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The Earth has gone through a great deal of NATURAL climate change. To order news anchors to say otherwise throws out basic science and throws out one of the best arguments against the belief that man is causing warming.  (Source: Corbis/Royal BC Museum, British Columbia)

The Earth's climate is incredibly complex and we have a long ways to go before we can fully understand it or accurately predict what effect changes to certain variables will have on it.  (Source: NASA)
I thought this analysis was straight-forward, but it appears that I may not have explained my points ideally...

This week a memo leaked from a top Fox News staffer, ordering employees...
...we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.
Now this memo was leaked by a notoriously liberal-slanted group, Media Matters.  However, that seems largely immaterial as Fox News has not denied the authenticity of this memo, which it likely would have done, had the memo been doctored.  The memo has been reported at the likes of ArsTechnica, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, and The Washington Post.  And yes, I wrote a report on it as well.

Since some people seemed to misunderstand the point I was trying to make, let me reexplain my perspective in further detail, striving for greater clarity. 

First, let me state that I am somewhat skeptical of the notion that man is causing climate change.  I believe that there's a wealth of evidence to show that the climate has naturally and dramatically changed throughout its history.  And there's a lack of definitive evidence that man is indeed somehow "overriding" the Earth's natural cycle and kicking it into a heating one.

In other words, when it comes to global warming, we really don't understand what's going on.  And "trends" are statistics, so we don't know whether the heating in recent years will continue unabated (in fact, some evidence point to recent cooling trends). 

All of this is significant because the nation is contemplating costly legislation that would place what some estimate to be trillions in debt on the backs of the American people.  Now granted, those are estimates from conservatives who have shown themselves, much like anthropogenic warming advocates, to be less than scrupulous in trying to prove their point.  But at the end of the day, most would agree that the cost of a carbon credits scheme would be quite high.

So those who somehow thought I was attacking AGW skepticism clearly misunderstood me.

I did however try to convey how illogical this particular edict -- "we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period" -- was.

There is virtually sound-proof geological, chemical, and paleontological evidence that the Earth has gone through numerous cool periods.  To suggest otherwise is lunacy.  Further, it's somewhat comical considering that the fact that climate has warmed and cooled over many periods is a key argument against the notion that man is affecting some sort of unique change on our planet.

My point I tried to raise was that Fox News (or at least its editor) became so blind in their pursuit of disproving warming, that they ordered their employees, at least at face value, to abandon basic science.  And it doing so they're doing a disservice to climate skeptics everywhere.

As I said, this is an issue that needs unbiased, peer-reviewed research.  But I think that people are increasingly treating climatology like politics, and dirty politics at that.  Science is being thrown under the bus in the rush to be out-point the other side.  And that bothers me, as someone who has bother participated in research and written on a great deal of scientific topics.

When I first started writing for DailyTech, I took a collection of studies from U.S. agencies like the NOAA and NASA as the end all, without objectively evaluating which of their conclusions made sense.  Perhaps that was reasonable to do -- as a reporter.  But as I've increasingly become a news analyst, as well, I've been forced to think more on this topic and reevaluate my stance. 

The Earth has changed a great deal over time, so it's arrogant to assume any change that's currently occurring is due to us.  Carbon levels may be going up, but exactly how much that is influencing warming versus a host of other factors remains to be seen.  Further, as my colleague Michael Asher pointed out on numerous an occasion, a little warming might have some benefits.

But again, I think ultimately climatology research -- assuming it becomes more unbiased -- is still a critical and worthwhile investment because at some point in the future -- perhaps 200 years, perhaps 1,000 years -- mankind will have the power to fully understand the Earth climate -- and perhaps discover ways to control it to its advantage.  Much like space flight or nanotechnology, this is a key arena for progress, looking ahead.

On the other hand, the Fox News memo and many other recent incidents by skeptics and warming "believers" alike illustrate the dangerous politicization of what should be a scientific topic.  That dangerous trend is ultimately fueled by the quest for money on both sides of the debate.  What is desperately needed is for the government and media to look at individual climate studies and cover their conclusions, taking care so as not exaggerate them. 

The same goes for climate skeptics.  By all means, point out studies that support alternative viewpoints or flaws in existing studies.  But avoid making blanket generalizations -- especially misinforming and scientifically inaccurate ones like Fox News did, surely in an attempt to cater to its partisan audience.


