March 02, 2008

Climate Change Skeptics Get The NY Times Treatment

When it is blazing hot in the summer and the Arctic ice melts, or when Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans in 2005--that is evidence of global warming, a specifically anthropogenic form of climate change.

When it is abnormally cold, with record snows in the Northern Hemisphere? Just "good old-fashioned" weather, not climate change.

And they wonder why skeptics question the not-so-unified "consensus":
The world has seen some extraordinary winter conditions in both hemispheres over the past year: snow in Johannesburg last June and in Baghdad in January, Arctic sea ice returning with a vengeance after a record retreat last summer, paralyzing blizzards in China, and a sharp drop in the globe’s average temperature.

It is no wonder that some scientists, opinion writers, political operatives and other people who challenge warnings about dangerous human-caused global warming have jumped on this as a teachable moment.

“Earth’s ‘Fever’ Breaks: Global COOLING Currently Under Way,” read a blog post and news release on Wednesday from Marc Morano, the communications director for the Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

So what is happening?

According to a host of climate experts, including some who question the extent and risks of global warming, it is mostly good old-fashioned weather, along with a cold kick from the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is in its La Niña phase for a few more months, a year after it was in the opposite warm El Niño pattern.
What about the sun?
If anything else is afoot — like some cooling related to sunspot cycles or slow shifts in ocean and atmospheric patterns that can influence temperatures — an array of scientists who have staked out differing positions on the overall threat from global warming agree that there is no way to pinpoint whether such a new force is at work.

Many scientists also say that the cool spell in no way undermines the enormous body of evidence pointing to a warming world with disrupted weather patterns, less ice and rising seas should heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and forests continue to accumulate in the air.

“The current downturn is not very unusual,” said Carl Mears, a scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, a private research group in Santa Rosa, Calif., that has been using satellite data to track global temperature and whose findings have been held out as reliable by a variety of climate experts. He pointed to similar drops in 1988, 1991-92, and 1998, but with a long-term warming trend clear nonetheless.

“Temperatures are very likely to recover after the La Niña event is over,” he said.
They'd better, or things are gonna really get inconvenient for Al Gore's minions.

"Skeptics’ last stand"?
Michael E. Schlesinger, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, said that any focus on the last few months or years as evidence undermining the established theory that accumulating greenhouse gases are making the world warmer was, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, a harmful distraction.

Discerning a human influence on climate, he said, “involves finding a signal in a noisy background.” He added, “The only way to do this within our noisy climate system is to average over a sufficient number of years that the noise is greatly diminished, thereby revealing the signal. This means that one cannot look at any single year and know whether what one is seeing is the signal or the noise or both the signal and the noise.”

The shifts in the extent and thickness of sea ice in the Arctic (where ice has retreated significantly in recent summers) and Antarctic (where the area of floating sea ice has grown lately) are similarly hard to attribute to particular influences.
Doesn't difficulty in attributing influence mean there is some doubt as to the exact cause--that there may actually be a combination of effects from different sources, not just human-made greenhouse gases?

It seems the only "noise" right now is the sound of panic from global warming alarmists who can't believe that "respondents who are better-informed about global warming 'both feel less personally responsible for global warming, and also show less concern for global warming.'"

Some scientists remain undaunted, criticizing the precise same "piecemeal" tactic employed by global warming activists like Al Gore in their attempt to dismiss dissent:
“Climate skeptics typically take a few small pieces of the puzzle to debunk global warming, and ignore the whole picture that the larger science community sees by looking at all the pieces,” said Ignatius G. Rigor, a climate scientist at the Polar Science Center of the University of Washington in Seattle.
It appears the climate change debate--like the climate itself--is going through a "cycle", and right now the skeptics are beginning to chip away at the already crumbling scientific "consensus".

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