Saturday, December 12, 2009

Global Warming Questions

The following article is from Kairos Journal:

Nagging Doubts over Global Warming

Despite the recent “Climategate” controversy,1 most of the media has decided that global warming is a fact—and that it is caused by man. Confident and indignant variations on this theme are everywhere: The 2007 American Academy Award for best documentary went to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth;2 and Gore subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts;3 Columnist Ellen Goodman insists, “Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers”;4 Meanwhile, the staff of The Nation magazine is advertising a cruise to “See Alaska’s glaciers before they’re gone.”5 Nevertheless, reports of the demise of scientific debate on this matter are greatly exaggerated. Week by week, responsible, dissenting voices can be heard, along with reports that should give supremely-confident global-warming partisans pause.

Some question the very existence of a long-term crisis, pointing to recalcitrant data. For instance, in March 2007, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported, “The average temperature in February 2007 was 32.9 F. This was -1.8 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average, the 34th coolest February in 113 years.”6 Others poke holes in the notion that broad scientific consensus ensures truth: In a February 19, 2007, op-ed piece for the Washington Times, Georgia Congressman John Linder recounted instances of “herd mentality” among scientists, the sort that once led to widespread enthusiasm for eugenics. He also noted the turnabout from agreement in the mid-1970s that global cooling was the threat (cf. Time magazine’s “Another Ice Age?” in 1974 and Newsweek’s “The Cooling World” in 1975).7

Of course, dissidence can have its costs: February 8, 2007, television KGW reported that Oregon’s governor was trying to have the state climatologist stripped of his title since the scientist, Oregon State University’s George Taylor, expressed doubts that human activity caused warming. Taylor attributed temperature changes to natural cycles.8 Still, there are scientists who refuse to be quiet, and their contrary views keep surfacing. Even those who believe in troublesome warming differ on causes.

In a February 11, 2007, piece for the The Sunday Times of London, former New Scientist editor, Nigel Calder discussed a new book attributing climate change to cloud patterns generated by cosmic ray bombardment from exploding stars.9 Then, on February 28, 2007, National Geographic News reported that a Russian scientist believed global warming was due to the sun’s activity and not human pollution. He based this theory on the fact that Mars’ ice cap is melting, without any influence from the burning of fossil fuels.10

Particularly provocative was the March 8, 2007, U.K.’s Channel 4 television broadcast of a documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle.11 Though environmentalists have taken exception to the broadcast,12 the program featured genuine dissent by serious scientists—from the Pasteur Institute, the Danish National Space Center, M.I.T., and the Universities of London, Jerusalem, Virginia, Ottawa, and Winnipeg—all questioning links between climate change and human activity. Some of the contributors discounted the popular causes for alarm (e.g. Professor Syun-Ichi Akasofu, director of the International Arctic Research Center, compared the periodic collapse of glacial ice fronts into the sea to the natural and regular falling of leaves in autumn). Others traced warming and cooling to sun spots and bemoaned the way in which political and economic agendas have skewed or stifled inquiry and discourse.

Of course, none of these items proves that global warming is illusory or independent of human deeds. But surely they suggest that, even if temperatures are on a persistent though gradual upward trend, the causes and responses are debatable.


1 “The Tip of the Climate Iceberg,” Wall Street Journal Website, December 8, 2009, (accessed December 9, 2009). To see more on this story, see The Guardian Website, (accessed December 9, 2009).
2 Al Gore, “Acceptance Speech: An Inconvenient Truth” (speech at the seventy-ninth Academy Awards, February 25, 2007), Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Website, (accessed April 3, 2007).
3 Nevertheless, British High Court Judge Michael Burton found nine significant errors in the film and ruled that it should not be shown to British school children without “teacher guidance notes balancing Gore's ‘one-sided views.’” Michael Dobbs, “An Inconvenient Truth for Al Gore,” Washington Post, (accessed January 19, 2008).
4 Ellen Goodman, “No Change in Political Climate,” Boston Globe, February 9, 2007, (accessed April 3, 2007).
5 Advertisement in The New York Review of Books, March 15, 2007, 55.
6 “United States Climate Summary, February 2007,” National Environmental Satellite Data, and Information Service Website, March 6, 2007, (accessed April 3, 2007).
7 John Linder, “Global Warming Theory and the Eugenics Precedent,” Washington Times, February 19, 2007, (accessed April 3, 2007).
8 Vince Patton, “Global Warming Debate Stirs Ore. Title Tiff,” KGW-TV Website, February 8, 2007, (accessed April 3, 2007).
9 Nigel Calder, “An Experiment that Hints We Are Wrong on Climate Change,” The Sunday Times, February 11, 2007, (accessed April 3, 2007).
10 Kate Ravilious, “Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says,” National Geographic News, February 28, 2007, (accessed April 3, 2007).
11 See program notes, “The Great Global Warming Swindle,” Channel 4 Website, March 8, 2007, (accessed April 23, 2007).
12 See a critique of the program by the president of the John Ray Initiative, John Houghton, “Review: The Great Global Warming Swindle,” John Ray Initiative Website, (accessed April 3, 2007). Also, the counter-video by a lecturer of GeoScience at the University of Edinburgh, Chris Merchant, “The Scam of ‘The Great Global Warming Scandal,’” Google Video, (accessed April 3, 2007).

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