Global Shenanigans

Monday, November 17, 2008

I should have seen this coming, but somehow didn't: My schedule's gettin' squeezed like a zit on prom night. Or something like that. Possible light blogging through the end of the week as I switch back in to Houston mode....


Reader Dismuke alerted me yesterday to an interesting story that I bet I wouldn't have otherwise heard of: A particularly glaring example of scientific incompetence or outright fraud has cropped up yet again in the laboratory of a major contributor of climatological data that allegedly supports claims that human activity is causing the earth's climate to warm.
Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record....

But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.

The error was so glaring that ... GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new "hotspot" in the Arctic - in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.

A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian figures was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with. [Translation: We want even more grant money. --ed] This is an astonishing admission: the figures published by Dr Hansen's institute are not only one of the four data sets that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies on to promote its case for global warming, but they are the most widely quoted, since they consistently show higher temperatures than the others.

If there is one scientist more responsible than any other for the alarm over global warming it is Dr Hansen, who set the whole scare in train back in 1988 with his testimony to a US Senate committee chaired by Al Gore. Again and again, Dr Hansen has been to the fore in making extreme claims over the dangers of climate change. (He was recently in the news here for supporting the Greenpeace activists acquitted of criminally damaging a coal-fired power station in Kent, on the grounds that the harm done to the planet by a new power station would far outweigh any damage they had done themselves.) [bold added]
Somehow, I don't expect to be hearing Heidi "Lysenko" Cullen calling for any type of censure against James Hansen any time soon -- or for a formal retraction of her claims that privately-funded climate research is inherently biased. (And see the interesting quote by James Spann at that last link.)

Having brought this up, it really serves more to alert us of the possible unfolding of a cautionary tale about the hazard of politicization of science that comes with the territory of government funding. The global warming debate, as I have said here many times, continues being engaged in the wrong way:
This is what happens when everyone in a "debate" is actually in full agreement on the essential issue, yet refuses to discuss it, instead electing to prattle incessantly about something entirely tangential. In the misnamed "global warming" debate, both sides agree that the government ought to "do something" about climate change. This fundamental premise is almost never questioned or even named.

But laymen all over the place are arguing themselves blue in the face over whether climate change is occurring and, if so, how. Unfortunately, this second debate would remain (properly) confined to scientists if more people understood the proper role of government, namely the protection of individual rights. Not setting the Earth's thermostat.
Not to downplay the sloppy (at best) science here, but the real debate is the one that still isn't happening.

-- CAV


: Corrected a typo.

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