The US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has provided what it calls "a newly updated U.S. Senate Minority Report" which purports to cite scientists who oppose "man-made global warming claims." WorldNetDaily may not the only paper to take the bait, but it is one of the most enthusiastic. The ultra-right wing paper opens with a salvo of emotionally-charged language: 650 leading scientists "scoff at doomsday reports of man-made global warming – labeling them variously a lie, a hoax and part of a new religion."
|"But the number is not important: only whether they are correct is important."|
WorldNetDaily article is an illuminating study in the perils of balanced journalistic dualism, the pattern that is still the best practice in mainstream journalism, including the CBC. WorldNetDaily has mainstream pretentions, but hasn't quite mastered the balance part.
For openers, who are these scientists? Let's begin with the first three.
Ivar Giaever is quoted as saying, "I am a skeptic ... . Global warming has become a new religion."
Indeed, Giaever (originally spelled Giæver) shared the Nobel Prize in Physics (1973) for work performed at General Electric in 1960. The work demostrated that a phenomenon known as electron tunneling occurs not only in semiconductors, but also in superconductors. Giaever left General Electric in 1988 to become an Institute Professor at Rensselaer (RPI) in Troy, New York 12180-3590, and concurrently I am also a Professor at the University of Oslo, Norway, sponsored by STATOIL.
|"We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system. We only need to watch the weather forecasts. However, a vocal minority of scientists so mistrusts the models and the complex fragmentary data, that some claim that global warming is a hoax. They have made public statements accusing other scientists of deliberate fraud in aid of their research funding. Both sides are now hurling personal epithets at each other, a very bad development in Earth sciences."|
Here is some context for that quotation that captures his personal reflection on the priorities of science:
“First of all, I didn’t want to be on this panel. Second of all, I am a skeptic. Third of all, if I am Norwegian, should I really worry about a little bit of warming? I am unfortunately becoming an old man. We have heard many similar warnings about the acid rain 30 years ago and the ozone hole 10 years ago or deforestation but the humanity is still around. The ozone hole width has peaked in 1993.
Moreover, global warming has become a new religion. We frequently hear about the number of scientists who support it. But the number is not important: only whether they are correct is important. We don’t really know what the actual effect on the global temperature is."
Giaever, however, is not a climate scientist. His best known work is in biophysics.
Joanne Simpson, on the other hand, is a well-known climate scientist.
The Senate Committee quotes her as saying, “Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly….As a scientist I remain skeptical.”
WorldNetDaily adds nothing to the Minority Report press release. But you, dear reader, might like to know that the quote comes from a recent letter (Feb 08) on the climate change controversy which appears in Roger Pielke's Climate Science Weblog
The context for this quotation is even more illuminating. Here is the part represented by three dots:
"For more than a decade now 'global warming' and its impacts has become the primary interface between our science and society. A large group of earth scientists, voiced in an IPCC statement, have reached what they claim is a consensus of nearly all atmospheric scientists that man-released greenhouse gases are causing increasing harm to our planet. They predict that most icepacks including those in the Polar Regions, also sea ice, will continue melting with disastrous ecological consequences including coastal flooding. There is no doubt that atmospheric greenhouse gases are rising rapidly and little doubt that some warming and bad ecological events are occurring. However, the main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system. We only need to watch the weather forecasts. However, a vocal minority of scientists so mistrusts the models and the complex fragmentary data, that some claim that global warming is a hoax. They have made public statements accusing other scientists of deliberate fraud in aid of their research funding. Both sides are now hurling personal epithets at each other, a very bad development in Earth sciences. The claim that hurricanes are being modified by the impacts of rising greenhouse gases is the most inflammatory frontline of this battle and the aspect that journalists enjoy the most. The situation is so bad that the front page of the Wall Street Journal printed an article in which one distinguished scientist said another distinguished scientist has a fossilized brain. He, in turn, refers to his critics as 'the Gang of Five'.
"Few of these people seem to have any skeptical self-criticism left, although virtually all of the claims are derived from either flawed data sets or imperfect models or both. The term “global warming” itself is very vague. Where and what scales of response are measurable? One distinguished scientist has shown that many aspects of climate change are regional, some of the most harmful caused by changes in human land use. No one seems to have properly factored in population growth and land use, particularly in tropical and coastal areas.
"What should we as a nation do? Decisions have to be made on incomplete information. In this case, we must act on the recommendations of Gore and the IPCC because if we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate models are right, the planet as we know it will in this century become unsustainable" (Simpson Feb 08).
