Today's biggest threat to liberty is from the global warming hysteria, because that is the only major political movement that provides a basis for totalitarian control: by seeking to control all of our cheapest, most abundant sources of energy—for which there are no viable alternatives—this movement seeks to control every aspect of our economy and of our lives. Item #1 below gives you just the smallest taste of what the global warming creed demands from us.
This movement is already well on its way to seizing power, bypassing the legislative process. As I have warned, the EPA is poised to impose a carbon dictatorship by executive decree.
That's why the second most important story this year is Climategate, the exposure of incriminating e-mails and data files from the top level of the global warming clerisy. By revealing how the supposed scientific "consensus" on global warming has been rigged, and by calling into doubt all of the basic data and calculations used by the warmists, this scandal has helped to deliver a crushing blow to the scientific underpinnings of the whole warming hysteria. Climategate has invigorated the global warming "skeptics" and given them new credibility, while putting the perpetrators of the hysteria on the defensive.
Since this is all relatively recent—the story broke just before Thanksgiving—I won't recap my commentary on Climategate itself. I'll just direct you to one of my recent articles at RealClearPolitics.
Instead, below I recap the pre-history of Climategate. The scandal had such an electrifying effect precisely because the cooling winds of an intellectual climate change were already blowing.
And they haven't stopped blowing, either. I expect that the new year will bring much more news on this front, including new revelations of fraud and corruption at the center of the global warming establishment. Stay tuned.—RWT
Top Stories of the Year
The First Church of the Warming Globe
"Global Warming Ate My Data"
Intellectual Climate Change
Environmentalism's Berlin Wall, by Robert Tracinski
Top News Stories
Commentary by Robert Tracinski
1. The First Church of the Warming Globe, January 15
The environmentalist quasi-religion continues to place ever greater demands for sacrifice on its devotees. The latest? An article in last Sunday's London Times made some alarming claims about the "carbon footprint" of Google searches. Apparently, someone has figured out that the electronic economy runs on electrons, which have to put in motion by old-fashioned power plants.
The facts behind the Times report have since been disputed, but an overview of the controversy in the Telegraph makes it clear that there is a wider movement toward "green IT," which seeks to place environmental restrictions on the industrial infrastructure of the Internet.
An even more disturbing example of this "green IT" trend is the item below. The link is to an annoying "interactive feature" on the New York Times, so you will have to do some navigation to find this item, but its upshot is the creation of a kind of self-flagellation device—explicitly inspired by devices worn by ascetic monks in the Middle Ages—that allows users to mortify the flesh to atone for the guilt of using industrial power.
But the most twisted aspect of this story is the fact that the inventor of this infernal device works for a "Computing Culture" program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is one of the centers of high technology that is helping to move us back toward the mentality of the Middle Ages.
Thanks to TIA Daily reader Steve Hathway for recommending this link.
"Carbon Penance," Jascha Hoffman, New York Times Magazine, "The Year in Ideas 2008"
We all contribute to climate change, but none of us can individually be blamed for it. So we walk around with a free-floating sense of guilt that's unlikely to be lifted by the purchase of wind-power credits or halogen [sic: the author means "fluorescent"] bulbs. Annina Rüst, a Swiss-born artist-inventor, wanted to help relieve these anxieties by giving people a tangible reminder of their own energy use, as well as an outlet for the feelings of complicity, shame and powerlessness that surround the question of global warming.
So she built a translucent leg band that keeps track of your electricity consumption. When it detects, via a special power monitor, that electric current levels have exceeded a certain threshold, the wireless device slowly drives six stainless-steel thorns into the flesh of your leg. "It's therapy for environmental guilt," says Rüst, who modeled her "personal techno-garter" on the spiked bands worn as a means of self-mortification by a monk in Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code." (Brown derived the idea from the bands worn by some celibate members of the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei.)
Rüst built her prototype while working at the Computing Culture group of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
2. "Global Warming Ate My Data," August 18
The main link below discusses the beginning of a potential scandal over the integrity of the data used to calculate global temperatures. It seems a British scientific institution charged with maintaining global temperature data has been besieged with requests by other scientists for access to the raw data that they use as the basis of their global temperature reports. Having refused those requests repeatedly in the past, they were on the verge of being forced to release it—so now they are claiming that the data has been lost.
