Oops! Turns out Global Warming is For Real

Oct 22 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

In a paper titled “Cooling the Warming Debate” the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project throws cold water on warming skeptics:

Global warming is real, according to a major study released today [20 October 2011]. Despite issues raised by climate change skeptics, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study finds reliable evidence of a rise in the average world  land temperature of approximately 1°C since the mid-1950s.

No, that’s right skeptics, wishful thinking will not get the job done. The earth is getting warmer and all the denial in the world won’t change that. In fact, Berkeley Earth addressed those specific areas skeptics always retreat to, saying,

Analyzing temperature data from 15 sources, in some cases going as far back as 1800, the Berkeley Earth study directly addressed scientific concerns raised by skeptics, including the urban heat island effect, poor station quality, and the risk of data selection bias.

Elizabeth Muller, co-founder and Executive Director of Berkeley Earth, announced that

“Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the U.S. and the U.K.. This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change skeptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.”

She says that she hopes the Berkeley Earth findings will help “cool the debate over global warming by addressing many of the valid concerns of the skeptics in a clear and rigorous way.”

This is obviously wishful thinking; corporations, particularly the fossil fuel industry, have a vested interest in denying any and all scientific findings that will cut into their profits, and Texas Governor Rick Perry has based his presidential candidacy on global warming denial.

The Summary of Findings offers some conclusions which will be very much unpleasant news to skeptics:

  • The urban heat island effect is locally large and real, but does not contribute significantly to the average land temperature rise. That’s because the urban regions of the Earth amount to less than 1% of the land area.
  • About 1/3 of temperature sites around the world reported global cooling over the past 70 years (including much of the United States and northern Europe). But 2/3 of the sites show warming. Individual temperature histories reported from a single location are frequently noisy and/or unreliable and it is always necessary to compare and combine many records to understand this true pattern of global warming.
  • “The large number of sites reporting cooling might help explain some of the skepticism of global warming,” Rohde commented. “Global warming is too slow for humans to feel directly, and if your local weather man tells you that temperatures are the same or cooler than they were a hundred years ago it is easy to believe him.” In fact, it is very hard to measure weather consistently over decades and centuries, and the presence of sites reporting cooling is a symptom of the noise and local variations that can creep in. A good determination of the rise in global land temperatures can’t be done with just a few stations. It takes hundreds – or better, thousands – of stations to detect and measure the average warming. Only when many nearby thermometers reproduce the same patterns can we know that the measurements were reliably made.
  • Stations ranked as “poor” in a survey by Anthony Watts and his team of the most important temperature recording stations in the U.S., (known as the USHCN – the US Historical Climatology Network), showed the same pattern of global warming as stations raked “OK.”  Absolute temperatures of poor stations may be higher and less accurate, but the overall global warming trend is the same, and the Berkeley Earth analysis concludes that there is not any undue bias from including poor stations in the survey.

The best part for those of us not at war with science is that this study did not set out to prove that global warming was a fact. Quite the contrary. Physicist Richard Muller’s purpose in investigating the environment was to disprove global warming. He began by establishing the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project in 2010. The Koch Brothers gave him a $150K grant, certain that he would prove Al Gore and other environmentalists fools and “exagerators.”

Instead, Muller testified before Congress in March and has now published four papers, available online, for peer review:

  1. Berkeley Earth Temperature Averaging Process
  2. Influence of Urban Heating on the Global Temperature Land Average
  3. Earth Atmospheric Land Surface Temperature and Station Quality in the United States
  4. Decadal Variations in the Global Atmospheric Land Temperatures

Sometimes reality isn’t what we want it to be. And it is a mistake to think that wishful thinking can or will change anything. As the old tautology goes, it is what it is. That is a lesson Republicans and climate change deniers have yet to learn.

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