A recent article in Commentary informs its readers that, “there has been no increase in average temperatures in the continental United States over the last 14 years…. If anything, overall temperatures are slightly cooler than they were.”
These are not the ravings of a “climate change denier.” This information comes from an agency of the United States Government called the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN). The USCRN collects data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These findings are reported by “Real Clear Energy.”
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Unlike the “settled science” of former Vice-President Al Gore, this information is not garnered from computerized “climate models.” USCRN bases its conclusion on real data, gathered over the last fourteen years.
Reasons to Distrust the Data
The study behind the Commentary article provides ample reason to doubt the conclusions of the global warming alarmists.
The article’s author is the financial historian John Steele Gordon, who is no right-wing extremist. On his resume is staff work for two members of Congress, both New York Democrats, and frequent appearances on PBS and NPR.
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Mr. Gordon points out a severe problem with many of the 1221 weather stations NOAA uses to collect weather information. He raises a hypothetical case – one with many real-world counterparts. Many weather stations have big problems for these reasons:
“While they haven’t changed appreciably over the years, the land around them has changed, often profoundly, with the great growth in urban and suburban areas. The weather station that was put, say, in the middle of a Nassau County, Long Island, potato field in 1923 is still in the same spot. But the potatoes are long gone, and now it’s behind a strip mall, twenty feet from the kitchen exhaust fan of a Chinese take-out joint.”
For comparisons of weather over time, the station needs to remain in the same location. Moving it will not work since no two places are exactly alike. However, a weather station set up in a small forest in the early twentieth century will record very different information when that location has become the roof of a convenience store. The cool of the forest has been replaced by a hot roof that receives unfiltered sunlight for an average of twelve hours a day.
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Mr. Gordon’s article refers to a study conducted by Anthony Watts in 2009. It reveals that, “89 percent of the stations – nearly 9 of every 10 – fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/reflecting heat source. The conclusion is inescapable: The U.S. temperature record is unreliable.”
The Arrogance of Scientism
Those who sustain the theory that man-made global warming is an “existential threat” dismiss such information. Mr. Gordon’s analysis is that of a historian. It is anecdotal, even though it points to the failure of a system, it is not per se scientific. This attitude is the product of a mistaken idea called scientism – the idea that only science can determine truth.
However, both historians and scientists are on different searches for the same truth. Anything that is scientifically true must also be historically accurate. A historically false proposition can never be scientifically true.
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The Plight of the Non-Scientist
Most people are not scientists. For at least thirty years, climate experts have claimed that non-scientists cannot have valid opinions about global warming. If people are to appear intelligent, they will jump on the solar-powered bandwagon, abandon fossil fuels and renounce cows and other producers of “greenhouse gases.” Those with contrary opinions are simply disregarded.
However, as Mr. Gordon’s article proves, the scientists base themselves upon a minimal amount of real data. In addition, the National Weather Service was only established in 1890. Its methodology and systems of recordkeeping developed over time. At most, there is only a century of real data. The rest is computer-generated projections.
The “scientific” data used by the climate alarmist scientists is thus questionable. The dire warnings are dubious. If a gradually warming climate cannot be proven by unquestionable “scientific data,” there must be other means to look at the record to reach conclusions. That other means is found in history.
The Little Ice Age
History offers an alternate explanation to the “man-made global warming” phenomena that is no less true that real science.
This author’s grandfather, born in 1899, used to say that winters were colder when he was a child. He was right. His youth began shortly after the end of the Little Ice Age. Some specialists speculate that it started about 1400 A.D. It lasted until the late nineteenth century. The twentieth century ushered in a period of gradually increasing temperatures.
Therefore, the Weather Service’s data, beginning in 1890 would logically show that winters are growing warmer. However, the data cannot conclude that the world was considerably warmer between A.D. 1000 and 1400, reaching a peak sometime during the late twelfth century. Historic accounts however do record this “Medieval Warm Period” when food became more plentiful, and travel became more comfortable. Such weather was a blessing upon the Christian civilization that was then reaching its peak.
The Danger of Incomplete Information
In comparison to the historic record of the world, the century of scientifically collected data is ridiculously small. The climate experts feed that minimal data, their biases and politically correct narratives into computers to predict the long term future. They blithely disregard other forms of evidence that contradict their idea of “science.”
It is like moaning that you are going to die when you catch the ghastly flu. If you extrapolate that evidence to predict the future, then you appear to be declining and will soon die. Of course, the week of the flu represents the downhill slope of a natural process. In another week, you will feel better.
History tells us that the current warming trend will continue for another century or so, and then the climate will cool. Such a forecast is not a guarantee, but the evidence of centuries of experience is far stronger than computer models.
The pseudo-scientists who chant the mantras of the destruction of humanity within twelve years need to reconnect to reality. We should not turn claims of man-made climate change into a man-imagined apocalypse.