But that's not all. Jack Wakeland brought my attention to a report on ICECAP—a website for global warming rejectionists—which analyzes the systematic neglect and exclusion of temperature measurement stations, thereby contaminating the raw data global warming "scientists" are using for their claims about climate trends.
Jack adds this comment:
"It is rare that one can see physical evidence of evasion. Normally it is a dishonest psychological phenomenon that leaves no external physical mark on the perpetrator.
"However, the new 'science' of global warming has set new standards for evasion. In the past 20 years, global warming 'scientists' have abandoned the vast majority of the scientific surface temperature measuring stations on earth. They have ignored a vast network of temperature stations installed on ocean buoys for their benefit and have ignored satellite data collected for the purpose of climate research.
"Over the past 20 or 30 years global warming 'scientists' have discounted, ignored and/or physically abandoned 5000 of the world's 6000 surface weather stations.
"Over the past 20-year period, private and public funding for climate research has increased 20-fold. In 1989, the US government spent approximately $150 million on climate science research. In 1995, that figure ballooned to $1.5 billion per year. In 2008, the federal government spent $2.4 billion on climate research. This growth in government subsidies occurred under the center-left and center-right leadership of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. 2009 figures are not yet compiled, so we haven't yet seen what the figures will look like under Obama's leadership. Over the 20-year period, 1989—2008, the US government spent a total of $32 billion on climate research.
"With $32 billion in US government expenditures, one would think that global warming science could afford a few more surface temperature measuring stations. One would think that the global warming science could afford a network of thousands of brand-new, carefully sited, state-of-the art surface temperature measuring stations. How much could 10,000 new temperature stations cost, anyway? Maybe 3% of the 2009 research budget? Maybe 10%?
"But global warming 'scientists' can't afford it. They can't afford anything that might divert our eyes from the fantastic projections of their global circulation models. That could cost this neo-religious/neo-Marxist pseudo-science everything.
"Real data on the world's climate is something that can't be ordered to conform to the anti-civilization ideology that global warming 'scientists' are promoting. Data that doesn't follow orders might undermine their research budgets, their prestige, their political pull, and their capacity to destroy industrial civilization.
"It's either facts or power. Global warming 'science' can't afford any facts."
When will the pseudo-science of global warming collapse? Jack points to one potential trigger: a new revolt by members of the American Physical Society.
"Global Warming Ate My Data," Andrew Orlowski, The Register, August 13
The world's source for global temperature record admits it's lost or destroyed all the original data that would allow a third party to construct a global temperature record. The destruction (or loss) of the data comes at a convenient time for the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in East Anglia—permitting it to snub [Freedom of Information Act] requests to see the data.
The CRU has refused to release the raw weather station data and its processing methods for inspection—except to hand-picked academics—for several years. Instead, it releases a processed version, in gridded form. NASA maintains its own (GISSTEMP), but the CRU Global Climate Dataset, is the most cited surface temperature record by the UN IPCC. So any errors in CRU cascade around the world, and become part of "the science".
Professor Phil Jones, the activist-scientist who maintains the data set, has cited various reasons for refusing to release the raw data. Most famously, Jones told an Australian climate scientist in 2004. "Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it."
3. Swindle, September 29
A few years ago, a British television station put out a terrific documentary on the global warming hysteria. The best part about it was its title, "The Great Global Warming Swindle," which perfectly captured the atmosphere of dishonest hucksterism that has corrupted the science of climatology.
The word "swindle" may prove to be the most precise word to describe the bogus science of global warming. A recent development is making the claim of global warming look less and less like a real scientific controversy—a disagreement over the interpretation of the data—and more like a case of plain scientific fraud, a deliberate corruption of the data itself. And you can bet it's going to be a long time before you read about any of this in the New York Times. They'll treat this the way they treat every scandal in the Obama administration: they'll report it in three paragraphs on page A17, two days after the whole story is over.
The important work in this case has been done by Steve McIntyre of the Climate Audit blog. McIntyre has been tireless in seeking out access to the raw data and mathematical methods used by the global warming alarmists to back up their claim of an unprecedented 20th century warming trend. And now he has found a real "smoking gun."
First, some context. I'm going to try to lay out all of this science in fairly simple terms in just a few paragraphs, then I'll refer you to longer and more detailed articles.
