Taken from the January 9 2007 edition of What We Now Know, a free newsletter from Doug Casey available here. ******************************************** Climate Change Revisited By Doug Hornig In March 2004, we ran an article on a Pentagon-commissioned study on the possibility of abrupt and drastic climate change, such as happened 12,000 years ago when, according to estimates, the average global temperature rose by seven degrees in only twenty years and put a decisive end to the most recent ice age. The result of the study, a brief paper titled, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, pushed certain computer models to their extreme, at which a sudden rise in global temperature results in a shutting down of the Gulf Stream and, counterintuitively, colder conditions for much of the planet. That, of course, is just one projection among many. Other researchers have modeled quite different futures, with conditions both more and less dire. In the past two and a half years, the debate over global warming, its potential effects, and (especially) the human role in bringing it about, has only intensified—with Al Gore’s widely seen movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and his packed public lectures leading the way. Thus this seemed like an opportune time for us to revisit the topic. The central question, it would seem, has been answered. Are we in a period of global warming? Yes, sort of. As always, the devil is in the details. While much has been made of record-breaking thermometer readings and “unprecedented” heat waves, the average global temperature has risen by just 1°F in the past hundred years. If this doesn’t seem like much, well, it isn’t and, moreover, it has been unevenly distributed: temperatures rose from 1920-1940, decreased for the next thirty years, increased again until the mid-1990s, and have been nearly flat since 1998. This is not the result one would expect if human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, which have constantly increased, inevitably caused temperatures to rise. But such fluctuations—and even more dramatic ones—are not only commonplace, they are inevitable, given a dynamic feedback system like that which exists between the Earth and Sun. There is even one current theory that posits super-cycles, within which the average global temperature varies between 120°F and minus 50. It’s a wonder that life has endured at all. How then should we address the coming 21st-century climate change (something will surely happen), and the proposition that it will primarily be driven by man who, many claim, is creating a massive greenhouse effect through the burning of fossil fuels? There are many aspects to this but, to begin at the beginning, Al Gore and others, including most of the media, have been telling us there now exists a “consensus” viewpoint on man-made (anthropogenic) global warming (or AGW). For purposes of economy, let’s call them the alarmist faction. Furthermore, we’re told that the faction questioning the majority view—we’ll call them the skeptics—consists of only a tiny handful of shills for the oil industry. Not so. Take the famous “hockey stick,” for example. This is a graph that is routinely trotted out by the alarmists, and plays a large role in Gore’s film. It purports to show that global temperature was flat for most of the past millennium, before suddenly and ferociously spiking upward during the 20th century, thereby creating the business end of the hockey stick. I.e., AGW is out of control. The graph was created by Dr. Michael Mann, then a climatologist at the University of Massachusetts, in a 1999 paper, and it was immediately and rather uncritically accepted. One problem with Mann’s and others’ attempts to pin down global temps is that the thermometer wasn’t invented until the early 18th century. For data before that point, we have to rely on reconstructions based on inferences from historical records, and climate proxy indicators, such as tree rings (upon which Mann heavily relied), corals, lake sediments and ice core samples. And even there, most of the work has been done in, and on, the Northern Hemisphere, since that’s where most of the people are; we know little about what may have been going on to our south. (Recent satellite tropospheric temperature data from NASA indicate that the Southern Hemisphere hasn’t heated up at all in the past 25 years; perhaps we should be discussing “north hemispheric” rather than “global” warming.) Now, granted that research scientists’ methodologies have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, and high-speed computers have enabled the concatenation of huge amounts of data from many different sources. Many climatologists feel confident of their inferences about a given historical period. Nevertheless, it’s wise to keep in mind that there are disagreements, that all estimates are subject to considerable margins of error, and that anyone who purports to “know” for certain exactly how hot or cold it was in 1066 is being disingenuous, at best. So what are we to make of Mann’s graph, in which actual thermometer-recorded temperatures for the past 150 years are casually grafted onto many more centuries of tree ring records? That’s a bit like gluing an apple to an orange and calling it a new type of fruit. It’s sloppy science. Even if we completely accept the inferred temperatures scientists have given us—and even if we ignore the large margin of error Mann built into his original graph and which his disciples never bother to reproduce—there still emerges a very major problem with the hockey stick: the graph shouldn’t be flat between 