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Science

Climate Data Re-examined (updated) 784

Posted by Hemos
from the rexaimining-the-data dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An important paper that re-examines historical climate data was published on 28 October in the respected journal Energy & Environment. (The paper is also available here.) According to an article in Canada's National Post, the paper shows that a "pillar of the Kyoto Accord is based on false calculations, incorrect data and an overtly biased selection of climate records." (USA Today also has a story.) This paper will undoubtedly be controversial and should stir a vigourous data review." Update: 11/05 14:54 GMT by T : newyhouse points out a similarly contrarian 2001 Economist article by Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist .
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Climate Data Re-examined (updated)

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  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:22AM (#7394482) Journal
    Nooooooo!
    • Nooooooooo....

      I believe we're still waiting for the documents relating to the oil companies' 'consultations' with Archduke Cheney over energy policy, aren't we?

      Why do people think environmentalists would be biased, anyway? What are they biased towards? Not dying? Is there some secret Globex-EnviroCorporation Inc in which all tree hugging hippies have undisclosed shares? Or is it possible that they simply understand the value of erring on the side of caution when the stakes are so high?

      I love it that peop
      • by binaryDigit (557647) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @06:46AM (#7394873)
        Why do people think environmentalists would be biased, anyway? What are they biased towards? Not dying? Is there some secret Globex-EnviroCorporation Inc in which all tree hugging hippies have undisclosed shares? Or is it possible that they simply understand the value of erring on the side of caution when the stakes are so high?

        No, they have an agenda. They have a belief that they feel strongly about, and they want others to either believe it too, or at least be held to the constraints that those beliefs create. This is every bit as greedy has having that "belief" be that my bank account should be the biggest or that Globex-MegaCorp's belief that their balance sheet is the most important thing in the world. Remember, having what one thinks in ones brain is a "good" motive does not justify acts that potentially harm (physically, financially, or otherwise) others.

        Can't you see that the logical way to be skeptical about it is to assume that the warning signs mean something significant until you can be sure they don't? Otherwise you're acting like someone with half the symptoms of cancer who wants to wait until they have them all before getting it checked out. After all, you can never be sure so better to do nothing, eh?

        Or like getting chemo just because you found a bump on your arm? A situation where the "cure" can be worse than the perceived disease? Shall we have put all AIDS patience on an island, after all, better to be safe than sorry right? The problem with your statement is that you're ignoring the fact that there is a gray area. The problem is that the signs are far from "obvious" and the actions being taken are truely massive in scale and affect the lives of millions. So it is something that warrants careful study, and re-study, and checks and balances to come about to a proper conclusion (or as close as you can reasonbly get).

        Don't worry, go ahead and doubt environmentalists. I'm sure businessmen whose entire job is making profits for their own companies are *much* more reliable at telling you what the state of the environment is.

        Funny you say that when the article mentions NOTHING about any business being involved in the contradicting studies. As far as I can see, YOU'RE the only one even mentioning business or the profit motive into this equation. I would say that anyone completely believing in EITHER side is just as bad as anyone completely believing in the OTHER side.
        • by Tau Zero (75868) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @08:16AM (#7395371) Journal
          Now, I'm not a climate researcher. But I do know that there's a lot of spectacular evidence supporting the claim that global warming exists and is accelerating, and a pretty firm body of theory rooted in physics to show how it occurs. I don't see how you can dismiss things like the retreat of glaciers around much of the globe (to sizes unprecedented in history or the recent archaeological record) and claim that nothing is going on.
          No, they have an agenda. They have a belief that they feel strongly about, and they want others to either believe it too, or at least be held to the constraints that those beliefs create.
          That's like claiming that people who oppose promiscuity because it spreads AIDS are puritanical, or people who promote condoms to prevent AIDS are libertines because condoms make promiscuity relatively safe. Both arguments are fallacious.
          The problem with your statement is that you're ignoring the fact that there is a gray area.
          The problem with yours is that there are other costs to fossil fuels. Coal, for example, puts enough mercury into the environment that it's unsafe for people to eat fish steadily in my state. Becoming more efficient can often be done at a negative cost, completely aside from pollution or climate considerations. Then there is the net present value of the (uncertain and climbing) future cost of many fuels, including natural gas. If there is a gray area, it starts at a much lower level of energy consumption than we have today; the purely economic arguments for cutting back a good ways are solid without even thinking about climate change.
          Funny you say that when the article mentions NOTHING about any business being involved in the contradicting studies.
          University of Guelph. One of Canada's biggest exports is energy, mostly from the province of Alberta. The value of several large corporations could evaporate if e.g. the tar sands were regarded as too polluting to exploit. Corporations have lobbyists, their employees vote their personal interests. You do the math.
          • by JWW (79176) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @10:28AM (#7396491)
            Enough clear evidence? You're kidding, right?

            Geologically we know for a fact that Ice Ages have occured off and on in the last few million years. Every Ice Age involves substancial global cooling and then substancial global warming to come out of. The last Ice Age was only tens of thousands of years ago, which a rather small number when talking about geological time. It may be that we just have not reached the peak temperature after coming out of an Ice Age.

