Secret Global Warming Skeptics (2010 Jan)

by Barry A. Liebling

Global warming alarmists are frantic. Human industrialization – especially burning fossil fuels – is increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide which – if not stopped soon – will lead to irreversible catastrophic global heat. Coastlines will become flooded, cities will be destroyed, people will perish or live in misery. Even more horrifying to alarmists, wildlife including polar bears will have a difficult time adjusting to human-caused calamity.

True believers have a panacea that will avert certain disaster. Empower the United Nations and cooperating sovereign governments to capitate and tax carbon emissions. Deliberately make the price of energy “skyrocket” – which means the cost of manufacturing anything and transporting anything goes up a lot. Use the taxes to fund the favorite projects of leftist politicos including “clean energy” such as solar power and wind power that are not economical in a free market. Mandate that common people take on a simpler, less luxurious lifestyle by reducing their carbon footprints. For most Americans the standard of living must decline. The sacrifices are well worth it, however, because besides saving the planet generous resources will be transferred to governments that are committed to communitarian ideals.

But what if the global warming doctrine is mistaken? What if the past, current, and future ups and downs of the earth’s climate are mostly caused by natural non-human forces such as the sun, water vapor, and volcanoes? Suppose human activity contributes to global warming – but only slightly? Would that deflate the rationalization for a massive government take over of the economy?

Global warming gurus insist that there is no chance their claims are false. The science is settled. Climatologists worldwide have been working on the problem for years and have published their unbiased results in peer-reviewed academic journals. There are no legitimate controversies. The time for talking is over. The time to act is now.

Alarmists label those who are skeptical of the global warming doctrine as “deniers.” The term is deliberately chosen to resemble “holocaust deniers.” The connotation is that skeptics are foolish, or have malicious motives, or both.

Of course there is a sizable number of climate scientists – and interested citizens – who disagree with the alarmists. But these skeptics are not to be taken seriously. Only scientists, politicians, and pundits who are part of the in-crowd have the wisdom to opine on global warming, and they all agree with one another.

Who is in with the in-crowd? Check out the leading climate warming institutions and see who the principal investigators are. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) is a major player. In the US, Penn State University is a center of global warming research, as is the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) in the UK.

Recently the global warming in-crowd has been embarrassed by a scandal called “Climategate.” A large number of e-mails between some of the most influential climate scientists in the alarmist camp have been leaked. Apparently the e-mails implicate several renowned investigators in a nefarious conspiracy. One allegation is that they pressured the official peer-reviewed journals to make sure that research that disagreed with their global warming party line was never published.

Much more significant is the charge that some of the most famous scientists have fudged the results of their own research to “prove” man-made global warming. Specifically, critics familiar with the e-mails and conversant with climate research are accusing investigators at Penn State and at East Anglia University of dishonestly manipulating data.

Any valid theory of climate change has to take into account the Medieval Warm Period (starting around 1000 where the earth was hotter than today) and the Little Ice Age (a cooler earth that ended around the year 1850). The accusation is that by cherry picking data that supports their case while ignoring data that does not and by using fancy statistical techniques inappropriately the illustrious scientists made the warm period and little ice age disappear. This permitted them to describe the earth as having stable temperatures – rather than natural ups and downs – until recently. The famous “hockey stick” chart – portraying an abrupt, recent, unprecedented rise in temperature – is the alarmist signature exhibit that claims to prove human-caused catastrophic warming.

What if the charge that prominent investigators faked the data turns out to be true? Of course, this throws a monkey wrench into the global warming movement. Research supporting human-caused global warming will have to be reevaluated. Alarmists have responded that even if some findings are suspect, there is a huge body of evidence generated by other scientists supporting the dogma of human-caused catastrophe. But the alarmists understate the magnitude of their problem. The investigators who are suspected of unprofessional conduct are not merely journeymen who have an interest in global warming; they are the leaders and stars in their field and have directed or profoundly influenced most of the research that “supports” the view that humans are ruining the planet.

And if the premiere investigators are exposed as fraudsters there is another implication. They are skeptics themselves. They do not personally believe in the human-caused global warming doctrine. In their private opinion the evidence does not support the claim that man is responsible for catastrophically heating the planet.

Consider the mindset of a climate scientist that is committed to the global warming doctrine. His first choice is to make his case fair and square – no tricks, just real facts and legitimate analyses and arguments. If one approach does not work he will try another, and another, until he finds a sound line of reasoning that is backed up by facts and can be checked by a disinterested judge. In science this is the path to glory.

An investigator who decides to fudge the data and use tainted analytical techniques has already given up. Bear in mind we are talking about prominent climate scientists with large research budgets, graduate student assistants, and many years to pursue their research. Once they cheat they must either think that human-caused global warming is false or that demonstrating it is stupendously difficult. A climatologist who resorts to fakery cannot sincerely believe that “the science is settled” and “the debate is over.” He is a secret global warming skeptic.

Global warming alarmists insist their position is based on science, and they are not sympathetic to those who are skeptical. How will they respond if their key research is revealed to be a sham? If they persist as alarmists should they be considered foolish, or maliciously motivated, or both?

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