Pielke also includes a "guest weblog" by Dr. Kiminori Itoh another of the scientists quoted by the Senate Committee, and WorldNetDaily. In describing his own history, Itoh says that in 1995, he "was rather surprised at that time to know how this issue was ambiguous unlike stories that conventional news or opinions tell us. For instance, I wondered why the effect of solar changes had been neglected by most climatologists, when I saw in Science a Letter article from the Danish Meteorological Institute in 1997. I also felt it was dangerous that the Japanese society was going to increase nuclear power plants to decrease carbon dioxide, and thought that I had to do something for this situation." (Itoh June 17 08)
He expresses regret that the title of his most recent book, “Lies and Traps in the Global Warming Affairs,” and the names of the chapters are sensationalistic because they were chosen by the publisher. Itoh cautions against what he calls "the narrow view on global warming" and proposes that policy makers acquire "climate literacy" as a prerequisite to responsible consideration of the climate change issue.
He lists the following "six points for policy makers":
1. The global temperature will not increase rapidly if any. There is sufficient time to think about future energy and social systems.
2. The climate system is more robust than conventionally claimed. For instance, the Gulf Stream will not stop by fresh water inflow.
3. There are many factors to cause the climate changes particularly in regional and local scales. Considering only greenhouse gases is nonsense and harmful.
4. A comprehensive climate convention is necessary. The framework-protocol formulism is too old to apply to modern international issues.
5. Reconsider countermeasures for the climate changes. For instance, to reduce Asian Brown Cloud through financial and technical aid of developed countries is beneficial from many aspects, and can become a Win-Win policy.
6. The policy makers should be “Four-ball juggler.” Multiple viewpoints are inevitable to realize sustainable societies.
In assessing the credibility of the WordNetDaily article, it is relevant to note that the words attributed in that article to Itoh are actually the words of Dr. Akasofu (Professor Emeritus, University of Alaska). Itoh sincerely thinks that Akasofu is correct. But WorldNetDaily has got the details wrong.
|"Humans are significantly altering the global climate, but in a variety of diverse ways beyond the radiative effect of carbon dioxide."|
Pielke's Weblog offers the following nuanced and complex list as "conclusions" that have been "clearly documented" since July 2005:
1. The needed focus for the study of climate change and variability is on the regional and local scales. Global and zonally-averaged climate metrics would only be important to the extent that they provide useful information on these space scales.
2. Global and zonally-averaged surface temperature trend assessments, besides having major difficulties in terms of how this metric is diagnosed and analyzed, do not provide significant information on climate change and variability on the regional and local scales.
3. Global warming is not equivalent to climate change. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, can occur without any global warming or cooling.
4. The spatial pattern of ocean heat content change is the appropriate metric to assess climate system heat changes including global warming.
5. In terms of climate change and variability on the regional and local scale, the IPCC Reports, the CCSP Report on surface and tropospheric temperature trends, and the U.S. National Assessment have overstated the role of the radiative effect of the anthropogenic increase of CO2 relative to the role of the diversity of other human climate forcings on global warming, and more generally, on climate variability and change.
6. Global and regional climate models have not demonstrated skill at predicting regional and local climate change and variability on multi-decadal time scales.
7. Attempts to significantly influence regional and local-scale climate based on controlling CO2 emissions alone is an inadequate policy for this purpose.
8. A vulnerability paradigm, focused on regional and local societal and environmental resources of importance, is a more inclusive, useful, and scientifically robust framework to interact with policymakers, than is the focus on global multi-decadal climate predictions which are downscaled to the regional and local scales. The vulnerability paradigm permits the evaluation of the entire spectrum of risks associated with different social and environmental threats, including climate variability and change.
summarizes a nuanced and complex set of conclusions.
Pielke believes that "Humans are significantly altering the global climate, but in a variety of diverse ways beyond the radiative effect of carbon dioxide." He mentions aerosols, land use, and the biogeochemical effects of CO2 increases compared to the radiative effects. The identification of aerosols is especially interesting now when coalition policy makers have agreed on the creation of a carbon market as a policy stance on climate change. Sometimes cited is the "successful" offset market created to limit CFSs. Is Pielke arguing that CFSs is still among those aerosols creating climate change?
All this subtlety is beyond the scope of the Senate Committee or WorldNetDaily both of which appear to be cherry-picking phrases and sentences which they are glad to take out of context as long as their own oversimplified side in the mythical dualism is reinforced. What we need--what is absolutely required is Itoh's "four-ball juggler." I have stopped at three, not from ideology but from limited time.
The whole press release, including links to a PDF of the whole minority report can be found here =>
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