            I think its amazing how much credit we give ourselves on our impact on the climate. While I agree that cleaner fuels, and more importantly power generation are good things. Our impact is still insignificant on many levels. Just one volcano can have more climactic impact than all the people on earth. Yellowstone's caldera volcano, if (or when) it erupts again will have more impact on the climate than mankind has had throughout the entire industrial age.

            We should minimize our impact on the environment, but we could well find that the climate is just doing whatever it wants and we are exaggerating in the extreme what we can do about it.

            Hell, we're currently perplexed at what the sun is doing right now and its the root cause of all global warming.

            • Its amazing how many people cite volcanoes when dismissing human influence on the climate.

              Yes, a single volcano (Pinatubo for example) can cause global scale cooling by throwing particulates into the atmosphere. Then the particulates settle out, and in a year or two temperatures return to normal.

              This is compared with CO2, which lasts 100+ years in the atmosphere, and during each and every one of those years is adding a little bit of extra heat to the planet. We have changed the concentration of CO2 in t
        • Comparing the agendas on both sides may well be valid, but what about comparing the consequences if either side is wrong ??

          If the tree huggers have got it wrong we see smaller profits, disgruntled share holders and short term job losses. Boo-hoo.

          If the Megacorps have got it wrong (or more likely are simply covering up) then we've screwed up the planet.

          The stakes are a little bigger.
      • "Why do people think environmentalists would be biased, anyway? What are they biased towards?"

        People (especially young people) like to have a cause they can feel passionately about, one they feel all but defines their lives. A titanic struggle against "The Man," something a lot more exciting than an otherwise mundane life. They have an emotional investment in all this.

        "Can't you see that the logical way to be skeptical about it is to assume that the warning signs mean something significant until you c
      • by jmichaelg (148257) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @08:25AM (#7395446) Journal
        Why do people think environmentalists would be biased, anyway?

        Possibly because they admit it?

        In John McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid [ecobooks.com], David Bower, the former director of the Sierra Club, admits he just made his numbers up. McPhee asks Bower where he found the data for the 'The U.S. has 6% of the world's population but consumes 40% of the world's resourcess' quote. Bower's response was it sounded about right.

        • This is a common tactic among such "*I* want to control how *you* live" groups. Frex, you've all heard PETA's statement that "83 million dogs and cats are killed in shelters every year" and that "6 million of those are purebreds", right? (Do the math, folks -- that number means *every* American family kills one pet per year, and that 3 times more purebreds are killed than are actually born in the first place.) But when cornered, the head of PETA admitted that he "pulled the number of the air, because it sou
    • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @07:46AM (#7395209) Homepage Journal
      Please note that the editor of "E&E" is one of the few environmental scientists who agreed with Bjorn Lomborg [spiked-online.com] "Skeptical Environmentalist", and a self-confessed environmental sceptic. [hull.ac.uk] As stated there, the journal itself has a "stance [that] is critical of conventional wisdom".

      Now, I don't read E&E (I tend to read the mainstream geophysics journals: GAFD, JGR(Oceans) and GRL -- "E&E" is not a mainstream geophysics journal), but I am slightly concerned about work published in a journal with an agenda. One may also be concerned about the suitability of referees selected by an editor out to prove a point, rather than to publicise good science.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    pillar of the Kyoto Accord is based on false calculations, incorrect data and an overtly biased selection of climate records
    Sounds a lot like what's been happening here in the US... Rejection of the Kyoto treaty is based on false calculations, incorrect data and an overtly biased selection of cabinet members ;)
  • GWB will use this as an excuse to drop the whole hydrogen economy thing and further increase America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Whether the climate gurus are right or wrong, this is a Bad Thing.
    • This is a troll, right? You're purposely ignoring the whole 'the first car a child today learns to drive could run on hydrogen' initiative to troll people like me, right? You're ignoring the administration's doubling of spending on renewable-resources research in its first budget so I'll get mad and respond, right?
    • GWB will use this as an excuse to drop the whole hydrogen economy thing and further increase America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

      Nice troll.

      It's strange to hear you argue that we shouldn't be dependent on foreign oil...and then rip on GWB, one of your strongest allies for that cause. Anybody who follows the news knows Bush wants to decrease dependence on foreign oil to such a degree that he's willing to drill in Alaskan nature reserves.
      • It's strange to hear you argue that we shouldn't be dependent on foreign oil...and then rip on GWB, one of your strongest allies for that cause.
        Right. Because the easiest way to end dependence on foreign oil is to annex some places that have oil, making it not-so-foreign any more...
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:29AM (#7394503)
    Now I don't want to respond to the article's claims, since that'll only spark a flame war I don't want to fight but:

    Only in Canada does one see a graph with a flat line then sharp spike and instantly think "Oooo, a hockey stick!"

