And The AGW Debate Continues...Some More

After a week long hiatus I feel refreshed and ready to get back to blogging. I can see that Brent more than filled in while I was off doing other things.

One of those things was delving yet again into the morass that is AGW. A number of columns and blog posts have certainly been stirring the pot, bring even more debate about this issue to the forefront. One column in the Wall Street Journal certainly garnered a lot of comments. There are so many I still haven't finished reading through them all.

The column in question, written by Fred Krupp, claims that many skeptics about AGW have since come around to the AGW camp and that it's obvious the debate is over. But it must be noted that Krupp isn't exactly impartial as he is president of the Environmental Defense Fund, an organization not known for being impartial about the ongoing debate.

One of Krupp's biggest flaws with his opinion piece is that he's confusing agreement that climate change is occurring with agreement that climate change is caused almost exclusively by man. An example:

Respected Republican leaders like Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey have spoken out about the reality of climate change. Rupert Murdoch's recent tweet—"Climate change very slow but real. So far all cures worse than disease."—may reflect an emerging conservative view. Even Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, during public comments in June, conceded the reality of climate change while offering assurances that "there will be an engineering solution" and "we'll adapt."

Not one of the people he cited agree with the It's-All-The-Fault-Of-The-Evil-Humans claim about climate change. Not one. But he implies that they've “come around” to that way of thinking. They haven't.

I certainly don't believe climate isn't changing. Of course it is, just as it has for almost all of Earth's existence. Do humans have an effect on climate change? I will agree with the statement that humans have a non-zero effect on climate, but so far no one has proven that it's anything but miniscule. Yes, humans can have a profound effect in very small areas. A perfect example of that is the urban heat island effect, where the concrete, pavement, and rooftops in an urban area can multiply the effect of the sun, making it much warmer during the day and, as the concrete and pavement radiates the heat it collected during the day, making for much warmer nights as well. Once you get out of the urban area, the day and nighttime temps fall back to 'normal'. It is this effect, along with the higher energy usage that goes along with it, that has boosted many of the surface temperatures, giving a false increase in average temperatures, something else addressed in the comments to Krupp's piece.

Krupp also mentions physicist Richard Muller's Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, where Muller and his team reviewed surface temperatures and the means for measuring them. This project was supposed to address the issue of poorly located measuring stations (next to AC exhausts, paved parking lots, or among encroaching buildings in urban areas). Muller published his non-peer reviewed findings which basically stated there were no errors in measurement and that surface temperatures are rising, satellite temperature measurements to the contrary notwithstanding. One of Muller's colleagues, Dr. Judith Curry, chair of the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, disagreed with Muller's conclusions and believed he was premature in releasing the results.

When asked whether the rate had stopped over the last 10 years [Muller] said they had not. “We see no evidence of it having slowed down,” he replied and a graph issued by the BEST project suggests a continuing and steep increase.

But this last point is one which Prof Curry has furiously rebuttted. In a serious clash of scientific experts Prof Curry has accused Prof Muller of trying to “hide the decline in rates of global warming”.

She says that BEST’s research actually shows that there has been no increase in world temperatures for 13 years."

So you have two scientists on the same research project who disagree with each other. Which one do you believe? Curry blogs about why she disagrees with Muller's conclusions and Muller's response.

One of the strongest voices criticising the study comes from the BEST team itself. Dr Judith Curry, head of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, declined to be a co-author on the latest BEST study, and says on her blog she does not “see any justification in [BEST's] argument for” the group’s statement that its warming data fits with manmade carbon dioxide. Curry’s not alone: former climate scientist William Connolley claims BEST has done “none of the attribution work you’d expect”.

Muller says Curry distanced herself from the paper because she disagrees with the findings, and that she has an alternative theory – that the climate is random, so any correlation between increases in carbon dioxide and warming is an accident. His response: “‘I’ve said to her that the unfortunate aspect of her theory is that it’s untestable. Now a theory that’s untestable is not something I consider to be a theory.”

No one who frequents this blog has ever seen me refer to climate as ‘random’.  I have an email discussion with Muller, who said he used the word ‘random’ in the interview since it is more easily understood by the public.  He has read my post Trends, Changepoints, and Hypotheses.  Re the climate shifts hypothesis, he is concerned that it is not testable.  I argued that it is just as testable as the other two hypotheses, and observations are not currently sufficient to distinguish between these three hypotheses.

She goes on to ask “So, is Muller’s primary interest in the science, or in establishing himself in a position of power at the climate science/policy interface? The press releases and op-eds suggest the latter.” So has Muller “sold his soul” to gain power as Curry suggests? It wouldn't be the first time a scientist has fallen under the sway of that particular vice.

Another skeptic voicing his dissent at the consensus is Dr. John Christy, the Alabama State Climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. In testimony he gave before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee earlier this month, Christy brings up new discoveries that explain part of the warming found it traditional surface temperature data and decouples some of the warming and the “extra” greenhouse gases. His testimony can be found here. It's well worth reading and brings up some question we should all be asking the AGW supporters.

So the debate continues, with some folks “switching sides” (Krupp doesn't mention the numerous former AGW proponents that have since changed their minds), and the the faithful still chanting the mantra that unless we “Do Something!” now, we're all gonna die.