Excerpts from: “In Science, Ignorance Is Not Bliss”
By Physicist / Astronaut: Walter Cunningham, Launch Magazine, August 2008
NASA should be at the forefront in the collection of scientific evidence and debunking the current hysteria over human-caused, or Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Unfortunately, it is becoming just another agency caught up in the politics of global warming, or worse, politicized science. Advocacy is replacing objective evaluation of data, while scientific data is being ignored in favor of emotions and politics.
It doesn’t help that NASA scientist James Hansen was one of the early alarmists claiming humans caused global warming. Hansen is a political activist who spreads fear even when NASA’s own data contradict him. Warming in the upper atmosphere should occur before any surface warming effect, but NASA’s own data show that has not been happening. Global temperature readings—accurate to 0.1 degree Celsius—are gathered by orbiting satellites. Interestingly, in the 18 years those satellites have been recording global temperatures, they have actually shown a slight decrease in average temperatures.
In today’s politically correct environment, many are reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom; when they do, they are frequently ignored. When NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, Hansen’s boss and a distinguished scientist in his own right, attempted to draw a distinction between Hansen’s personal and political views and the science conducted by his agency, he was soon forced to back off.
It is the true believers who, when they have no facts on their side, try to silence their critics. When former NASA mathematician Ferenc Miskolczi pointed out that “greenhouse warming” may be mathematically impossible, NASA would not allow him to publish his work. Miskolczi dared to question the simplifying assumption in the warming model that the atmosphere is infinitely thick. He pointed out that when you use the correct thickness—about 65 miles—the greenhouse effect disappears! Ergo: no AGW. Miskolczi resigned in disgust and published his proof in the peer reviewed Hungarian journal Weather.
Saying the Earth is warming is to state the obvious. Since the end of the ice age, the Earth’s temperature has increased approximately 16 degrees Fahrenheit and sea levels have risen a total of 300 feet. That is certain and measurable evidence of warming, but it is not evidence of AGW—human-caused warming.
There are excellent correlations between the regular fluctuations of the Sun and the Earth’s temperature, while scientists cannot find a relationship between industrial activity, energy consumption, and global temperatures. But global warming is an issue no longer being decided in the scientific arena.
NASA’s Aqua satellite is showing that water vapor, the dominant greenhouse gas, works to offset the effect of carbon dioxide (CO2). This information, contrary to the assumption used in all the warming models, is ignored by global warming alarmists.
The reality is that atmospheric CO2 has a minimal impact on greenhouse gases and world temperature. Water vapor is responsible for 95 percent of the greenhouse effect. CO2 contributes just 3.6 percent, with human activity responsible for only 3.2 percent of that. That is why some studies claim CO2 levels are largely irrelevant to global warming.
Even though CO2 is a relatively minor constituent of “greenhouse gases,” alarmists have made it the whipping boy for global warming (probably because they know how fruitless it would be to propose controlling other principal constituents, H2O, CH4, and N2O). Since human activity does contribute a tiny portion of atmospheric CO2, they blame us for global warming. Other inconvenient facts ignored by the activists: Carbon dioxide is a nonpolluting gas, essential for plant photosynthesis. Higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere produce bigger harvests.
With scientific evidence going out of style, emotional arguments and anecdotal data are ruling the day. The media subjects us to one frightening image of environmental nightmare after another, linking each to global warming. Journalists and activist scientists use hurricanes, wildfires, and starving polar bears to appeal to our emotions, not to our reason. They are far more concerned with anecdotal observations, such as the frozen sea ice inside the Arctic Circle, than they are with understanding why it is happening and how frequently it has occurred in the past.
Even though recent changes in our atmosphere are all within the bounds of the Earth’s natural variability, a growing number of people are willing to throw away trillions of dollars on fruitless solutions. Why do we allow emotional appeals and anecdotal data to shape our conclusions and influence our expenditures with the science and technology we have available at our fingertips?
The situation is complex, but the sad state of scientific literacy in America today is partially to blame for belief in AGW. When a 2006 National Science Foundation survey found 25 percent of Americans not knowing the Earth revolves around the Sun, you know that science education is at a new low and society is vulnerable to the emotional appeal of AGW. And don’t underestimate the role of politics and political correctness.
The conflict over AGW has deteriorated into a religious war; a war between true believers in human-caused global warming and nonbelievers; between those who accept AGW on faith and those who consider themselves more sensible and better informed. “True believers” are beyond being interested in evidence; it is impossible to reason a person out of positions they have not been reasoned into.
For nearly a decade now, there has been no global warming. Even though atmospheric CO2 has continued to accumulate—up about 4 percent in the last 10 years—the global mean temperature has remained flat. That should raise obvious questions about CO2 being the cause of climate change.
Instead, AGW enthusiasts are embracing more regulation, greater government spending, and higher taxes in a futile attempt to control what is beyond our control—the Earth’s temperature. One of their political objectives, unstated of course, is the transfer of wealth from rich nations to poor nations or, as the social engineers put it, from the North to the South, which may be their real agenda.
At the Bali Conference on Climate Change in December 2007, the poor nations insisted that the costs of technology to limit emissions and other impacts of climate change on their countries be paid by the rich nations. Most anticipated a windfall of money flowing into their countries to develop technology or purchase carbon credits. In this scenario, selling allotments for CO2 emissions would provide a temporary boost to their own cash flow, while severely limiting the economic development of those countries purchasing the carbon credits.
In the face of overwhelming evidence for natural temperature variation, proponents of AGW are resorting to a precautionary argument: “We must do something just in case we are responsible, because the consequences are too terrible if we are to blame and do nothing.” They hope to stampede government entities into committing huge amounts of money before their fraud is completely exposed—before science and truth save the day.