    This just cracks me up because it is absolutely true of most of my Canadian relities, they are just nuts over hockey and I'm sure this doesn't strike any of them as the least bit odd comparison.
    • Man I, for one, sure ain't thinkin' aboot hockey. It's fricken cold

      So yeah, it's 2am and I'm checking a little weathernetwork just in case it's not too nasty out to go to the timmy's for a little coffee. The news is not good. Very not good. Ok, so -28 is bad but surely there's other people suffering bad weather too eh? So I check Calgary and it's -20. Hrmpf. weenies. Maybe Edmonton? -22. Well goodness... There's gotta be _somebody_ out there a little colder then hicksville^H^H^H^H^H^HOlds....

      • Grande Prai
  • by mirko (198274) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:29AM (#7394505) Journal
    It however doesn't mean that we should not pollute.
    A friend of mine is prepairing a PHD in geology.
    He often climbs on top of the Mont Blanc (4807m) where he analyzes the ice cap.
    He found out that ther chemicals that impregnated the ice are similar only to the ones which emanates from the General Motors factories, in Detroit, US.
    There is a serious issue, there.
    It is not because it won't make rain more that it is not a bad thing.
    • agreed, polluting is bad, but making huge policy changes and other expensive modifications without probable cause is also bad. I don't want to make changes because of some bad data, I want to make changes to better the planet. Not to advert some mythical killing of the planet which some said would happen at the "alarming rate" at which our temp was rising.
      • by pe1rxq (141710) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:45AM (#7394552) Homepage Journal
        The temperature is rising in an alarming rate....
        Current earth models predict that at this rate around 2050 there will be a critical point reached where the greenhouse sink holes will break down and become greenhouse sources (breakdown of the amazon rain forest and far worse the release of methanhydrates from the ocean floor). At that point the process will accelerate itself and climate will change drasticly.

        What this study shows is that it might not be man's fault but have a natural cause.
        Fact remains that our current behaviour is driving this in some degree. It might be the main force or completly negligable. It might be the last little push to disaster.

        Jeroen
        • Surely anyone who can remember more than the last 10 years knows that the temperature is rising?

          Its so blatent, every year here in the UK we get more and more extreme weather. The "hottest day on record" has happened just about every summer for at least the past 5 years running, each time a little hotter.

          Also people who normally would avoid the tin-hat brigade by miles now believe that the UK govt is covering something up because they have seen how much the weather has changed over the last 30+ years.

          I'm
          • by T5 (308759)
            Local variance in temperatures over a short time span (our lifetimes) does not equate to "global warming". We had an unusually mild summer here. Am I to assume that an ice age is right around the corner? We're not talking about localized changes in weather patterns here. We're talking about the entire planet potentially increasing in the amount of heat - fractions of a degree, yes, but in a large storage system this amounts to a large quantity of heat. If (and this is a big if) this is because of green
    • It however doesn't mean that we should not pollute.

      But that's the problem. Kyoto isn't about pollution, it's about greenhouse gases, most notably CO2. The argument I hear from many scientists is that the efforts to enforce Kyoto will take away from efforts to reduce actual pollution -- that is, chemicals that are harmful to humans, animals, and plants. CO2, and other greenhouse gases, do not fit this description.

      Enforcing Kyoto could actually make pollution worse. That's why it's paramount that it b

  • Kyoto and policies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by erik umenhofer (782)
    The poblem with most of these policies is they put rules in place on 3rd world countries that can't afford to put in technology to fix the problems they have, then they sell of thier clean air units to other countries to make cash.

    basically it works like this. every country has to make quotas. but the stupid thing is you can TRADE them. Lets say the US it polluting too much, it can buy "clean air quotas" from another country who doesn't pollute as much. It's kinda interesting but lame at the same time.
    • It's kinda interesting but lame at the same time.

      Funny, that's how I feel about reading and posting on slashdot....

    • by cluckshot (658931)

      Cut the Crap! This stuff about 3rd world countries not being able to affort to clean up their act belies the reality that they are selling themselves as an "Out" to the restrictions of the US and others. In reality much of the "Prosperity" of China at this moment is as a result of their attracting poluting industries from the west.

      While the Environmentalist nuts have been hornswoggling the press and the politicos here in the west they have been quitely blinking at the massive pollution increases in the e

  • by emkman (467368) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:33AM (#7394519)
    We shouldn't stop protecting the environment just because some analysis was wrong. Its funny that we even need justification in the first place to preserve the planet.
    • The problem is that we do not know if keeping to the Kyoto agreements _is_ protecting the environment. This paper suggests that there is no evidence that climate change is human CO2 production. That means that the environment might be better off if we would spend the time, money and energy on other things than reducing CO2 output, like reducing water pollution. Or even if we would not focus on short-term CO2 reduction like storing CO2 under the sea.
      • One the other hand, we don't know what will happen if we're not keeping to the Kyoto agreement. I see the main difference between the US and the rest of the western world as being willing to take a chance. The US focuses mostly on the fact that nobody can prove CO2 to be the cause of global warming. Europes main argument is that you can't prove that CO2 is not to blame. We're not willing to take the chance and tries to limit our C02 polution, just in case that CO2 is the bad guy. The US seems to don't give
        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @07:09AM (#7394990)
          Because the same thing could be applied to anything that lacks proof, but would have a consequence if true. The oldest example I know of this kind of thing is Pascal's wager. It's an argument for the belief in god that goes like this:

          There is a 2x2 matrix, where you either believe or don't believe in god and he does or doesn't exist. You then fill in the boxes with values for benefit or penalty for the situations. Now what Pascal argued is that in the "does exist" column the values are infinite, positive for belief, negative for disbelief since teh reward and punishment are infinetly greater than anything in this world. So it doesn't matter what is in the "does not exist" column since it will be finite. Well, you don't want to risk it, so you should jsut believe in god.

