February 26, 2010

COMMENTARYMany new developments on 'global warming' front

— Acouple of months have passed since this column last visited the wacky, wonderful world of climate change, but a remarkable number of revealing events have occurred.

Yet, most major U.S. news outlets have offered little coverage of the continuing controversy, while readers of British papers once again have been far better served on this issue.

So, given our national media's attitude of, ''if it's critical of global warming, it's news to us,'' let's ponder some developments as our president's new budget factors in nearly $700 billion in revenues (from taxpayers' pockets) based on the admittedly unlikely possibility that Congress will pass his ''cap-and-trade'' limit on carbon emissions.

n First, to recap: In November, an anonymous hacker released thousands of e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, one of the world's top three centers of climate research (along with NOAA and NASA) and a major contributor to reports by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

The whistle-blower's disclosures revealed an astounding record of deceit and attempted silencing of critics by CRU researchers, including the CRU's head, Phil Jones, and Michael Mann of Penn State, co-author of the famous (and baseless) ''hockey stick'' graph showing world temperatures were level for a thousand years until a sharp rise in recent decades.

The graph was used to discount such well-documented climate phenomena as the Medieval Warming Period (800-1400, when temperatures were warmer than today, although CO2 levels were lower) and the Little Ice Age (1600-1850, when conditions were much colder).

The e-mails included the iconic plea to find ''tricks'' to ''hide the decline'' in temperatures in recent years shown by tree ring analysis, which contradicted the results of surface temperature monitoring stations (which we'll return to).

Jones stepped down from his post pending an investigation, and Mann's work is also under review at Penn State.

n The Guardian, a left-wing British paper, has reported that a U.K. agency, the Information Commissioner's Office, said in late January that Jones' CRU committed a criminal act in violation of that nation's Freedom of Information Act by refusing to comply with requests by outside researchers for the data underlying its findings of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming, or AGW.

The ICO said the only reason it was not pursuing prosecution was that the statute of limitations had expired, and it said it was seeking changes in the law to extend those deadlines.

n Interestingly, even after these revelations, PSU's Mann was awarded a federal stimulus grant of $541,184 (to ''save 1.62 jobs,'' according to recovery.gov) to continue his work. His team's total government grants run in the millions.

n The Times of London reported that a section of the 2007 IPCC report stating that Himalayan glaciers would disappear due to AGW by 2035 was based on a single report printed in a mountaineering magazine and was not a matter of rigorous, ''peer-reviewed'' study at all.

The glacier claim has now been disavowed by the IPCC's head, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri.

n Then, it was revealed that the attribution of ''deforestation of the Amazon rainforest'' to global warming was also based on anecdotal reports rather than a scientific study.

The findings, British papers reported, failed to take into account vast swaths of tropical forest were cleared by farmers for agricultural purposes.

n AGW proponents have also stated that ''rising levels of natural disasters'' such as hurricanes and other storms could be attributed to warming.

However, major storm activity is at a 30-year low, even as global CO2 concentrations rise.

Increased damage from such storms is now attributed to increased development in recent decades in the areas, such as flood plains and coastal areas, that are most vulnerable to the storms that do occur.

n Finally, there's surface temperature monitoring. A report released Jan. 27 titled ''Surface Temperature Records: Policy-Driven Deception?'' claims that ''instrumental temperature data for the pre-satellite era (1850-1980) have been so widely, systematically and unidirectionally tampered with that it cannot be credibly asserted there has been any significant 'global warming' in the 20th century.''

The authors, Joseph D'Aleo and Anthony Watts of the Science and Public Policy Institute, say that satellite temperature readings are steadily growing cooler than ground-based readings.

That's because, they say, from 1990 on, ground recordings were increasingly cherry-picked from sites in warmer climates and hotter urban areas, while colder and more rural sites were being excluded.

If true, this casts considerable doubt on recent stories citing U.S. government sources that claim 2009 was ''the warmest year on record.''

Considering the government is still funding people like Mann, one wonders how it can speak reliably on this issue in any context without considerable independent support.

n Unfortunately, whether ''cap-and-tax'' passes or not, the Environmental Protection Agency is poised to regulate CO2, a substance essential to life on Earth, as a pollutant.

According to the current issue of Commentary magazine, that would extend its regulatory scope from the current 12,000 or so businesses it supervises to more than 1 million, giving it effective control over the national economy. That could increase costs to U.S. business by $7 trillion by 2029.

All this, based on a theory that appears less ''scientific'' and more political all the time.

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or:

mharmon@pressherald.com

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