The widest context is this: a keystone of the claim that human activity is leading to a disastrous increase in global temperatures is the denial of previous, pre-industrial warming trends, particularly the Medieval Little Optimum. After all, if global temperatures were warmer a thousand years ago than they are today, then a minor warming trend in the past few decades is well within the range of natural variation. More important, such previous warming trends imply that something other than carbon dioxide actually drives the climate, since CO2 levels were significantly lower during previous warm periods, and there were certainly no industrial smokestacks or automobiles.
(This, by the way, is the real significance of Ian Plimer's arguments, which have turned the climate debate in Australia upside down. The strength of his book Heaven and Earth is that it extensively cites the geological and historical record to demonstrate that global temperatures have varied in the past with no connection to carbon dioxide. Plimer is telling us that we can be confident that carbon dioxide won't cause global warming, because it has never done so in the past. As he put it in his interview with TIA, "The past is the key to the present…. Over the history of time, climate changes have been driven by galactic, solar, orbital, tidal, and tectonic processes, and there has been no climate change in the past driven by CO2.")
So how do you make the evidence of a Medieval warming disappear? In 1999, a scientist named Michael Mann produced the infamous "Hockey Stick" graph of global temperatures over the past 1000 years. The name refers to the fact that the graph shows fairly flat temperatures for most of that period—then a sharp upward turn in the past few decades.
Some years ago, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick thoroughly debunked the methodology behind the Hockey Stick, showing that it was heavily based on questionable data and a statistical method that would produce a similar hockey stick shape out of random noise. Last year, undeterred, Mann produced a new version of the Hockey Stick—quickly dubbed "Son of Hockey Stick"—claiming that it was based on a wider set of data.
Since reliable direct measurements of global temperature only date back about 150 years, how do scientists go about estimating global temperatures over the past 1000 years? They have to rely on proxies. They have to find some other data that varies with temperature and which can be measured directly. Both versions of the hockey stick rely heavily on tree rings. Since the annual growth rate of trees is partly dependent on temperature, the size of tree rings can serve as a proxy for temperature. By analyzing petrified remains of trees, or the growth rings of very old, slow growing trees, scientists can use this data as a proxy for global temperatures going back many centuries.
But here's where McIntyre's latest analysis comes in. He discovered that Son of Hockey Stick relies heavily on data from tree rings in northern Russia, but that Mann and his collaborators have used that data selectively, citing only a small subset of tree ring data which confirms the upward sloping "hockey stick"—while ignoring a much larger pool of data from the same region which contradicts the hockey stick. If that data is included, it shows that current global temperatures are unexceptional and lower than temperatures during the Medieval Little Optimum.
As Jack Wakeland pointed out to me, this isn't just a scientific scandal. It is a crime, since it involves the fraudulent misappropriation of public funds by government-sponsored climate scientists.
Read McIntyre's main blog entry on this issue here, as well as a good summary by Anthony Watts at Watt's Up With That? and another by Australian science reporter Joanne Nova. Also see McIntyre on the disproportionate influence of one "outlier" in the data, which McIntyre calls "The Most Influential Tree in the World" and which the commenters on his blog are calling the "Enchanted Larch of Yamal."
The wider scandal here is the long fight McIntyre had to go through to get access to the data used to create Son of Hockey Stick. It is a basic principle of science that you don't just get to present your results; you also have to present the data and methods used to obtain the result, so that others can verify and reproduce it. Yet it seems to be standard for climate scientists to refuse to divulge the sources of their data on global temperature, for fear that troublesome interlopers like McIntyre will pick the data apart. Last week, I linked to an article by Patrick Michaels describing how another major source of global temperature records has refused to release its raw data, using a lame "the dog at my homework" excuse.
As Michaels notes, "If there are no data, there's no science." A scandal involving the corruption of the data by global warming researchers invalidates every claim they have made. So you can see how this story could get very interesting, very quickly. Stay tuned.
4. Intellectual Climate Change, November 16
The push for "emergency" powers to enforce energy rationing is reaching a hysterical frenzy precisely because the greens realize they are living on borrowed time. Every month and every year, more scientists defect from the global warming "consensus"—and they unearth more evidence and arguments to show that the "science" of global warming is bunk.
Below is an article that just recently came to my attention, but which kills the whole global warming hysteria dead at its root.
First, let me provide a little scientific context. Carbon dioxide is a relatively weak greenhouse gas, so an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would, by itself, lead to a very small increase in temperatures. To manufacture an allegedly dangerous level of global warming, the warmists have to invent feedback mechanisms that magnify every temperature change. They have to claim that the small warming caused by carbon dioxide triggers other factors that cause further warming, and so on and on in a runaway feedback loop.