          This is, of course, hugely problematic and easy to poke holes in. There are tons of other cases we could argue including that it ISN'T infinite in the "does exist" column, that god can tell between real and faked belief, that there is a different god, etc.

          Now the problem is applying that kind of "you can't risk it" logic to everything lets psuedo science get teh same creedence as real science, and in that, swindlers. Like suppose I come to you with a bunch of graphs n' numbers n' daigrams and stuff. I tell you that this is data on my new drug that can cure all forms of cancer. All I need is $10 million to develop it. You look over my data and realise that it in no way justifies my claim. My response? "Yes, but can you really risk it? I mean what if my data IS right and I CAN make the drug? Can you risk on missing out on that oppertunity, not to mention depriving society of that benifit?" If you find that compelling, well then I have some graphs n' numbers n' daigrams to show you...

          Basically, before comitting to something as a fact, and making large changes becaues of it, it needs to pass scientific (strong inference) muster. Otherwise, we get into a really bad situation.
      • Here, here. While I'm definitely not a professional Earth scientist (i.e. in the broad field containing biology, geology, and their bretherin), I spent enough time studying geology to learn a few things from (mostly) non-biased, non-fanatical people who rely on more than FUD to make their assessments and I agree whole-heartedly with your interpretation of these results.

        The fact of the matter is that the Earth does make rapid dramatic shifts in climate. For example, the magnetic poles could swap on us wi

    • Its funny that we even need justification in the first place to preserve the planet.

      No. What's really wanted by governments both in the US and here in Australia is a good line of flummery to justify not ratifying an arrangement to which they have already agreed.

      Most individuals (one hopes) believe that reducing pollution is a Good Thing(tm). However, in countries where the big dollars control government policy, the real push is to keep burning the candle at both ends until there's nothing left to save.

  • This science is brought to you by the Bush & Cheney energy commission...
  • Interesting paper (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arivanov (12034) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:38AM (#7394530) Homepage
    Questions:

    1. Who are these guys. There are no affiliations listed and the research sponsor is not listed.

    2. MBH98 is not the only paper. It was one of the first ones. After that more detailed research was done and it did not refute any of the claims.

    3. Is the ice melt in the arctic a figment of my imagination?

    4. Is the retreat of South American Glaciers a figment of my imagination?

    5. Why doesn't NOAA put all the data for public consumption so that anyone can see who is right and who is wrong?

    • Another question.

      Some of the date exclusions in MBH98 are based on the current climat model for effects of climate change. Namely the exclusion of Texas and surrounding areas from calculations is justified as it will become less continental if average northern hemisphere warms up (europe should go more) due to the gulfstream becoming weaker.

      As a result if you leave the texas values in you will smoothen the overall result as expected and as described by these guys. If you take them out you get a correct re
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You may be interested to know that the Earth was warmer over the vast majority of its history.

      CO2 levels are, over the long term, in decline. This has, among other things, resulted in the evolution of grasses, which are far more efficent with their use of CO2, than their predicessors.

      We are at the serendipitious end of an ice age, it's stupid of us, with our short life spans, to assume the world was and should always be thus. It is the hieght of conciet for us to always expect it to be so.

      First man tho
      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @05:02AM (#7394596)


        > You may be interested to know that the Earth was warmer over the vast majority of its history.

        Fortunately, we didn't have to live through those times.

        Most of the universe is a hard vacuum, but I kind of like having the local fluke we call "the atmosphere".

      • We are at the serendipitious end of an ice age, it's stupid of us, with our short life spans, to assume the world was and should always be thus. It is the hieght of conciet for us to always expect it to be so.
        Regardless of whether it is natural or not if a change in climate will make the earth less hospitable to us and it is within our power to stop or lesson that effect it makes sense for us to do so.
    • Answers:

      1. Sorry? are there errors in what they are pointing out?

      2. This is not the only paper pointing out the opposite, either.

      3. No, it's called a 'natural occurance' - that's the whole point.

      4. No, see 3.

      5. There is a LOT of 'public' data out there, but very few of the people who like to stand on their soapboxes are at all interested in facts - since they know better.

      Ever wondered why we are seeing a rapid increase in solar activity? hmmm.. nah - THAT can't be relivant, it must be the fault of fac
      • Ever wondered why we are seeing a rapid increase in solar activity?

        As spectacular as the emissions of Xrays and charged particles from solar flares may be, they don't represent an overall increase in solar output. After all, increased "solar activity" also represents an increase in sunspots which are cooler areas of the Sun's photosphere.

        -Ed
    • I think the question is not of global warming, but global warming due to human actions. I think there is agreement that global warming has definately been occurring, but the disagreement is whether 20th century CO2 production is responsible for it.

