see “Frostbite ends Bancroft-Arnesen trek” (AP via Yahoo, 3/12/07)
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070312/ap_on_sc/polar_trek_1

In an article reporting on the termination of a trek across the North Pole, the trekkers display a lack of scientific understanding that is sadly typical of global warming alarmists.

The trekkers, who ironically were hiking across the Arctic and the North Pole in order to get visual proof of global warming, were forced to cancel by “unexpectedly cold temperatures” which caused frostbite in the foot of one of the trekkers.

The particular idiocy of these trekkers is represented in this fantastic quote from the article:

“They were experiencing temperatures that weren’t expected with global warming,” Atwood said. “But one of the things we see with global warming is unpredictability.”

It’s just so good, isn’t it?

First, global warming cult members seem to believe that the entire world has suddenly and constantly been put into a state of high temperatures. Second, they seeem to believe that climate variability somehow declines as overall temperature levels change. Neither of these things is true.

One of the biggest mistakes global warming alarmists make is to confuse daily weather with climate. Climate is a massive thing, taking place on a huge physical scale and over a very long time. Discussing climate change based on a few warm or cold days (or even months or years) in a few locations is like discussing geology based on the change in one or two rock formations in a short time. If one volcano erupts somewhere on earth, that doesn’t mean that the earth is suddenly in a long period of widespread volcanic activity.

Indeed, for those of you who obsess about short-term information, the NOAA reports that February was the 34th coldest February in 113 years and the coldest in more than a decade.

Many of the global warming alarmists are well-intentioned. Many are not, and simply find the issue a great way to attack capitalism, industry, and freedom. And many use the issue as a (very successful) fund-raising tool, so have a financial interest in scaring people.

One thing they have in common is a tremendous misunderstanding of science and of existing data, of how to think about and question conclusions apparently based on the data. Examples include things like being surprised that it gets cold at the North Pole.

Another, which requires more of curious mind, is to question any correlation and the likelihood of its continuation. A good example of that comes from Al Gore’s fantasy film “An Inconvenient Truth” in which Gore shows a line representing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and a similarly shaped line representing “global warming”. There are many problems with the message people take from Gore’s lines.

1) Because the lines look similar does not mean that one is causing the other, and if one is you’d better be sure you know which is causing which. One could easily argue (and some serious scientists do) that temperature changes causes CO2 level changes rather than the other way around. Ice core records from long ago show that temperatures rose before CO2 levels increased. In addition, the issue is far more complicated than a simple cause-effect relationship.

2) In a similar vein, one must remember that there must be more than one factor in climate change and that there is no reason to assume that anyone, and particularly not a politician, knows which factor or combination of factors is dominant. A chart of solar activity, for example, tracks temperature change noticeably better than the CO2 chart does. And back to the causation issue, it is very possible that the solar activity causes some part of the CO2 increase as well as temperature change. Also, there are many other important atmospheric components, such as water vapor, which are more likely to have an impact on climate.

3) Just as history is somewhat defined by those who write the history books, statistics are defined by those who choose the data set to analyze. The big problem with the global warming people is that they cherry pick the data set in order to make the issue appear as big and as unique as possible. But if you look at a more relevant time period for examining something like climate, i.e. thousands of years instead of dozens of years, you find a consistent cyclical nature to global climate. In fact, if you go back many thousands of years, you can find a time period when there was a massive CO2 concentration in the atmosphere but very low temperatures.

4) In addition to the size of the data set, in climate it is important to consider the location from which the data comes. While measurements around urban areas show real warming over time (from the urban heat island effect), measures of upper atmosphere and ocean show various things from cooling to very slight warming. And measures from the southern hemisphere generally do not show warming. Ice thickness measures from the South Pole actually show the ice there thickening, but the alarmists never mention that. They only talk about the “threat” of Arctic or Greenland ice melting (even though Greenland in particular has melted quite a bit less than the alarmists have said.)

5) Another big mistake is projecting the past into the future. For example, even if you accepted Gore’s lines and their implied correlation, which I don’t, it is a huge mistake to accept his conclusion that if we increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations at the same rate that we have in the recent past then temperatures will continue to increase at the same rate they have in the recent past. To the extent that there is an effect of CO2 on temperature it is logarithmic, not linear. This means that if we doubled CO2 concentrations and saw an X degree rise in temperatures because of it, doubling the concentation again would cause a temperature rise of substantially less than X degrees. Of course Gore doesn’t tell you that. He shows you two lines that appear to move similarly over his selected time period, then says that he expects one line (the CO2 concentration) to go up on some steep angle and expects you to assume that the other line (temperature) will then follow. It won’t.

6) And finally (for today), do not buy their implication that humans are, relative to the entire earth, an important source of CO2. Much more is produced by volcanos, oceans, and cows. In other words, humans and our effects are so small compared to the entire planet and its climate that it is little more than huge anti-capitalist egos (the same people who think they know better than we do what to do with our own money, for example) which argue that humans can have any measurable effect on global climate.

The economic arguments against global warming alarmists are at least as strong as the scientific argments, and I will continue to offer some education about both over coming months.

On the bright side, it seems that there is a growing scientific backlash against what has becoming something like a religion of global warming panic, and I will bring you more of that information as well.

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