Put differently, they have to claim that the climate has a built-in accelerator that causes it to run out of control. But what if it has built-in brakes, instead?
That is essentially the conclusion offered by MIT atmospheric scientist Richard Lindzen in the summary below. He analyzes real data about the amount of heat escaping from the upper atmosphere and compares it to the assumptions used in the computer climate models. The models assume that the hotter it gets, the more heat is trapped in the atmosphere. What Lindzen discovers is that the hotter it gets, the more heat escapes from the atmosphere. The earth tends to cool itself off, dampening any effect from carbon dioxide.
In short, the "greenhouse effect" that is supposed to drive global warming doesn't exist, and the computer models that claim to predict warming are based on an assumption that has just been disproved.
"Lindzen on Negative Climate Feedback," Richard Lindzen, Watts Up With That?, March 30
The basic idea is that the atmosphere is roughly transparent to visible light, but, due to the presence of greenhouse substances like water vapor, clouds, and (to a much lesser extent) CO2 (which all absorb heat radiation, and hence inhibit the cooling emission), the earth is warmer than it would be in the absence of such gases….
If, however, water vapor and clouds respond to the increase in temperature in such a manner as to further enhance the 'blanketing,' then we have what is called a positive feedback, and the temperature needed to reestablish equilibrium will be increased….
When temperature fluctuations lead to warmer temperatures, emitted heat radiation should increase, but positive feedbacks should inhibit these emissions by virtue of the enhanced "blanketing." Given the model climate sensitivities, this "blanketing" should typically reduce the emissions by a factor of about 2 or 3 from what one would see in the absence of feedbacks. If the satellite data confirms the calculated emissions, then this would constitute solid evidence that the model feedbacks are correct….
From 1985 until 1989 the models and observations are more or less the same—they have, in fact, been tuned to be so. However, with the warming after 1989, the observations characteristically exceed 7 times the model values. Recall that if the observations were only 2-3 times what the models produce, it would correspond to no feedback. What we see is much more than this—implying strong negative feedback….
The earth's climate (in contrast to the climate in current climate GCMs) is dominated by a strong net negative feedback. Climate sensitivity is on the order of 0.3°C , and such warming as may arise from increasing greenhouse gases will be indistinguishable from the fluctuations in climate that occur naturally from processes internal to the climate system itself….
Alarming climate predictions depend critically on the fact that models have large positive feedbacks. The crucial question is whether nature actually behaves this way. The answer, as we have just seen, is unambiguously no.
TIA Daily Feature Article
5. Environmentalism's Berlin Wall, April 30
by Robert Tracinski
Now that the American people have foolishly allowed Democrats to control the presidency and a large majority in Congress, the left is proceeding with massive new controls designed to choke off our ability to generate power on the scale required to maintain an industrial civilization.
What about the other side of the race—the race to debunk the global warming hysteria before it destroys our prosperity?
Suprisingly, there are some early indications that scientists skeptical of man-made global warming are beginning to have an impact, and there are some signs that the global warming juggernaut is losing momentum.
For example, Al Gore's attempt to trains thousands of volunteer proselytizers to spread the global warming message has produced underwhelming results. A blogger calculates that Gore's initiative was originally intended to generate as many as 26,000 revival meetings for the First Church of the Warming Globe every year. For the next month, however, only 23 such presentations are scheduled. A few small churches would beat that. So much for Gore's attempt to create a secularized religious revival.
Meanwhile, rational opposition to the global warming theory is becoming better organized. I linked yesterday (and again below) to a new website called Climate Depot. A New York Times article describes how the site was recently founded by a former staffer for Republican Senator James Inhofe, who has been the leading political opponent of global warming, responsible for blocking cap-and-trade regulations for much of the past decade.
But the most interesting developments have been happening in Australia. Climate Depot recently published a letter from an Australian scientist debunking claims made by Andrew Revkin, the global warming shill who works as a science reporter for the New York Times. But what is really interesting is the last section of the letter:
[T]here has been a MAJOR change in the way that the Australian media are reporting the AGW [anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming] issue, led nobly by newspaper The Australian. The change has been stimulated by a Canberra Senate select committee that is discussing the tabled ETS legislation, and also by the release of geologist Ian Plimer's new book, Heaven and Earth. Global Warming: The Missing Science….