      I would be thrilled to not have to care about CO2. Then a great reason to avoid fossil fuels is because everyone involved in oil production is a bunch of fucking assholes, Exxon, OPEC, Texans, terrorists or their apologists, take your pick...

      Heck, if we hav

      • Except where do you think we'll get the Hydrogen for our vehicles except (DUN DUN DUN) fossil fuels! Either from directly seperating it from them or using fossil fuel burning plants to use electrolysis on water to seperate the hydrogen.

        Kudos on drinking fuel cell exhaust to spite the French. Any spiting of the French is a good thing. :)
  • ... your vehicle's exhaust won't make any harm to the nature. You can try it: lock yourself in the garage and run the engine for an hour. You won't feel anything bad, serious, it's all harmless stuff, everybody knows that, right? D'oh..
    • Lame (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You're comparing filling a very small space with a very toxic poison to putting a tiny bit of pollution into a very vast atmosphere.

      The analogy doesn't even come close to being correct.
  • Global Warming (Score:5, Interesting)

    by herwin (169154) <herwin&theworld,com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:45AM (#7394551) Homepage Journal
    About twenty years ago, there was a conference on global warming held at Caltech. The gist of the results presented was that adding energy to the atmosphere seemed to make it more chaotic. That doesn't imply local warming must occur, but rather that the weather becomes more unpredictable. I think we're seeing that now in the data.
    • Re:Global Warming (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pipingguy (566974)
      I think we're seeing that now in the data.

      Yes, 10 years worth of data on climate change is relevant. After all, I remember that when I was a kid 30 years ago it never snowed this much/so little, therefore there must be climate change because I perceive it to be so (in addition to being told incessantly by news media whose attention span sometimes exceeds "oooh, look, shiny", frequently doesn't know what its talking about but knows that fear sells newspapers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:47AM (#7394554)
    The "hockey stick" graph has been roundly criticized for years -- and yes, legitimate scientists criticize it, not just "neo-cons" or whatever.

    Unfortunately there is immense political pressure placed upon anyone who says something that could be seen as weakening the Kyoto protocol or the "global climate consensus." I expect the authors of this paper will see quite a lot of heat about this.

    This is a shame, because the fact that the "hockey stick" graph is flawed absolutely does not imply that human-influenced global warming isn't a problem! Sure, people may misuse these results to argue that global warming is somehow disproven, but the potential misuse of a result is no reason to suppress it. On the contrary, pressuring people to keep quiet about their findings will only hurt the credibility of the entire field in the long run. So it is very good to see that this is published.

    And remember -- there is no "final word" in science. The most vital element of science is results can be tested and disproven. Nothing is above criticism, including the hockey stick graph, this paper, and any other paper written about climate change or any other scientific subject. That is what science is all about.
  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:47AM (#7394556) Journal
    I wonder if the results are skewed because of mistakes, or if the numbers have been wilfully embellished. Neither would surprise me: almost every lobby group for every side of every issue, from Greenpeace to the car industry lobby, have been known to juggle the books a little in order to support their own beliefs. In some cases, outright fraud has taken place.

    What scared me about Kyoto is not so much the conclusion that was drawn, nor the way scientists had arrived at that conclusion, but the zealous belief of many governments in these conclusions. In Europe, scientists or governments (the US) who were sceptical about the Kyoto paper became the brunt of scorn and vilification in the media. It again showed how deeply environmentalists have become entrenched in the decision-making bodies of government... it reminds me of the case where two scientists were fired from the Dutch government environmental agency, for publishing reports that proved the official line on acid rain was wrong.

    The reactions to this article will tell us if the political climate has changed... if the policy-makers are still only accepting opinions that fit their own world view, or if we have a more open climate where scientific discussion rather than dogma holds sway.
    • Around 1990 I read a newspaper article about a documentary produced by some scientists in England that refuted the idea of global warming. Their thesis was that a large body of recorded temperature data, on which the idea of global warming was originally based, is known to have come from faulty equipment. Temperature recorders made before some point in the 20th century had a design defect that makes them accurate only to about 3 degrees, which is well outside the claimed variation.

      The thing is, although th
  • Political fallout (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HalfFlat (121672) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:56AM (#7394572)
    Taking this referenced paper as being on the mark, do look at their corrected temperature graph. One can't say that the recent warming has been unprecedented based on that graph, but you could claim that there's been nothing like it in 500 years.

    It seems almost certain that this news will be welcomed by certain governments (US, Australia, ...) as a good reason to dispute the need for CO2 emission controls. Yet they would still (IMO) be misguided. As evidenced by the hole in the ozone layer, human industrial activity can have significant long-term effects on the global environment. Given that we only have the one planet, it seems only good sense that we should be cautious when it comes to activity that has the potential to seriously change the environment.

    The warming trend in the last 100 years may have very little to do with industrial emissions - but as yet we can't tell. That there is a correlation indicates we should err on the side of caution: if it is indeed a matter of causation, then we're essential pissing on our own future.

