Response to Al Gore on Global Warming: Do you need to wish away what isn’t proven?

Vice President Al Gore has written a thorough  defense of his global warming theory in Saturday’s New York Times Opinion page, after weeks of assault from those challenging the legitimacy of anthropogenic global warming.  He makes some valid points, and there are certainly places for agreement, and for disagreement.

First off, congratulations to Mr. Gore for admitting the clear faults at the heart of global warming research.  When Dr. R.K. Pachauri (who as chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC) won the Nobel Prize along with Mr. Gore), and scientists at East Anglia University (among the most renowned global warming researchers) are involved with questionable and flawed science, it is important for the scientific community to accept that there are major problems in the system.

However, Mr. Gore clearly underplays the role of the researchers at East Anglia.  In Mr.  Gore’s words, “In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law.”

That is a gross mischaracterization and underrepresentation of what occurred.

What truly occurred is that there was vast (and possibly purposeful?) misinterpretation of the data by the researchers.  This has to some extent been accepted by several of the researchers themselves, including Dr. Phil Jones and Dr. Michael Mann, director of the Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center.  Additionally, as recently as the end of January, when asked for copies of his data, Dr. Jones could provide none.  It is a little suspicious that one of the key climatologists in the world would lose data which, if valid, predicts the possible destruction of humanity.   You would think that kind of information would be important to safeguard.

Jones now states that the current warming trend very well may not be unprecedented.  Not only is their a precedent, but there is a ‘recent’ precedent for current warming; that being the warming during the Middle Ages.  That is within the past millenium (a relative blink of the eye in Earth history).  If the warming is not unprecdented…then how can we scientifically show that it is unique?  We cannot.  In which case, a corollary made between increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and global temperatures can be only a leap of faith, and nothing more, until more science is available.

Additionally, much of the research that went into creating the vaunted ‘hockey stick’ graph of increasing global temperatures has been shown not to only be faulty, but absolutely negligent.

Keith Briffa was the leading scientist in the use of tree rings to calculate global temperatures.  Using Mr. Briffa’s tree-ring techniques, researchers in the ’90s built charts suggesting temperatures in the late 20th century were the highest in a millennium. The charts were dubbed “hockey sticks” because they showed temperatures relatively flat for centuries, then angling higher recently.

Mr. Briffa fretted about a potential issue. Thermometers show temperatures have risen since the ’60s, but tree-ring data don’t move in tandem, and sometimes show the opposite. (Average annual temperatures reached the highest on record in 2005, according to U.S. government data. They fell the next three years, and rose in 2009. All those years remain among the warmest on record.)

In his same 1999 email, Mr. Briffa said tree-ring data overall did show “unusually warm” conditions in recent decades. But, he added, “I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago.”

In other words, maybe the chart shouldn’t resemble a hockey stick.

Mr. Gore asserts that although much humor has been made about the numerous blizzards and snowstorms that the United States has faced this winter, that the increased precipitation is actually a sign of global warming.   There is solid rationale to Gore’s view, in the sense that increased temperature would increase water evaporation thus could increase the chance of precipitation.  However, many of the same climatologists and politicians making the claim that increased snowfall is a sign of global warming (such as Robert Kennedy) were making the exact opposite argument several years ago when we saw winters without snowfalls.  The lack of snowfall, at that time, was also attributed to global warming.  So the question that must be asked is, does that mean that increased and decreased snowfalls mean global warming is happening?  Very convenient for Mr. Gore’s argument.

As for this being the hottest decade since records have been kept, I am willing to accept that.  But records have been kept, at most, for several hundred years…which is, by itself, meaningless in the scope of lifecycle of the earth’s environment.  Mr. Gore then makes an assertion he presents as fact:  “Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures.”

The problem is…the facts have yet to prove this beyond reasonable doubt.

I want to make clear:  I am not a ‘non-believer’ like others on the right.  I am a skeptic, however, like any good scientist should be.  I honestly believe research should go on.  I believe that we simply don’t know either way whether or not man made global warming is occurring.  But the terrible truth that Mr. Gore does not accept is that, frankly, he doesn’t know if man-made warming is occurring either.

There are many geopolitical and environmental reasons to cut carbon dioxide emissions.  However, the cap-and-trade system and the now dead Kyoto Protocol, as currently designed, would be  harmful to our economy and our country, especially considering the current economic recession.  It would be worth the cost if we had some certitude on the science, but we don’t.  And the hubris of the global warming theorists in stating that the rest of us must blindly listen to their science, despite the fraud and outright lying that has now occurred, is absurd en face.

There are better ways to limit carbon emissions.  We should change the way we tax gasoline and automobiles.  We should promote cleaner use of fuels with large tax incentives.  And I would propose a 10 year moratorium on taxes on all green technologies.  In much the way the tax exemption on the internet led to the Clinton economic boom, a tax free zone for green technologies today could promote investment and innovation in a way never seen before.

With the gross falsehoods we have seen throughout the leadership of the anthropogenic global warming movement, any reasonable person must raise doubt to the validity of the science.  There are many of us that are reasonable, and willing to face the challenges in front of us to move to a cleaner and more energy efficient economy.  However, the outright hatred and hubris of the global warming community is not helpful in reaching a grand consensus on this issue, and to move us forward.  And for Mr. Gore to downplay the science that we deem faulty says more about his lack of scientific credentials than ours.