The trend of balanced media comment has continued this week, culminating with a splendid article…by Jan Veizer in today's Australian.
That article sums up the state of genuine science on the real causes of global temperature fluctuations. The basic picture is that dihydrogen monoxide gas—water vapor—is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and that the natural interaction of solar radiation and water vapor (including the mechanism of cloud-formation discovered by Henrik Svensmark) is what really determines global temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 is thus the product and not the cause of the climate, as demonstrated by past records where temperature changes precede changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations and fluxes.
Another article in The Australian describes the general turning of the tide on global warming:
With public perceptions changing so dramatically and quickly it is little wonder Ian Plimer's latest book, Heaven and Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science, has been received with such enthusiasm and is into its third print run in as many weeks.
The public is receptive to an expose of the many mythologies and false claims associated with anthropogenic global warming and are welcoming an authoritative description of planet Earth and its ever-changing climate in readable language.
I checked in on all of this with my antipodean correspondent Tom Minchin, who confirms that this is all true.
The journalist leading the charge is Andrew Bolt of the Melbourne Herald Sun. But The Australian is growing in confidence and the rejectionism is spreading. One of the most remarkable changes occurred two weeks ago [April 13] when leading AGW hysteric Paul Sheehan (who writes for the main Sydney newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald, which has done as much to project the myth of AGW as any newspaper here) reviewed Ian Plimer's new book and admitted he was taken aback.
Here is how Sheehan's review begins:
What I am about to write questions much of what I have written in this space, in numerous columns, over the past five years. Perhaps what I have written can withstand this questioning. Perhaps not. The greater question is, am I—and you—capable of questioning our own orthodoxies and intellectual habits? Let's see.
The subject of this column is not small. It is a book entitled Heaven and Earth, which will be published tomorrow. It has been written by one of Australia's foremost Earth scientists, Professor Ian Plimer. He is a confronting sort of individual, polite but gruff, courteous but combative. He can write extremely well, and Heaven and Earth is a brilliantly argued book by someone not intimidated by hostile majorities or intellectual fashions.
The book's 500 pages and 230,000 words and 2311 footnotes are the product of 40 years' research and a depth and breadth of scholarship.
With this awed endorsement of Plimer's scientific credibility, Sheehan then summarizes Plimer's argument:
Much of what we have read about climate change, he argues, is rubbish, especially the computer modeling on which much current scientific opinion is based, which he describes as "primitive."…
The Earth's climate is driven by the receipt and redistribution of solar energy. Despite this crucial relationship, the sun tends to be brushed aside as the most important driver of climate. Calculations on supercomputers are primitive compared with the complex dynamism of the Earth's climate and ignore the crucial relationship between climate and solar energy.
"To reduce modern climate change to one variable, CO2, or a small proportion of one variable—human-induced CO2—is not science. To try to predict the future based on just one variable (CO2) in extraordinarily complex natural systems is folly."
In response, this is Sheehan's conclusion:
Heaven and Earth is an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence.
The title of Sheehan's article? "Beware the Climate of Conformity." He never actually comes out and says that Plimer's argument against man-made global warming is correct or that he agrees with it. But I don't think this review can be interpreted as anything other than a capitulation. It cedes to the skeptics the high ground of being "evidence-based" and accepts the characterization of the global warming promoters as dogmatic conformists.
Australia is not that different from America. If a shift in opinion against the global warming dogma can happen there, it can happen here, particularly when Plimer's book finds an American publisher.
I have been arguing for years that the global warming scare could prove to be to environmentalism what the Berlin Wall was to socialism. When the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet empire collapsed, it provided a factual refutation of the ideological claims of socialism, discrediting the theory of a state-controlled economy for two full decades. (And while socialism is making a comeback at the moment, I hold out significant hope that it will rapidly discredit itself again in the next few years.) Similarly, the environmentalists have staked so much of their credibility on bogus factual claims about global warming that the collapse of the scientific rationalization for that hysteria would deal a shattering, demoralizing blow to the whole movement.
The task of discrediting the global warming propaganda campaign—and fending off or rolling back global-warming regulations—will certainly be long and difficult. But Australia has just provided us with evidence that it is possible.
Robert Tracinski writes daily commentary at TIADaily.com. He is the editor of The Intellectual Activist (TIA) and contributor to The Freedom Fighter's Journal