The ‘cause' of promoting alarm over supposed man-made global warming has been losing steam as skeptics like S. Fred Singer find more facts on their side
For quite some time, S. Fred Singer waged a quixotic campaign fighting windmills, so to speak. He disputed the claims of global warming alarmists that mankind is dangerously overheating the Earth, a claim that, not so coincidentally, gave a big boost to the windmill industry, to bring our metaphor full circle.
Singer admittedly doesn't have Al Gore's science credentials. He's never won an Oscar for narrating a Powerpoint movie chock full of errors.
Rather, Singer is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, with an engineering degree from Ohio State and Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University. He has about a half century of research and published works in atmospheric and space physics. He also is founder and president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project, where "we work without salaries and are not beholden to anyone or any organization," and don't solicit government or industry support, relying instead on contributions from individuals and foundations.
We visited with him during his recent visit to Chapman University. It was a happy occasion. After years of criticizing the allegedly "settled science," Singer's side of the debate is enjoying new and widespread credibility. This is thanks to many convergent developments.
First, there's that inconvenient problem for warmists that the scant atmospheric heating they pointed to as evidence of looming doom pretty much stopped about 15 years ago. It's awkward to keep screaming that the sky is falling when everyone can see it isn't.
Then there are the discoveries of how alleged climate experts for years bullied dissenters, plotted to keep opposing views out of peer-reviewed publications and doctored data to conveniently arrive at the necessary conclusions to keep "the cause" alive. "The cause" is how insiders referred to what they wanted you to believe is impartial science. But it always has been a cause, almost religiously so. We know these things now thanks to two massive leaks of emails revealing accounts of the insiders' candid hand-wringing and scheming.
Also in recent years has been an awakening among respectable scientists, heretofore content to go along with the supposed "consensus" about manmade global warming's threat. One of them, David M.W. Evans, formerly of the Australian Greenhouse Office (now the Department of Climate Change), became skeptical when he discovered the main global warming argument collapsing from 1998-2006.
Evans' epiphany exemplified another of the convergent developments that have aided Fred Singer's side. Evans and others simply compared warmists' gloomy predictions with what really came to pass. The theory collapsed. Facts are stubborn. Contrived hypotheses, not so much.
In 1988, for instance, James Hansen, the "father of global warming," predicted that global temperatures by 2000 would soar even if CO2 levels didn't increase. But the temperature didn't rise as he said it would, even though CO2 soared during those years. If warmists' were correct, there should have been a corresponding rise in temperature.
More recently, the Singer side advanced thanks to the likes of Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark and German professor Fritz Vahrenholt.
Svensmark's theory that the sun, not manmade greenhouse emissions, is the biggest driver of climate change has been bolstered by experiments at the prestigious CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Vahrenholt, a father of Germany's environmental movement, was a manmade global warming true believer. He not long ago concurred with the U.N.'s politicized Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about future temperature increases.
But Vahrenholt became skeptical when reviewing an IPCC document on renewable energy and reportedly found hundreds of errors. IPCC officials brushed aside his inquiries, leading Vahrenholt to wonder, "Is this the way they approached the climate assessment reports?" Turns out, it was.
Reportedly, Vahrenholt "was horrified by the sloppiness and deception he found." Now he's written a climate-skeptical book that hit No. 1 on Amazon's German site before it hit the bookstores. Vahrenholt, probably now best-described as a "lukewarmist" rather than a "warmist," agrees that temperatures increased by a fraction of a degree during the past century. But he believes now that future increases will be measured in tenths of degrees Celsius, not 2 or 3 degrees, as IPCC predicts, and that the sun, not man, is largely responsible.
That brings us to another factor that built momentum for what we call the Fred Singer Alarmist Debunking Society. At best, temperature increases are measured worldwide in small fractions of degrees. The only place great warming is seen since the invention of the thermometer is in computer model projections. Garbage in, garbage out. On top of that, it has become more widely understood how questionable temperature measurements are.
SurfaceStations.org's survey of U.S. land-based temperature stations found about 90 percent fail to conform to government standards for placement, meaning they were either too close to heat-generating sources (air-conditioner exhausts) or to cooling sources (shade trees) that skew measurements. The conclusion was that poorly located sites tend to be warmer, but that "adjusted" temperatures still seemed to correspond to the official government record.
Among the survey's red flags, however, is that because "adjustments use data from all surrounding stations, there's the danger that the mean trends are dominated by data from the poorer stations."
If the vast majority of ground stations are badly located, and the worst of those disproportionately affect "the mean trends" of temperature changes, how reliable are the data? Now consider that U.S. temperature stations just discussed are the world's best. Indeed, vast expanses of Earth have few stations. Then consider that, when comparing historical temperatures very few U.S. locations, let alone African and Asian locales, had corresponding measuring stations to compare with a century ago.
As the public increasingly is aware, these facts give harsh perspective to absolute proclamations the Earth has warmed even the claimed 0.7 degrees Celsius in 100 years. What's the margin of error over a century with such seemingly haphazard, spotty and questionable measurements?
That may contribute to many concluding, as does Singer, that ground-based temperatures are unreliable and untrue measurements of the global condition.
"I do claim that the commonly reported and accepted warming between 1978 and 2000 is based only on thermometers from land surface stations and is not supported by any other evidence that I could find," Singer wrote recently for the American Thinker. In fact, ocean, satellite, balloon and proxy measurements, such as taken from tree rings, sediments, ice cores and stalagmites, show essentially no warming during that time span, he said.
Warmists recently celebrated when they thought they had offset what we call the Singer Effect. Physics professor Richard Mueller, previously a climate skeptic, conducted the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature review and nearly duplicated the IPCC's claim about temperature increases. Even though he found surface measuring stations "quality is largely awful," and even though he discovered there are only about a third as many stations in the U.S. as there were 40 years ago, he nevertheless concluded, based on "more than 1.6 billion measurements from more than 39,000 temperature stations around the world," that "global warming is real."
But let's be blunt. So what?
Climates warm and cool, and always have. The Earth has been coming out of the Little Ice Age for a little more than a century. Of course, it's warmer than it was. Global warming enthusiasts read too much into Mueller's findings. He used essentially the same flawed raw data the warmists before him used. Is it surprising he came up with about the same amount of warming?
Warmists, unlike skeptic Fred Singer, skipped right over Mueller's conclusion in the Wall Street Journal column in which he announced he had become a warming believer.
"How much of the warming is due to humans, and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that," Mueller wrote.
"Oops," as we say when we write about such stuff at our blog, OrangePunch.ocregister.com.
So, there's scant warming, and even a recent credible convert can't say whodunit.
Enter Fred Singer, deflater of things alarming: "If there is no warming between 1978-2000, then IPCC's case collapses, and so do all policies built on the IPCC conclusion."
We don't need Mueller's best or even satellite, ocean, balloon or proxy measurements to prove that. The warmists' favorite sources in Great Britain for alarmism, East Anglia's Climate Research Center and the Meteorological Office, now grudgingly concede there has been no meaningful warming since 1997. The Earth may even be cooling, the Met says.
In the race to explain climate, it looks as if skeptics are pulling into the lead