Yet Another Hottest Year on Record?
The people selling global warming have been at it for more than 20 years. For the last 18 years, on good authority, the Earth hasn't warmed. It doesn't seem to matter. The promoters of global warming are defending their turf, economic and ideological. They dismiss or deny the lack of warming, making up science as they go.
President Eisenhower, in his farewell address, put his finger on part of the problem. When science is funded by the government, it becomes less scientific and more political. Around 1970, scientists as incorruptible seekers of truth gave way to scientists as political bosses collecting grants from the government. Scientific organizations, such as the National Academies of Science, vigorously defend the financial interest of the science establishment while posing as high-minded seekers of truth. For an insider's view, read Professor Lindzen's essay on the corruption of climate science.
It is not practicable to power the country with windmills and solar energy. But the manufacturers of these things eagerly support global warming alarmism. A substantial part of the corn crop is wasted by mandating the production of ethanol, for global warming reasons. The ethanol industry draws political support from the corn belt.
In California, politically powerful eco-romantics are putting thousands of people out of work and bankrupting farmers in order to dump millions of acre-feet of water into the ocean for the benefit of a fish.
The romantic eco-left consists of upper-middle-class people who can't put two and two together when it comes to economics or science. They just assume that water will come out of their faucets and electricity out of their outlets. These people love global warming because it provides a story that allows them to pursue their bizarre, anti-modern goals under the guise of saving the world.
Since science is no longer scientific, but political, global warming belief breaks down along political lines. The Democrats believe, and the Republicans are skeptical. Neither party pays much attention to the scientific facts. The facts can be hard to ascertain amid the barrage of propaganda. The president's science adviser, John Holdren, is not a scientist, but a longtime operator in the business of promoting eco-scares. His job is to rally support from allies of the Democratic Party that work the eco-scare sector.
The promoters of global warming are not entirely without standards. The scientists don't blatantly make things up or claim that established scientific principles are to be ignored. They think up scientific excuses and reasons as to why global warming must be true. It's hard to know if this is lying, unconscious lying, selective amnesia, confirmation bias, or failing to think things through. Many scientists just keep quiet concerning global warming. They know that if they criticize global warming theories, they may lose their jobs or be otherwise marginalized.
The hysterical groups, like the Sierra Club, have low standards. They feel free to make things up, or perhaps they don't even realize that they are making things up. The Sierra club's "beyond coal campaign" claims that children's brains will be damaged if they live near plants burning coal.
The 2004 book Strategic Ignorance was written by the executive director and the house magazine editor of the Sierra Club. The book has a cover photo selected to make president Bush look dumb. From page 160 of Strategic Ignorance:
[T]he science is, in fact, settled. Greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and certain other atmospheric chemicals – absorb heat from the sun during the day and do not re-radiate it at night[.]
This is scientific gibberish. Greenhouse gases primarily absorb infrared radiation (heat radiation) emitted from the Earth, not the Sun. They absorb and re-radiate infrared radiation all the time, day and night. The highly influential Sierra Club, with a budget of $100 million, promotes global warming and the destruction of the coal industry, but its leaders have no conception of elementary science concerning the subject they promote with the intention of saving the Earth. Apparently, they don't even bother to have a scientist read their manuscript before publishing it. Why should they? They are engaged in a political quest, not science.
To support the claim that the Earth has not warmed in 18 years, it is necessary to use a global temperature data set. I consider the satellite lower troposphere temperatures to be the most reliable and least contaminated by politics, because the data is generated by two distinct groups. One group, at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, is manned by global warming skeptics. The other group, the Remote Sensing Corporation in California, is manned by scientists who go along with global warming. That both groups agree on global temperature, in spite of being on opposite sides of the issue politically, is a sign that actual science is taking place. There are also scientific reasons for favoring satellite temperature derived from measuring microwave radiation given off by oxygen in the atmosphere.
The graph shows global temperature change since 1997 as calculated by the two science groups. The trend line is flat for the last 18 or 19 years. That is 18 years with no global warming, while CO2 in the atmosphere increased. In order to understand this graph, it is important to realize that "hottest year," meaning hottest calendar year, is an unscientific concept. Nature does not use our calendar. It does make sense to average global temperature over a year, because a year is a natural climatic cycle. However, ending the year on December 31 is arbitrary. To do this right, you have to use a one-year running average and look at years ending at any time. Each point on the graph is a one-year average of temperature.
According to the graph, the hottest year since 1997 is the year centered on 1998.33. Fractional years are expressed as decimal fractions rather than months. The second hottest year is the year centered at 2010.16. The large excursions are the result of the well-known El Niño and La Niña cycles in the tropical pacific ocean.
NASA constantly makes press releases saying that this year or that year is the hottest on record. Their record goes back only to 1880, but it is quite certain, according to temperature proxies such as ice cores, that there are times in the last 10,000 years when the globe was hotter than today.
There has been a general global warming trend since before 1880. The warming trend predates increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. Given the long-term warming trend, it is not surprising that the hottest year in the last 20 years will also be the hottest year since 1880. NASA uses the less reliable and highly "adjusted" surface temperature data to support its hottest year propaganda. NASA also uses the unscientific calendar year rather than a running one-year average.
The lack of warming for nearly 20 years is powerful evidence that something is wrong with the CO2 theory of global warming. Rather than re-evaluate the theory and admit that the computer models don't represent reality, the global warming establishment weaves and dodges. The influence of the CO2 warming theory built into computer models is so strong that the climate science establishment does not believe the data until the data has been manipulated to agree with the computer models. No informed observer doubts that CO2 added to the atmosphere will cause warming. The question is how much. The evidence suggests that the effect of CO2 is small and that the doomsday scare scenarios are wildly speculative.
There are many excuses for the lack of warming. Heat must be hiding in the deep ocean. The lack of warming must be temporary. The real problem is that the science community fails to give objective advice because it is self-interested. Without objective science advice, it is very hard to distinguish sense from nonsense. Without global warming, segments of the science community would lose prestige and funding.
The promoters of global warming fear ignore the great agricultural benefits of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Increased CO2 promotes plant growth and has generated billions of dollars of increased agricultural production in the last 50 years.
Norman Rogers is a senior policy adviser for the Heartland Institute. He is a member of the advisory board of the CO2 Coalition. He maintains a website.