Recently, top environmental scientists and government officials met in hot, steamy Doha, Qatar, trying to come up with a plan to cool things down. The only problem is that if man-caused global warming ever was occurring, it stopped 16 years ago. What? You didn’t know that?
Oh that’s right, when the United Kingdom’s National Weather Service, known as the Met, which along with the University of East Anglia is one of the key players in tracking global temperatures, published in October its latest conclusion that Earth’s temperatures have not risen by a statistically significant amount since 1997, it did so on the down-low. No press conference was called. No press release was issued. No calls were made to influential reporters covering the climate debates.
Six months earlier, however, the Met made quite big deal over a report it published showing a very slight warming trend since 1997. The explanation for the different reports is simple. And so is the explanation for the different degree of hype each received (or didn’t receive in the case of the October report).
Over a relatively short span of time global temperature data can be manipulated to say pretty much what researchers want it to say. Remember the infamous “Hockey Stick” graph trumpeted in Al Gore’s hyperventilating movie An Inconvenient Truth a few years ago? By stopping the global temperature trend report since 1997 at the end of 2010, Earth’s temperature appears to be on a slightly upward climb – not enough to fully support the hysterical cries coming from some in Doha and from those with economic and/or political stakes in the global warming religion, but enough to keep them from looking totally foolish for continuing their war on carbon emissions.
Conversely, extending the trend through the first eight months of 2012 – which happened to be a cooler period than the full year 2010 – would make the apostles of climate change look silly. So the scorekeepers at the Met and the University of East Anglia – who, though scientists openly are practitioners in the cult of climate change – tried to sneak that seemingly important news past the few reporters in the world who’ve not yet been baptized into, and past the brave souls in the science world who are dissenters from the Church of Global Warming.
All this academic tomfoolery and public relations gamesmanship would be mildly humorous if the consequences weren’t so serious. That’s because most of those folks in Doha, and plenty more in capitols and universities around the world, are trying to formulate global policies to limit carbon and other potentially dangerous emissions that accompany the burning of fossil fuels for energy production. As of this writing, it appears the Doha talks will end without reaching agreement on extending the infamous Kyoto Protocols. Of course, had the Kyoto Protocols been ratified by the United States and other hold-out nations, the required actions would have done serious damage to the global economy without making much of a dent in the global warming trend that, ironically, seems to have stopped the same year the Kyoto agreement was reached. (Editor’s Note: The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change came into effect in 2005. It aimed to commit developed countries to reduce emissions and to use market mechanisms to ensure the implementation of the document. The first period of the commitments on the protocol will be over on December 31, 2012. In Doha the participants of the conference voted for the extension of the validity of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020.)
I don’t pretend to know the correct answer. Is the planet warming? The answer seems to be, yes it is, at least when compared to the 500-year “Little Ice Age” period that ended around 1850. But it’s not particularly hot when compared with other known periods of high global temperatures in Earth’s history. And it’s certainly not warming much, if at all, in recent years. Thus, claims that the planet could further heat up by a hugely significant 8 degrees by the year 2100 seem exaggerated beyond all reason, especially in light of economically-devastating actions some have proposed that, nevertheless, wouldn’t stop the cataclysm they forecast.
There are at least as many academic studies (many done by global warming proponents) pooh-poohing those grand claims as there are studies supporting them. And all of the studies – for and, to varying degrees, against global warming – are handicapped by enormous gaps in our understanding of many factors in the climate equation: things like long-term oceanic cycles, atmospheric patterns and the impact of waxing and waning solar cycles on Earth’s climate conditions. In fact, Swedish researchers who’ve studied the relatively recent growth of “peatlands” (marshes and bogs) all across Scandinavia have suggested that man-made global warming is actually benefitting us by blocking what otherwise would be the onset of a devastating new ice age. Who knew peat moss could be so important?
It is clear that the world would be engaging in grand-scale hubris, at the very least, and perhaps economic suicide in the worst case scenario, if we were to establish a global policy dramatically curtailing the burning of fossil fuels – coal mainly, but also petroleum products – in an attempt to rein in climate change that may or may not be happening and which, if it is happening, may well be impervious to any actions mankind takes to stop it.
I am not calling for a totally laissez faire approach to governing the burning of fossil fuels for energy production. The ethical and moral concept of good stewardship requires industry – and governments to the extent that their actions can aid industry in this regard – to do all that it can to minimize certainly the local and regional, and when possible, the globally negative effects of carbon and other gaseous emissions. For far too long industry did not understand that responsibility and, in some cases, continued to ignore that responsibility once the facts were coming to light. But we should not go so far as to put unfair and economically ruinous limitations on the ability of people and nations – especially those now beginning the process of industrialization and modernization that have greatly benefitted the developed world – to improve their lot in life. Not when we know that it’s no hotter now than it was 16 years ago when the “experts” at Kyoto were breathlessly hyping a dangerously rapid run up in global temperatures.
Dan Reed is a communications consultant and former senior reporter and Texas bureau chief for USA Today and senior reporter/financial reporter for the Fort Worth Start-Telegram who has written on a variety of critical issues in several industries.
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