Friday, August 17, 2007

A Climate of Assumptions
Kreblog emailed me a number of interesting articles regarding the NASA climate record revision controversy. NASA admitted to their data errors, and proceeded to damage control by downplaying the significance of the change. Indeed, NASA's (the agency that can't even engineer a competent ceramic tile or piece of insulating foam) politicized lead scientist James Hansen issued a response to those questioning his fallibility:
Make no doubt, however, if tipping points are passed, if we, in effect, destroy Creation, passing on to our children, grandchildren, and the unborn a situation out of their control, the contrarians who work to deny and confuse will not be the principal culprits. The contrarians will be remembered as court jesters. There is no point to joust with court jesters. They will always be present. They will continue to entertain even if the Titanic begins to take on water. Their role and consequence is only as a diversion from what is important.
The real deal is this: the ‘royalty’ controlling the court, the ones with the power, the ones with the ability to make a difference, with the ability to change our course, the ones who will live in infamy if we pass the tipping points, are the captains of industry, CEOs in fossil fuel companies such as EXXON/Mobil, automobile manufacturers, utilities, all of the leaders who have placed short-term profit above the fate of the planet and the well-being of our children. The court jesters are their jesters, occasionally paid for services, and more substantively supported by the captains’ disinformation campaigns.
Court jesters serve as a distraction, a distraction from usufruct. Usufruct is the matter that the captains wish to deny, the matter that they do not want their children to know about. They realize that if there is no ‘gorilla’, then usufruct is not an important issue for them. So, with the help of jesters, they deny the existence of the gorilla.

Is this the talk of an objective scientist? Would anyone trust similar language coming from a spokesman of private industry? Why should we trust this man or his claims, when he has guardian of the data failed to correctly portray the observed record until forced to do so because of an outsider's independent audit?

What rankles about Hansen's hubris and others of his ilk is their disingenuousness. For instance, Hansen offers up this set of images as some kind of undeniable proof positive:
The ridiculousness of this is that the viewer is expected to treat the data represented by each image of the globe as equal with its counterpart. 1998 and 2006 images are presented with equal weighting as the images of years 1921 and 1934. That there is more red (representing hotter temperature) in the latter years and less red in the earlier years is presented to us an an indication of global climate change. Yet it is utterly fraudulent to present each table as equally weighted when it is clear that the means to measure temperature on a global scale favor the most recent years. Atmospheric data from satellites, the professionalization of a broadly based global weather service, and a broader base of data points to measure give us more knowledge of our present conditions - earlier years cannot offer us this same wealth of information.

Indeed, the most accurate measure of temperature comes from an actual reading of temperature, most often from simple mercury thermometers historically speaking. A most accurate record of temperature only spans as far back as a few hundred years tops when men of the Enlightenment began to measure the natural conditions around them. Importantly, its this placement of the thermometer, and consistent record keeping, that gives us any kind of accurate reading at all (and the means to determine averages, means, and extremes) of what the temperature record was just a few hundred years ago. The thermometers were placed where it was useful to measure - even our Founding Fathers participated in this activity. However, go back any further and the use of the thermometer (and truly accurate temperature readings) disappears from the record. This lack of a truly long-term, accurate record forces scientists to go looking for proxy indicators of temperature: tree rings, ice core samples, etc. How useful this proxy data is is a key crux of the whole climate change debate.

Comparing conjectures of temperature 1000 years ago or limited temperature data sets even 80 years ago with a wealth of temperature readings from just 10 years ago is not all things equal. Hansen can pump the gloom and doom all he wants. If the science was settled, climate science would not be the hottest area of research taking place in all of science today (pun intended). No scientist researches settled questions. That so many scientists today are researching the climate is the best indicator that the science is FAR from settled - no matter how much the climate-change pushers try to stifle the pursuit of substantiation and inquiry.


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