    Regardless of quality of life issues, it makes sense as an economic one, when viewed in global terms. We will have to deal with the effects of climate change whether it be due to human activity or not, but if there is a significant component that we're responsible for, continuing in this behaviour is going to make a very large problem a great deal worse, with attendant very high costs to amerliorate it. It is risk management. Putting heads in the sand and saying that there's doubt about the link, does not make the risk of that link magically disappear. Even a 5% chance of the link being actual may be sufficient for a purely economic assessment to indicate that emissions should be sharply curbed.

    If there were alternative policies being adopted by those governments against the Kyoto accords, then that would be an indication that their objections were based on more than short-term economic growth (or worse, given the somewhat incestuous relationships between governments and industry.) Yet Australia for example has not even managed to reduce its rate of growth of emissions (not the emission levels themselves!) to targets that had been set earlier.

    If the Kyoto accords are not a step in the right direction, then the continuing increase of CO2 emissions is certainly not a preferable alternative.
  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:58AM (#7394578) Journal
    A recent study by Arctic researchers showed that the polar ice cap isn't just shrinking in terms of land mass [bbc.co.uk], it's shrinking in terms of depth too [bbc.co.uk], by 4cm a year.

    All that water's going somewhere, and that somewhere is the oceans. Global sea levels are rising, and you only have to look at the situation in Tuvalu in the Pacific [bbc.co.uk] or Venice, Italy [veniceinperil.org] to see that the threat of rising tides isn't a myth.

    People can harp on about "not enough data" or "inconclusive evidence" all they want but if entire nations vanishing beneath the waves or historic cities sinking isn't a wake-up call then I don't know what is.

    Frankly, there are some people who will bury their heads in the sand over this issue just as long as they can make a profit by ignoring it. Oil companies and big business are never going to recognise that they are part of the problem until the last possible moment, at which time they'll just shrug their shoulders and say "Who knew?", just like the tobacco industry before them.

    But, unlike tobacco, this isn't a problem that will affect just a handful of people, or a problem that will be easily settled by the courts - billions in punitive damages are useless when your country is underwater. The last time I checked there wasn't a court on the planet that could push back the tides.

    I'm sure there are dozens of readers out there that will right off this comment as yet more half-baked environmental doom-mongering but I find it funny that these same people will demand more money to scan the heavens for deadly meteors - it seems that extinction Armageddon-style is trendy but the possibility of extinction because of our own actions just isn't sexy enough.

    If you really want to be objective about these issues try to look beyond the smoke and mirrors. Ask yourself how objective the research is - there are far more people out there funded by big business than you'd imagine. Ask yourself who stands to profit by presenting a negative picture of climate change? Who stands to lose if the problem is tackled head-on? And who stands to profit if it's ignored and the situation is allowed to continue unchecked?
  • I see.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by adeyadey (678765) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @04:59AM (#7394583) Journal
    I visited a Glacier in Norway once (at Olden) and they have actually signposted the glacier boundary at various previous times for the tourists - ie. "Glacier boundary 1850" etc.

    I can tell you its a long climb from those points until you get to where the glacier is today..

    Just because you can spot the odd anomoly in a bunch of data does not render the whole thing untrue..
    • And considering we're still technically in an ice-age, just on the receding end of one, this makes alot of sense that you'd see that.

      Yes, the Earth is getting warmer, sort of... (been unnaturally cold the past four years where I live) but at the same time this should be expected. This always happens at the end of ice ages. They wouldn't be called 'ice ages' unless they were periods where the Earth was unnaturally cold.
    • Re:I see.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @06:06AM (#7394763) Homepage
      The Briksdalen glacier, rigth ?

      I know it. Rather well. I grew up about hundred kilometers further west, in Nordfjordeid.

      Anyways, it is true like you say that the glacier went a lot further down in the valley in the middle 1800s. But here's the thing: For the last 30 years or so its been *growing* quite a lot, on the order of 3-5 meters a year.

      The glacier is actually a lot *bigger* now than it was when I was small. Now this is not due to colder climate, but rather due to more snowfall in the winthers, but still, the briksdalen glacier is a very poor choise for examples of global warming and ice melting. :-)

      • Paradoxically (Score:4, Interesting)

        by porkchop_d_clown (39923) <mwheinz@NOSPAm.me.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @06:53AM (#7394897) Homepage
        It's counter-intuitive, but warmer temperatures can cause increased snowfall - the warmer air can carry more water, you see.
        • Re:Paradoxically (Score:4, Informative)

          by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @07:11AM (#7395002) Homepage
          Perfectly true. This only illustrates the uncertanity around all this.

          Some people say the glaciers are melting is a sign of global warming. The person I responded to seemed to think that the briksdalen glacier being smaller now than in the 1800s is an example in this category.

          Then I point out that actually, the Briksdalen glacier is *growing* and has been for like 3 decades.

          And you come along tell me that warmer air can carry more moisture, thus more snow, thus the glaciers grow.

          So it would seem, if the glaciers grow, it's evidence for global warming. And if the glaciers shrink, it's also evidence for global warming.

          I hope you see the problem with this line of reasoning :-)

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @07:28AM (#7395100)
      In assuming that a correlation implies a causation. It doesn't. There is no argument that temperatures have been rising in recorded history (a short period actually) nor is there an argument that human output of CO2 has risen since the IR. However that those two happened together does not mean that one caused the other, that is a seperate issue.

