] had concealed discordant data,” Prof Muller told BBC News.
“Science is best done when the problems with the analysis are candidly shared.”
The key is that the Berkeley group did not use the same method of analysis used by the East Anglia group (NASA and NOAA used similar analytical methods as East Anglia to reach their conclusions). The fact that their conclusions matched the other studies so closely would seem to confirm the accuracy of all the studies.
Though the broad parameters of the problem have now been confirmed to my satisfaction, skepticism is still in order for when scientists make claims that certain phenomenon like hurricanes, or droughts, or other events are the direct result of global warming. That’s not science — it’s politics. And as long as there is a political agenda associated with global warming, these claims will have to be backed up by solid data and analysis, and not simply spouted by rote as if we should swallow everything being promoted by AGW scientists.
Some sneering sot wants an “apology” from skeptics:
Bob Ward, policy and communications director for the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London, said the warming of the Earth’s surface was unequivocal.
“So-called ’sceptics’ should now drop their thoroughly discredited claims that the increase in global average temperature could be attributed to the impact of growing cities,” he said.
“More broadly, this study also proves once again how false it was for ’sceptics’ to allege that the e-mails hacked from UEA proved that the CRU land temperature record had been doctored.
“It is now time for an apology from all those, including US presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who have made false claims that the evidence for global warming has been faked by climate scientists.”
The essence of science is skepticism. Anyone who wants an apology from scientists who were acting like scientists in questioning theories needs to ask the same of the bulk of the physics community for being skeptical about Einstein’s theories, or those who railed against quantum mechanics. I think Ward should be the one apologizing for being so insufferably smug.
There is little doubt that this new study will change few minds in the conservative camp. Most would rather ignore new information that might alter their comfortable assumptions rather than accept what is now obvious. They will attack the messenger (omigod, it’s from BERKELEY!). Or they will posit conspiracy. Or they will reject simply because they are unable to get beyond the epistemic closure that sadly permeates conservative thinking. They will reassure themselves that they are right and everyone else in the world is wrong, telling each other that their false assumptions are still valid because no other information will be allowed to penetrate their closed little circle of right thinking orthodoxy.
For myself, the journey of self discovery continues. For the last 7 years, this blog has allowed me to put down in writing “the velocity” of my thoughts, holding them up to critical examination, and, after comparing my assumptions and conclusions to facts both new and old, adjusting — or not — my beliefs accordingly. It is part of what the philosophers refer to as “an examined life.” It may not fit with current right wing dogma to change one’s mind about anything and everything from the Iraq War to climate change. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s one of the only things that truly makes life worth the bother.