Thursday, October 27th 2011, 3:24 AM EDT
The mainstream media has been spiking the football in the proverbial end zone ever since a paper released last Friday claimed two-thirds of global temperature stations show some warming occurred during the past century. The media have been claiming the new paper delivers a death blow to skepticism, but the paper itself brings almost nothing new to the global warming debate and instead shows how far global warming advocates are from presenting credible evidence of a crisis. Rather than delivering a death blow to skepticism, the media has merely invented and shredded an insignificant straw man.
University of California, Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller analyzed land-based temperature readings from temperature stations around the world and found two-thirds indicate warming temperatures and one-third indicate cooling temperatures. As a result, “Global warming is real,” summarized Muller in an editorial he wrote in the October 21 Wall Street Journal .
Muller acknowledged that many of the stations produced incomplete temperature records and had poor quality control. He claimed that he nevertheless included them in the study to avoid “data-selection bias.” Scientists such as Anthony Watts have pointed out several additional flaws in the Muller paper. But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Muller’s paper is flawless in its conclusion that two-thirds of land-based temperature stations report warming rather than cooling. Even under such an assumption, Muller’s paper does nothing to dispel skeptical objections to the theory that humans are causing a global warming crisis.
The case for a human-induced global warming crisis requires the demonstration of several components. These include (1) that global temperatures are rising, (2) that global temperatures will likely continue to rise in the future, (3) that the rise in temperatures is or will be sufficiently rapid and substantial to cause enormous negative consequences that far outweigh the benefits of such warming and (4) that human emissions of greenhouse gases account for all such temperature rise or enough of the temperature rise to elevate the temperature rise to crisis levels.
In order to justify government action against global warming, advocates must also show that the proposed action will substantially reduce the negative impacts of the asserted crisis and that the costs of such action will not outweigh the benefits.
Muller’s paper merely addresses the first component necessary to support the theory of a human-induced global warming crisis. Moreover, this first component hasn’t been in dispute, even before publication of Muller’s paper.
Very few if any skeptics assert that the earth is still in the Little Ice Age. While the Little Ice Age raged from approximately 1300 to 1900 AD, it is pretty well accepted that the Little Ice Age did indeed end by approximately 1900 AD. The mere fact that the Little Ice Age ended a little over 100 years ago, and that temperatures have warmed during the course of recovering from the Little Ice Age, tells us absolutely nothing about the remaining components necessary to support an assertion that humans are creating a global warming crisis.
Muller himself admits, “How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.”
So we have a paper merely claiming that two out of three global temperature stations report the Little Ice Age is over. This supports the media spiking the football and proclaiming the death of skepticism regarding a human-induced global warming crisis?
Even prominent global warming advocate Eric Steig admits, “Anybody expecting earthshaking news from Berkeley, now that the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group being led by Richard Muller has released its results, had to be content with a barely perceptible quiver. As far as the basic science goes, the results could not have been less surprising if the press release had said ‘Man Finds Sun Rises At Dawn.’”
“Overall, we are underwhelmed by the quality of [the] Berkeley effort so far,” Steig adds.
Far from marking the death of skepticism, the media’s over-the-top sensationalism of the Muller paper shows just how far global warming advocates are from supporting their assertions of a human-induced global warming crisis. The straw man may be dead, but skepticism of a human-induced global warming crisis is alive and well.
James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment policy at and managing editor of The Heartland InstituteEnvironment & Climate News.