      Finding causation is much harder than finding a correlation since all sorts of things are correlated (and it's simply to measure) but the causal link can be much more complex.

      For example:

      You can get the causal link the wrong way. There is a positive correlation between weight and height. There's aslo a causal link. However if you say that increasing weight will increase height, you've got teh direction of the link wrong.

      There can be an outside factor. There is a positive correlation in the United States between being white and scoring well on standardised tests. However if you say that being white CAUSES you to score well on tests, you'd be wrong. The real cause is much more complex and has to do with general trends in educational and economic background.

      Then there are just things that are incidental. For awhile, there was a positive correlation between one of my friends attending football games and the team winning. Every game he attended, they won, the couple he missed, they lost. Well of course he didn't cause them to win, nor did their loosing cause him not to attend, it was just random luck.

      So, just because we have found a positive correlation between an increase in temperature and an increase in CO2 does NOT mean we've found a causal link.
  • National Post (Score:5, Informative)

    by befletch (42204) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @05:09AM (#7394617)

    In case it isn't obvious, the National Post is a very right wing paper, at least in Canadian terms. That doesn't mean they are wrong, but they have a history of taking any opportunity to attack the Kyoto Accord.

    As a case in point, I offer the title, subtitle and byline for the article:

    Kyoto debunked
    A pillar of the Kyoto Accord is based on flawed calculations, incorrect data and an overtly biased selection of climate records, an important new paper reveals

    Tim Patterson
    Financial Post

    I would say, for instance, that a more cautious interpretation would be that an important new paper suggests flaws in the research, not that it reveals it. Particularly if I were a writer for a business & economics paper, not a climate change researcher. And then there is the title itself...

    To give credit where it is due, he does tend to use the phrase 'climate change' rather than the older 'global warming', which is a more accurate description of what the body of research underpinning Kyoto actually suggests. Usually you can spot biased participants in debates like this by their choice of language.

    Personally, I have never taken sides over whether climate change is likely to be a reality or not. I don't need it as a justification for my environmental leanings. I think there are many national security and economic justifications for taking such actions as improving energy efficiency throughout society without relying on theories such as climate change that are far beyond my ability to competently analyze. So go ahead and tear Kyoto apart if you care to, but don't use that as an excuse to increase dependence on Middle East oil, for example.

    And I haven't seen a big appetite for new nuclear or coal power plants in the US as of late either.

  • What the paper says is that another paper might be wrong. It doesn't say there'll be no global warming, it doesn't provide an alternative climate theory. That's all fine for a scientific work - criticism is important. However it does not give us any indications whether releasing certain emissions into the atmosphere is safe for us.

    What the Mann paper claims is that there is an observable trend showing global temperature increase. This is not by all means the only argument pointing to a danger related to r

  • Various blogs [crookedtimber.org] have been talking [calpundit.com] about this recently. It seems too early to say who's right here --- the original authors have issued a vigorous interim rebuttal [virginia.edu] [pdf] of the charges, so it's hard to say what's happening. But let's not let that get in the way of a good bit of enviro-sensationalism, eh?
  • Irrelevant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moderators_are_w*nke (571920) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @05:17AM (#7394638) Journal
    This is irrelevent anyway. Unless it says that continuing to exploit non-renewable energy at the current rate (or faster) and emitting carbon dioxide at the current rate is actually good for the environment.

    People need to look at the big picture and stop arguing over the small print.
  • The researcher basically states that it was warmer in 1400 than previously estimated. I have read that the end of the Viking Age (~800-1100 AD) was mainly due to a large drop in global temperatures. The Viking colony in Greenland lasted until 1380 AD when the Summer thaw that allowed them to travel by ship stopped occuring, for example.

    He does not refute the fact that it is getting warmer - and rapidly so. He simply says it was pretty warm in 1400 too, in contrast to prior conslusions. Note also that, a

  • Please, save your fingers and don't bother posting your standard unsupported, pseudo-authoritative guff about climate change being due to solar flares. Special -5 to anyone trying to link the last week's CME frenzy with climate change.

    My personal arbitary list of bookmark'd climate change stories now includes the "Polar Bears likely to become extinct as North Polar icecap will melt completely in summer".




    • http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast07sep _1 .htm?list98953
      http://earth.agu.org/revgeophys/
  • While climate change may or may not be caused by human activity, there is other much more obvious and pressing proof that we are in fact destroying this planet. For example, there is little doubt that the mass extinction and loss of biodiversity we are currently seeing is unprecedented (save maybe for the extinction of the dinasaur era 65 million years ago). The danger here is that some may be tempted to use the results of this climate study as some sort of proof against environmentalism in general.

    While a
  • Yeah Right (Score:3, Informative)

    by vandan (151516) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @05:54AM (#7394737) Homepage
    An 'important' paper written by a scientist employed in the mining industry.

    Oh yes and the university guy. Don't know exactly what financial links exist between the university and the people who don't like the news of global warming spreading.

