My latest column in the American News:
If you want to know what the temperature is in your back yard, you probably don't want to put the thermometer on top of a hot oven. If you want to monitor changes in global temperature, you probably shouldn't rely on weather stations located mostly in cities and other developed areas where the environment is artificially warm. Yet that is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been doing. The IPCC is the primary scientific body raising the alarm about global warming.
The London Times reports that a wide body of research now questions the claim that the world is warming at all. John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, found that in three areas, Alabama, California, and East Africa, apparent warming was entirely due to local factors that influenced the weather stations. When economic professor Ross McKitrick was invited by the IPCC to review its recent report, he found that the panel's "climate data are contaminated with surface effects from industrialization and data quality problems." A number of researchers in Britain and elsewhere are reaching the same conclusions.
The claim that industrial production is causing an unprecedented and dangerous spike in global temperatures was based largely on so called "hockey stick" charts. These charts showed more or less even temperatures over the thousand years followed by a sharp upward spike beginning in the 1970s. The charts were bogus. The evidence indicates that there were periods of global warming prior to the industrial revolution, including the medieval warming period when global temperatures may have been warmer than they are now. If the world is indeed in a warming period, and it probably is, there is no good reason to believe that this is due to industrial production rather than natural fluctuations in the climate.
Trying to measure changes in the global climate is a very difficult business. Figuring out what causes those changes is enormously more difficult. Water vapor traps a lot of solar energy, but fluffy white clouds reflect a lot of it back into space. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that absorbs a lot of the sun's heat, but more CO2 and warmer temperatures cause forests to grow faster. Trees sequester CO2. No one can be sure how these things balance out.
It is not, however, the IPCC's scientific accuracy that is now most at question. It is its good faith. When thousands of email messages between climate scientists were pirated and released to the public several months ago, it became clear that some of the latter were engaged in manipulating the data and were determined to prevent dissenting scholarship from being published.
The IPCC has solemnly reported that by 2035 the Himalayan glaciers will be gone, that rain fed crop production in Africa could be cut in half by in ten years, that 40% of the Amazon rainforest will disappear, well, soon, all because of global warming. Any one of these things would be a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, but the IPCC has been forced to admit that not one of them has any reliable research behind it. These are the sort of things that come out of the mouth of a carny barker. They discredit a supposedly responsible scientific committee.
Global warming alarmism is politics, not science. Politicians in the developed world like the idea that human industry is destroying the environment. It fills their sails with righteous indignation and gives them a reason to demand more political control over their national economies and those of other nations. For climate scientists, this means a lot of public funding and the warm feeling that they are saving the world.
If the whole thing melts away, the conceits of politicians are no great loss. The reputation of the scientific community is another matter.