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Question for Jason (or other skeptics of ACC)
By bollwerk on 12/20/2010 6:00:28 PM , Rating: 2
I have one simple question, that I can never seem to get a logical answer from when I ask skeptics.

How do you know who to believe, when you are not an expert in the subject matter?

For example, here is a recent study showing that 97+% of actively publishing climate scientists are in agreement about man's effect on climate change. - http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/10031...
-----quote-----
Although preliminary estimates from published literature and expert surveys suggest striking agreement among climate scientists on the tenets of anthropogenic climate change (ACC), the American public expresses substantial doubt about both the anthropogenic cause and the level of scientific agreement underpinning ACC. A broad analysis of the climate scientist community itself, the distribution of credibility of dissenting researchers relative to agreeing researchers, and the level of agreement among top climate experts has not been conducted and would inform future ACC discussions. Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that (i) 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.
---- end quote-----
I'm not a climate scientist, nor are most of the general public. Therefore, how do we know who to believe on any scientific subject? Most people tent to trust in the majority of the experts, when there is a clear majority. Consider the medical field. Why do you trust a doctor to diagnose and treat an illness?




RE: Question for Jason (or other skeptics of ACC)
By phanmc on 12/21/2010 8:40:26 PM , Rating: 2
It's not uncommon for people to ask for a second or even a third opinion for issues like medical operations or car repair. How do you know which opinion to trust? I look for the opinion that is most open and transparent. The doctor that will give me all of the options and the risks/advantages to them.

There is a serious issue with transparency with climatology right now. Scientists refusing to release data so others can reproduce or double-check their findings. Scientists attempting to corrupt the peer review process. Scientists trying to suppress dissenting views. These things do not promote trust for the experts.

Put all the data out there and allow others to reach their own conclusions. If your data and hypothesis is correct, they should reach the same conclusions. The data may be incomprehensible to the general populace and there are bound to be some with the wrong conclusions but bad ideas will eventually be filtered out under scrutiny.

Simply having faith in the experts alone is just that, faith and not science.


RE: Question for Jason (or other skeptics of ACC)
By bollwerk on 12/22/2010 12:17:52 PM , Rating: 1
I understand the need for 2nd and 3rd opinions. In the case of climate science, of those who are actively publishing, we have well over 1000 opinions and 97% of them are of the opinion that man has some effect on changing the climate.

I see no evidence of this lack of transparency you claim. Please provide some evidence of this.
Nor have I seen any evidence of widespread attempts to corrupt the peer review process. Same with refusing to release data, etc.

The fact that most (if not all) Acadamies of Science around the world also endorse the consensus carries a great deal of weight as well.

Or do you think there is some massive, worldwide conspiracy to deceive the public on this?


RE: Question for Jason (or other skeptics of ACC)
By Keeir on 12/22/2010 4:33:28 PM , Rating: 2
Hello Bollwerk,

That was a nice sophistic question there in your OP.

For example, you seem to feel "97%" of opinions on climate change point that man has "some effect" of unquantified magnitude. My question is then, have you read 1,000+ peer reviewed climate papers? How many of these 970+ papers had made making significant negative effects on climate? Do they identify the source for mankind's affect on climate? When it gets right down to it, each and every species of plant, animal, bacteria, etc have an effect on the climate. Earth's oxygen and the subsquent climatic shifts this created are the result of life forms.

As for "proof" of lack of transparency and the "corruption" of the peer review process. One needs look no further than the "Hockey Stick" incident, http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/McKitric...

"Or do you think there is some massive, worldwide conspiracy to deceive the public on this?"

Yes and no. One needs to keep in mind that the majority of the public recieves information through the filtered sources of various media outlets. Outlets that have after all been led astray in the past.. outlet who have a vested interest in panic and headlines
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&...

Science has multiple componets. There is what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. I am very skeptical of anyone who looks at what -is- happening and claims to know what -will- happen without being able to explain what -has- happened. To my knowledge, there is not a valid model or theory (tested hypothesis) that explains temperature variations from 1850-1950. Yet, we are to use these models and theories to predict what will happen? Has anyone explained cause and effect of the Medi. warming period?

The truth is that climate science really has no conext to understand what -has- happened or what -is- happening. Its seems like a big stretch to assume they will know for certain what -will- happen... at least to the level of commitement that is being asked.