    Move along please. No global warming to be seen here.
  • by Illserve (56215) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @07:29AM (#7395103)
    Is that by bottling up the sub industrial nations with environmental regulations, and thereby slowing their advance through the industrial stages, we may be making the problem worse in the long run.

    The best way to get people to care about the environment is to get them beyond the point of having to worry about food, clothing and shelter. People worried about their next meal really could care less about pollution.

    Kyoto and similar measures threaten to force sub-industrial nations to submit to burdensome restrictions that will make it harder for them to blossom into a wealthier economy.

    Furthermore, it's grossly unfair to prolong the poverty of such nations by dictating how they can and can't develop so that we can sleep easier at night.

    Remember, we didn't have any such restrictions when we went through this stage.
  • by JohnnyCannuk (19863) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:12AM (#7395795)
    Just so all of you are aware of some things surrounding Kyoto and the National Post up here in Canada. They my help you access this information in context.

    1. When Canada ratified the Kyoto agreement last year there was a huge controversy in the country about whether it was based on facts. This was led by the ultra-conservative Premier of Alberta ("Red Nose Ralphy") Ralph Klien. He was supported by many right wing, neo-conservative business people. They tried to claim Kyoto would cost Canadians jobs - it was also going to cost Alberta Oil and some big industies profit, but I'm sure they were more concerned about the jobs. These conservative elements in Canada trotted out a few "scientists" (not climatologists mind you, but a biologist, I beleive...the ones with the fake names on their online petitions) who claim there is no global warming, contrary to the opinion of most mainstream scientists, including most climatologists.

    2. The National Post is NOT the populist pap that USA Today is. The National Post is a very conservative, right wing newspaper (formerly owned by Conrad Black, an ultra-conservative icon up here and now owned by Can-West Global, the media company of the late Issy Asper, another conservative icon). To say that the National Post might be supporting an anti-Kyoto agenda is an understatement. They are willing to latch onto anything that might cast doubt on global warming and claim a " pillar of the Kyoto Accord is based on false calculations, incorrect data and an overtly biased selection of climate records." - at the bidding of the bussiness and political interests that support them.

    So given that, consider source of this story.

    As for the scientific paper cited, well, it's been out for about a week. Why not let the scientific community do what it does best - review the facts and try to verify the data. Perhaps it is the study that contains the errors, not the original. Even if it's correct, it is only one of the hundreds of studies conducted by scientists for the past 20 years that support global warming.

    Try a Google searh ans see how many more you can come up with whose evidnce is NOT based on extrapolated climate data from the 1400's....then decide if Kyoto is bogus.

    "Pillar" indeed. Kyto is standing on a lot more scientific ground that this study, even if it is correct.

  • by fygment (444210) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:14AM (#7395812)
    ... the rebuttals from the authors of the original paper are here [uoguelph.ca].

    That there can be so much controversy highlights the fragility of the "models" that have been developed to support the varying points of view. It seems we really don't understand the climate process yet so maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't leap at any proposed solutions (like Kyoto) because maybe there isn't a problem.

    How come not jumping to solutions based on scanty knowledge of the problem makes sense on the small scale (e.g. advice from a sysadmin to a user) but gets lost on the large scale issues (global warming)?

  • by gizmonic (302697) * on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:27AM (#7395920) Homepage
    Considering that Mars is experiencing global warming [go.com] as well, maybe the situation is entirely out of our control? Perhaps we, as humans, have overrated our ability to affect our planet? Or would the extreme environmentalists claim we are somehow screwing Mars over too?

    Of course, if this does indicate more of a pattern throughout the Solar System, then we have no control over it whatsoever. Which is probably why it's not really discussed.

    Oh, and if you don't like the ABC [go.com] link above, try it straight from the horse's mouth [nasa.gov].
  • Global warning (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alomex (148003) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @10:32AM (#7396531) Homepage
    I had a chance to ask an expert on climate change and Nobel Prize winner about the climate change controversy. His response, summarized was:

    1. Evidence of some warming is incontrovertible.
    2. This warming may or may not be due to C02 emissions.
    3. At this point in time, since evidence is still preliminary, he estimates the chances of the greenhouse effect being a real, scientific fact at about 10%.
    4. In day to day life, we buy insurance for, say, a house fire, at much lower odds than that (chance of your house catching fire is 0.01%).
    5. Hence he supports a moderate version of the Kyoto protocol as insurance against the possibility of the greenhouse effect being real.
    6. That was his recommendation to President George W. Bush: sign Kyoto.
    7. Bush chose not to follow his advice.

  • by Phronesis (175966) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @10:54AM (#7396757)
    The data presented by the researchers indicate that the late 15th century was warmer than the 20th. This is a bit strange, given that historical records from that period (e.g., diocesan annals, crop records, etc.) report sudden and significant cooling and glaciation starting around 1450. This is reflected in the "erroneous" record in Fig. 8 of the paper, but has been "corrected" out.

    So were all the 15th century records of cold weather and advancing ice phony? Was the world really warmer and milder than today? Was there a vast conspiracy in the late 1400s to record phony accounts of the weather in order that 20th century environmentalists would believe in Global Warming? I don't think so!

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