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There is abundant data supporting the theory that our world is warming, such as the increase in melts in the glaciers of Greenland, such as the one shown here. However, when considering this data, and studies which support or oppose the view that man is causing warming it is desirable to examine dissenting opinions and avoid overreaching conclusions and sensationalism.
Two of DailyTech's most active writers offer up differing views on the state of global warming research and press

When I first started writing on global warming here at DailyTech, I wrote much in the style I saw at rival news sites like CNN.com and BBCNews.com.  However, in the days since my articles on global warming have grown scarcer and, in my opinion, more considered.

You see, there is an alarming trend in the coverage of global warming which I have witnessed -- one that goes both ways.  Perhaps proponents that global warming is increasing and is anthropogenic (manmade) are indeed who launched this trend.  Regardless, there are many articles which litter the news citing doomsday observations about global warming from sea level rises, to storms and droughts.

A lot of the problem, as I see it, is not so much the material behind these articles itself, which certainly has scientific merit, but rather the context that it's provided in.  Global warming commercial press is overwhelming extremist -- whether for or against.  For proponents, this means drawing sweeping conclusions from select climatological events and writing dire doomsday predictions.

For skeptics, writing has come to an equal extreme.  I've seen articles, including from my fellow debate partner Michael Asher, suggesting global cooling could be the next big problem.  Headlines in particular tend to be equally sensational, indicating that hoards of major scientists are forsaking global warming and that trends are sharply reversing.  Again, these studies cite data, but place it in an extremist context -- in this case denialist.

In the end, though, I can only be my own worst critic.  I promised Mike Asher a piece if the North Pole ice cap did not melt, as some news sites suggested and I blogged on.  It didn't melt -- which really doesn't say much about whether global warming is occurring or not.  However, it did help me to see the sadly extremist and unscientific state of climate writing on both sides of the aisle.

The truth of the matter, which any honest climatologist would tell you, is that we just don't know yet.  Many believe there is solid data that a great deal of the Earth has been warming slightly over the last couple decades, but the exact reason why is still unknown.  There's an abundance of theory about what might be causing it, but much research remains to be done.  There also have been telltale signs that there has been some cooling this year, but again, this needs to be viewed in a broader context.

In the end, what people need to realize is just because it isn't the end of the world doesn't mean that global warming might not be happening.  And whether it is or isn't; understanding and analytically examining our planet's climate is an endeavor worth devoting time, money, and some of the world's brightest brains to.  Likewise, "environmental" initiatives like species conservation, land protection, fuel efficient vehicles, and alternative energy are good ideas with or without AGW beliefs. 

It’s been an interesting year, and it the coming year to follow, I suggest that readers following the warming debate take into consideration both sides of the issue, even if you agree more with one.  I am encouraged to see a trend here at DailyTech to provide a more balanced perspective, citing diverging opinions and putting things in a more scientific and less sensational context.  I feel that I have seen this in both some of my recent pieces, and in some of Michael's, such as his excellent article on the decrease in sea level rise this year.  I hope we both strive to continue this trend and continue to provide the best diverse coverage for our readers, and that the readership continues to provide both of us the feedback we find so valuable.



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RE: Question
By Murphant on 1/5/2009 3:14:25 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you Jason for writing this article, I was getting quite tired of DailyTech's one-sidedness with Asher's blog posts. I consider I am an AGW believer myself (I'l explain the "believer" part later) but I value truth more than being right, which I why I bother to read other opinions. I agree with Apprentice's post that said that parts of data tend to be handpicked to support one opinion or another. For example, in the previously posted link http://www.norcalblogs.com/watts/2007/08/1998_no_l... it was reasoned that since 1998 is no longer the hottest year on record and there was a bug in the programming, which I indeed believe there was, many arguments in favor of the existence of global warming are no longer valid. Although I found the article generally to favor denial of AGW, I pause here to applaud how mild that bias was in the article. Had the the author been a supporter of AGW however, assuming that he would have reported that data, he also would have pointed out that a quick look at the data http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.D.txt shows a pretty clear trend towards warming, which would be much clearer if both the temperature and the 5 year mean were plotted on a graph. That bring me to my point: I find it is always a better indicative of truth to look directly at all of the data (measurements) from a particular source, assuming that the source isn't particularly biased. I believe that for most subjects, taking only a subset of the available measures and interpreting them (eg the hottest years, the coldest years, etc.) is not sufficient to answer the global question.

It is often quite easy to take a subset of data and make it say what you want. For example, my roommate was reading Dawkin's The God Delusion and gave me this quote that actually comes from Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation "Of the twenty-five cities with the lowest rate of violent crime, 62 percent are "blue" [Democrat] states, and 38 percent are in "red" [Republican] states. Of the twenty five most dangerous cities, 76 percent are in red states, 24 percent are in blue states. In fact, three of the five most dangerous cities in the U.S. are in the pious state of Texas. The twelve states with the highest rate of burglary are red. Twenty-four of the twenty-nine states with the highest rates of theft are red. Of the twenty-two states with the highest rates of murder, seventeen are red." Dawkins uses these (partial) statistics without linking to the original ones or the source of the study to argue that religious people are more violent and commit more crimes. There are however too many flaws in that reasoning for me to count on my hands and I firmly believe that I could construct a set of data with all the aforementioned proprieties that could clearly indicate that "blue" states commit more crimes. My point here is not to start a debate on religion but just to show how far taking partial results and interpreting them can be misleading. I believe NASA to be a reasonably objective source and by reading their data, I would argue that it weakly supports GW, although not as extremely as its skewed version did.

I said earlier that I would clarify what I meant by "believe" and that is that I'm afraid my education and upbringing did not only consist of reading scientific papers and interpreting data, and I have parents and friends and teachers that for the most part support AGW and so I grew up to believe indeed just that. Even if it had not been the case and I was brought up on scientific papers, I would have had to make a certain interpretation of this data, and some factors (such as the neutrality of a source) are just not exactly quantifiable. Beliefs, however, are not immovable and the reason I seek various sources and try to read all the data is to move that belief as close as possible to the truth.

Oh, and I found the quote at the bottom of the page quite funny. I wonder what percentage of his public actually went and checked the source.


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