Global hype

Monday, February 26th, 2007 12:17 pm by Neal

Today’s New York Post has an article by scientist Roy W. Spencer entitled “Not That Simple. Global Warming: What We Don’t Know.” While Spencer discusses the effects of precipitation in regulating warming, the real point of his article is that our models and tools, while helpful, simply aren’t complete and reliable enough to present a definitive picture of climate change, much less the human role in it.

Honestly, are you surprised? Doesn’t the entire mania over global warming strike sensible folks as being an over-hyped stampede? Have we forgotten the cyclical nature of the panic-lobby that periodically concocts doom-and-gloom scenarios to sell newspapers and hustle scientific grant money? Remember when it was global cooling or the ozone hole that doomed us all? At least cold fusion was hype that we could feel good about.

Tell this to Al Gore and his merry band of “consensus” stormtroopers, if you’re lucky enough to flag down his private jet.

The media is, almost by definition, most interested in extreme views on the issue, so reporting seldom reveals that broad scientific uncertainty still exists. In fact, a silent majority of scientists still think that global warming could end up falling anywhere between a real problem and a minor nuisance: They can see reasons for it going either way. Call them the global-warming moderates. …

So, what does all this have to do with global warming? Unless we know how the greenhouse-limiting properties of precipitation systems change with warming, we don’t know how much of our current warmth is due to mankind, and we can’t estimate how much future warming there will be, either. To solve the global-warming puzzle, we first need to learn much more about the precipitation-system puzzle. …

Finally, remember that phrase, “the Earth’s greenhouse effect keeps the Earth habitably warm?” I’ll bet you never heard the phrase that is, quantitatively, more accurate: “Weather processes keep the Earth habitably cool.”

Were it not for weather, the natural greenhouse effect would cause the surface of the Earth to average 140 degrees. Wonder why we never hear that fact stated?

I believe that when the stabilizing effects of precipitation systems are better understood and included into the models, predictions of global warming will be scaled back.

Despite current inadequacies, climate models are still our best tools for forecasting global warming. Those tools just aren’t sharp enough yet.

Oh, for those who continue to recite, “the debate is over, the debate is over” like a Chatty Cathy doll or a broken record, consider this:

Roy W. Spencer is principal research scientist at the Global Hydrology and Climate Center of the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Ala. He is also U.S. team leader for the AMSR-E instrument flying on NASA’s Terra satellite.

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