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Thaw Out, Dude!

Posted by Rick · January 4th, 2005 · 5 Comments

Another local Fresno legal type whose blog I periodically read wrote recently about issues of global warming. He’s convinced that scientific evidence of global warming is akin to the anecdotal evidence he received from a cabbie in Alaska recently — and just as (un)reliable.

He wonders why Discover and the New York Times keep printing bogus stories about global warming.

[W]hy do the proponents have to lie, and when they aren’t lying, ignore the evidence provided by real experts like the Alaska Climate Research Center, who one would think might know what they are talking about. — Peter Sean Bradley, “Global Warming in Alaska” (January 20, 2005) Lex Communis.

Indeed.


Mr. Bradley fails to recognize — or perhaps just to admit? — that googling your way to scientific knowledge is a bit like thinking you’re an architect because you watch HGTV every weekend. Or perhaps it’s like believing America is a Christian nation because after we felt stung over a U.N. official’s comment, we successfully competed in a worldwide pissing match over who gives the most aid to a couple hundred thousand tsunami victims while we ignore the millions (approximately 35 million) of poor, hungry and homeless in our own country. (And we “won” that match by stealing money that was already earmarked for Iraq, I might add. Funny how with the current Administration one deception frequently fuels another. It’s like living in a giant Ponzi scheme.)

It’s difficult for me to understand how someone as old as Mr. Bradley (whom I believe is at least as old as me) could not merely go off his own memory to begin to wonder if there wasn’t something to global warming. When I first moved to California in 1966, you could see the mountains to the east of Visalia from N.A.S. Lemoore — a distance of perhaps 35-40 miles. Winters were colder, too. Today, I live just a few miles from those same mountains, in Clovis, California. Unless it rains, I have trouble seeing them. Heck, forget that! Unless it rains, I have trouble seeing just a few miles down the road!

And I don’t remember the last time I was truly cold.

Seriously, he mentions “experts” in Alaska? So what about the fact that, according to Alaskan experts, winters in the Artic are becoming shorter? What about the fact that this is affecting oil drilling? What about the fact that because of that the U.S. Energy Department is providing a grant to determine if there are ways to get around with the impact the shorter winters are having on oil exploration efforts in the area?

Do Mr. Bradley’s Alaskan experts not include the Alaska Regional Assessment Group, whose reports were published by the Center for Global Change and Artic System Research at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks? Are they not experts? If not, why would they be funded by the International Arctic Science Committee of Oslo, Norway? Why would the National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs, give them money? How did they get the support of the Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey group? According to a report they released in 1999,

Alaska has experienced the largest regional warming of any state in the U.S., with a rise in average temperature of about 5°F (3°C) since the 1960s and 8°F (4.5°C) in winter. Records from some regions show a warming of nearly 3-4°F (1.5-2°C) quite suddenly in the late 1970s…. There has been extensive melting of glaciers, thawing of permafrost and reduction of sea-ice. The Alaskan regional warming trend is part of a larger warming trend throughout the Artic. Preface and Executive Summary of The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (December 1999) Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research.

It’s difficult to read most of the reports “posted” by the “experts” in whom Mr. Bradley places so much faith. It seems their expertise does not extend to the Internet; the majority of their links are to “file:///IceAxe/Users/martha/Desktop/…” which, of course, is not something you could reach via the Internet.

Mr. Bradley, however, is quite confident that the link he used to their site shows no global warming…

Uh-oh! What happens if you extend the range of data on that same website? What about extending it even further? Oops.

In comments to his post, Mr. Bradley chides one of his readers:

I guess the fact that you are confusing my blog with the New York Times and Discover magazine is quite natural. After all, they have paid reporters and researchers who are trained to convey the nuances of complex scientific stories, which might conceivably be expected to include the fact that there is an absence of evidence for human-caused global warming in precisely the region where it should be most pronounced.

I, on the other hand, am a blogger who knows how to use Google. — Peter Sean Bradley, Comments to Global Warming in Alaska (January 2, 2005) Lex Communis.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps those paid reporters and researchers trained to convey such nuances have evaluated the “evidence” of which Mr. Bradley preens himself for discovering. Perhaps as they did so, the evidence melted away.

And perhaps I, too, am a blogger who knows how to use Google.