By bollwerk on 12/23/2010 1:08:54 PM , Rating: 1
Why was my question sophistic? It seems quite straight forward to me. I don't see how I'm trying to deceive people with my question about how to know who to trust.

Based on your first paragraph after that statement, you seem to either completely misunderstand me and/or didn't read the study I linked in my OP. I was pointing out that 97+% of the most qualified experts in the field agree on ACC. Your further comments about all life on earth having an effect on climate shows a willful lack of understanding at even the most basic level of this issue. If you are not going to make an honest effort to understand both sides of the argument, then it is a waste of time to debate.

As for the "hockey stick" incident - you link a paper by an economist. Seriously? You're going to take the word of an economist over the vast majority of climate scientists on the subject of climate science? Would you go to a plumber to get treatment for cancer?

For further reading about the hockey stick controversy - http://www.skepticalscience.com/broken-hockey-stic...

You are exactly right about how the public receives information through filtered media. This is why it is important to go straight to the source. In this case, it is the climate scientists, especially those who are actively publishing.

Regarding the medieval warm period - http://www.skepticalscience.com/medieval-warm-peri...
Firstly, evidence suggests that the Medieval Warm Period was in fact warmer than today in many parts of the globe such as in the North Atlantic. This warming thereby allowed Vikings to travel further north than had been previously possible because of reductions in sea ice and land ice in the Arctic. However, evidence also suggests that some places were very much cooler than today including the tropical pacific. All in all, when the warm places are averaged out with the cool places, it becomes clear that the overall warmth was likely similar to early to mid 20th century warming. Since that early century warming, temperatures have risen well-beyond those achieved during the Medieval Warm Period across most of the Globe. This has been confirmed by the National Academy of Sciences Report on Climate Reconstructions. Further evidence (Figure 1) suggests that even in the Northern Hemisphere where the Medieval Warm Period was the most visible, temperatures are now beyond those experienced during Medieval times.

Secondly, the Medieval Warm Period has known causes which explain both the scale of the warmth and the pattern. It has now become clear to scientists that the Medieval Warm Period occurred during a time which had higher than average solar radiation and less volcanic activity (both resulting in warming). New evidence is also suggesting that changes in ocean circulation patterns played a very important role in bringing warmer seawater into the North Atlantic. This explains much of the extraordinary warmth in that region. These causes of warming contrast significantly with today's warming, which we know cannot be caused by the same mechanisms.


RE: Question for Jason (or other skeptics of ACC)
By phanmc on 12/22/2010 6:16:59 PM , Rating: 2
Here's an example of withholding data:

http://climateaudit.org/2009/11/25/willis-eschenba...

Here's an example of sending data to one party while withholding the data from the dissenting party:

http://climateaudit.org/2010/01/01/sent-loads-of-s...

The site Climate Audit has a pretty extensive blog list of issues they have encountered dealing with certain climate scientists and science magazines. Alot of their blog posts are very technical but you can get the gist of what they have to go through.


By bollwerk on 12/23/2010 1:38:42 PM , Rating: 2
Regarding the withholding of data - http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climategate-freedo...
The 2 points I took away from this were:
1) Many of the requests were purportedly part of an organized "Storm" of requests, which led some to believe that the majority were either inappropriate or frivolous. This may or may not be true, but isn't evidence of widespread wrongdoing.
2) It is very unlikely that the conclusions of the scientific community could have been influenced by the behavior of these few individuals — because the entire work of CRU comprises only a small part of the large body of evidence for anthropogenic global warming.

Your 2nd link also deals with CRU, which as I stated above is a small part of the large body of work. Also, the most comprehensive independent review of "Climategate" had this to say:

So when put into the proper context, what do these emails actually reveal about the behaviour of the CRU scientists? The report concluded (its emphasis):

Climate science is a matter of such global importance, that the highest standards of honesty, rigour, and openness are needed in its conduct. On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.

In addition, we do not find that their behaviour has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.

But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness , both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the part of the UEA, who failed to recognize not only the significance of statutory requirements but also the risk to the reputation of the University and indeed, to the credibility of UK climate science. [1.3]

For further reading - http://www.skepticalscience.com/fake-scandal-Clima...
http://www.factcheck.org/2009/12/climategate/

One other thing to keep in mind - climateaudit.org is run by a former mining company consultant.

Again I ask, how do you know who to believe? If both sides can make convincing arguments and you yourself are not an expert on the subject, who do you trust and why?


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