1000 and 1900. During those nine hundred years there were some very substantial fluctuations. Most notable are the Medieval Warm Period that began abruptly around 1000 and peaked somewhat above today’s conditions around 1250 (thereby allowing the Vikings to establish farms in Greenland); and the Little Ice Age of the 15th-18th centuries, when it averaged a degree and a half colder. The hockey stick simply ignores these periods, making them instead roughly flat, an alteration that geophysicist David Deming, of the University of Oklahoma, calls deliberate. He cites a colleague who, hoping to stir up alarmist sentiment over global warming, once wrote him that, “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warming Period.” They did. If you leave it in, along with the Little Ice Age, then the graph no longer looks like a hockey stick, but more like a snake slithering along the ground. We are at one of the peaks of warmth, but there was another a thousand years ago, along with a really frigid trough four centuries back. With this perspective, as Dr. Deming writes, “late-twentieth-century temperatures are not anomalous or unusually warm.” Dr. Deming’s opinion was borne out by a June 2006 publication from the National Academy of Sciences, titled Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2000 Years. In it, the NAS slammed Mann’s ignoring of the major hot and cold periods. Additionally, it said that “substantial uncertainties” surround the notion that the last half of the twentieth century was the warmest of the millennium and that, while the uncertainty increases the farther back in time one goes, “not all individual proxy records indicate that the recent warmth is unprecedented […] Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that the 1990’s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium …” Commenting on the NAS study, the U.S. Senate’s leading skeptic, James Inhofe (R-OK), said in a September 2006 floor speech, “This report shows that the planet warmed for about 200 years prior to the industrial age, when we were coming out of the depths of the Little Ice Age […] Trying to prove man-made global warming by comparing the well-known fact that today’s temperatures are warmer than during the Little Ice Age is akin to comparing summer to winter to show a catastrophic temperature trend.” Furthermore, the line at the end of the graph has suddenly gone flat. “There is a problem with global warming,” says paleoclimatologist Bob Carter of Australia’s James Cook University, “it stopped in 1998.” Despite all the excess CO2 our SUVs have been pumping into the atmosphere, Carter says, “official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK [show that] the global average temperature did not increase between 1998-2005.” All in all, that is one broken hockey stick. But isn’t there still a “consensus” about global warming? Didn’t most of the world’s nations agree on that at Kyoto? Well, consider a letter written to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in April of 2006, in an effort to get the government there to review actual climate change evidence before implementing provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. The letter leads off by saying: “As accredited experts in climate and related scientific disciplines, we are writing to propose that balanced, comprehensive public-consultation sessions be held so as to examine the scientific foundation of the federal government’s climate-change plans […] “Observational evidence,” it continues, “does not support today’s computer climate models [...] While the confident pronouncements of scientifically unqualified environmental groups may provide for sensational headlines, they are no basis for mature policy. The study of global climate change is [...] an ‘emerging science,’ one that is perhaps the most complex ever tackled. It may be many years yet before we properly understand the Earth’s climate system. Nevertheless, significant advances have been made since the protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded that it was not necessary […] “When the public comes to understand that there is no ‘consensus’ among climate scientists about the relative importance of the various causes of global climate change, the government will be in a far better position to develop plans that reflect reality…” After all, the authors say in conclusion, “It was only 30 years ago that many of today’s global-warming alarmists were telling us that the world was in the midst of a global-cooling catastrophe. But the science continued to evolve, and still does, even though so many choose to ignore it when it does not fit with predetermined political agendas.” Who signed this letter? 61 of the world’s most prominent experts in the fields of Earth science, climatology, meteorology, geophysics, math and economics. Without them, the “consensus” is thin indeed. Another consensus-buster came in the form of a reexamination of a study by UCSD social scientist Naomi Oreskes, published in Science, claiming that a review of abstracts of scientific papers on climate showed a 100% agreement that global warming is not the result of natural variations. Oreskes’ study was featured in An Inconvenient Truth. Unfortunately for Oreskes and Gore, Dr. Benny Peiser, a British social scientist, took a close look at the study and found that Oreskes had referenced only 928 out of nearly 12,000 available papers on the subject. Even among those 928, Peiser found that only 2% wholly endorsed the view that human activity is driving global warming, and several of the studies actually opposed that conclusion.