Now if I could only get him to update the reciprocal link he was gracious enough to provide me on his website. 😉

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Peter Sean Bradley // Jan 4, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    Rick,

    I don’t think you’re being fair to my original post. If you go back and re-read it, you will see that I linked to the “extended graph.” I also pointed out that:

    “Now, what is interesting is that there has been a definite rise in temperature over the last 30 years, with a “phase shift” in 1976 as a result of “Pacific Decadal Oscillations.” It’s an interesting phenomenon, but not one that reflects any support for a theory of global warming caused by human action; unless, of course, we managed to lick the problem shortly after 1976, which would be good news because we could move on to other issues.”

    I wrote that because that is what the site actually said. Also, it’s actually very interesting data in and of itself.

    As for your the shortened winter scenario, the article concedes:

    “In a June 3 news release, the Energy Department did not refer to global warming. Instead, it quoted Mike Smith, the assistant energy secretary for fossil energy, as saying the grant will be combined with $70,000 put up by oil companies to ‘refine our understanding of the tundra’s resistance to disturbances.'”

    The article then does the typical insertion of some other source which might or might not support the headline. Also no information about shorter winters is provided anywhere in the article. It’s identical in format to the 7 degrees of warming claim that the New York Times made which the ACRC explained.

    None of this proves that the evidence of global warming is “overwhelming.”

  • 2 Rick Horowitz // Jan 4, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    The so-called (and apparently misnamed?) Pacific Decadal Oscillations (PDOs) which are believed to occur every 20 to 30 years were “discovered” in 1996.

    After spending some time as a google-fed scientist, it seems to me that credentialed scientists may not be in complete agreement over whether PDOs are a real phenomenon. Amongst those who accept the theory, there appears to be general agreement that we entered a “cooling phase” in 1996. In other words, the shift upwards in 1976 has now shifted downwards in 1996. Yet warming, melting and thawing continue.

    Even if PDOs are “real,” this is explained, according to scientists in Fairbanks and other locations, using data extending back to 1930, in that temperatures in Alaska and other parts of the world appear to be continuing to rise above those that would be predicted by a positive PDO. They note that a substantial part of the warming (in Alaska) may be due to the PDO, but the PDO does not account for all of it. It appears to be the case that the PDOs may explain why Alaska is experiencing significantly more warming than other areas of the world which are nevertheless also experiencing warming trends.

    As one site put it,

    • The rate of warming in Alaska, even after removing the effects of the PDO, remains at least as great (and probably greater) than the global average.
    • The rate of warming appears to be accelerating. These data are consistent with predictions that Arctic regions will experience a greater degree of warming than the global average as a result of greenhouse gas emissions.

    — Tom Rees, “Alaska Temperatures and their Relationship with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO)” (Last updated March 7, 2004).

    I don’t believe I was unfair to your article. I believe the principal thrust of my statements was to note that one does not become a masterful scientist capable of criticizing (nor supporting, btw) complex theories relating to global meteorological phenomena by googling information, nor by reading NYT or Discover articles.

    It’s unfortunate — understandable, but unfortunate — that political viewpoints require non-scientists to discount scientific theories which appear to be accepted generally throughout the scientific community, excepting, of course, those scientists in the employ of oil companies or forced to support an existing administration’s policies — an existing administration, I might add, made up principally of men who made their millions from oil and whose closest friends still run the world’s oil companies.

    And on the other side? What have they to gain? Oh, yeah, advancement of ecological concerns.

    That ought to make them rich!

    Which group do you think has the most to lose if the United States decided to do something about global warming?

  • 3 Peter Sean Bradley // Jan 9, 2005 at 8:20 pm

    That’s an amazing site you found.

    Do you realize that the site denies that any natural factor could possibly be materially related to any warming we may currently be experiencing.

    Just on the level of logic, you have to suspect that there’s something wrong with the site because we know that climate has changed over time without regard to human activity. When you see that kind of cognitive dissonance, you ought to suspect that there’s something else going on, namely that someone has invested very deeply in seeing a given conclusion advanced. It doesn’t have to be money; of all the motives for bias money is the weakest. But it takes a remarkably naive attitude to ignore that $11 Billion was showered on a small community of climate scientists – around 60 – who can conclude that their new-found status rises and falls with the global warming thesis. Even if you disagree with the conclusions that that leads to – because it doesn’t involve Republicans and oil companies – doesn’t even a tiny red flag get raised somewhere?

    Now, here’s my concern about the two approaches to the data. The ACRC data is simply plotted data. It shows that there are two periods of stable temperature with a dramatic rise between them. That’s why they – not me – drew the two flat lines where they did. Do all the linear regression analysis you want, but the fact is that if you’re permafrost in Fairbanks, you don’t feel warmer in 2003 than you did in 1978. That’s simply what the thermometer readings say.

  • 4 Peter Sean Bradley // Jan 9, 2005 at 8:22 pm

    Continued….

    On the other hand, your source plays the statistics game; which is fine but as debater and lawyer, when I see that I know that we’re not dealing with data but with interpretation. But there’s no explanatory power in that approach. I have yet to see an explanation for how global warming can produce a punctuated increase between two stable temperature regimes. Go and google for it. I don’t think you can because even James Hansen concedes that global warming over the next 50 years will be less than a degree.
    So I’m sorry if the PDO was found in the ’90s, but, honestly, that’s precisely how science works, particularly when you’re trying to find a theory that fits the facts rather than vice versa. Which theory fits punctuated warming – a theory that says that incremental changes in CO2 causes incremental increases or one that identifies a “punctuated” cause. I’m thinking the latter.

    But let’s say your site has credibility; so does mine, which means that I’ve proven the thesis that I set out to prove, which is that the narrative of “proven” or “overwhelming” acceptance of global warming promoted by the media is propoganda, not fact. Your side might be right, but that is a matter of faith, not fact, at this point in time.

    Finally, please accept my respectful request that you knock off the sneering at my “googling” myself to “insta-expert status.” You don’t know anything about my science background, or lack thereof. More importantly, as part of my practice I have cross-examined the leading expert in fields as varied as the ecology and genetics of agrobacterium tumafaciens and the stall/spin characteristics of single engine airplanes and demolished their theories, so I am not without actual experience and success in assimilating scientific data, determining where the bullshit is and communicating that to a neutral fact finder.

  • 5 Rick Horowitz // Jan 9, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    Thanks for the flattery of labeling that “my site.” I’m not quite that smart. 😉

    And when the temperatures are significantly warmer in 2003 than in 1978 and you’re permafrost, you may not feel significantly warmer, but you’ll feel like you’ve been on a terrific workout program, because you’re significantly thinner. That, at least, seems to be the consensus among researchers who study such things.

    You note,

    …I’ve proven the thesis that I set out to prove, which is that the narrative of “proven” or “overwhelming” acceptance of global warming promoted by the media is propoganda, not fact. Your side might be right, but that is a matter of faith, not fact, at this point in time.

    There are two interesting things to note about this (aside from the falsity of it).

    First, it’s difficult to understand how a lawyerly thinker such as yourself could come to the conclusion that he has “proven” that “the narrative of ‘proven’ or ‘overwhelming’ acceptance…is propaganda” because he found one website that supports a contrary view. Even supposing that website were correct about what it says, what this would be showing is that those in the scientific community that disagreed would be wrong. It would not show that the narrative offered by the media was incorrect.

    Remember that — as you yourself state — “the narrative” is that there is overwhelming acceptance among scientists that global warming is a real phenomenon. So what would be needed to prove that the narrative is incorrect is that there is no such overwhelming acceptance among scientists. Finding one, two, or perhaps even several dozen (hundreds?) who disagreed with this would not suffice to do that, if several thousand scientists were of the opinion that global warming was a real phenomenon. The narrative claiming overwhelming acceptance would be correct.

    The second thing I found interesting about your comment was the attempt — a favorite among creation scientists (which, I believe from reading your site, you don’t necessarily support) — of trying to say, “Well, when it comes down to it, it’s all about faith. You have to exercise faith to accept what your believe, just as you accuse us of doing.”

    And while there may be some kernel of truth to this, it’s misleading to cast things in that light.

    When I go to bed at night, I have “faith” that the world is going to be there tomorrow. When I open the door of my house and step out, I have “faith” that by doing so, my foot will touch down on my doorstep — and not in some alternate reality. If someone suggests to me that the sun will not rise tomorrow, it is “faith” that causes me not to accept their comment at face value.

    This is a little different than having faith that a minority of scientists opposing the idea that global warming caused by greenhouse gases is a reality. I suppose I would put it in the same class as believing that evolution is a farce and that the literal, fundamentalist view of a six-day creation occurring less than 10,000 years ago is true. That’s real faith.

    And it’s also just a bit too extreme for me.

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