Perspective Needed in Climate Debate
I went to school with a lot of great forecasters. One of them was Scott Chesner, who is an on-air meteorologist in Tyler, Texas. Scott tweeted something this week that I thought was quite profound regarding the current generation’s “consensus” on climate:
“One problem with global warming hysteria is ‘perspective.’ The warmer global temps of recent yrs. are relatively meaningless as we only have detailed records for~200 yrs. out of the Earth’s age of 4.5 billion yrs. That=30 sec. out of a person’s 80 yr. life!”
As you know, I am a big satellite-era proponent as far as temperatures are concerned. We have simply seen too much adjustment to older temperature records, and that has to at least raise questions. In almost every single case, temperatures are adjusted down in years before the satellite era.
This has some merit, given most errors on thermometers even today are because they read too warm. It’s the nature of the instrument. Anything can distort it if it’s not maintained. So I get why there are adjustments more negative than positive. But how can we be sure as to how much?
Granted, it should be down given the normal error bias of thermometers, which is to read too warm. Installment errors, upkeep of the site, increased dust on the instrument — all of this can contribute to higher readings. So the satellite era is what we really must utilize for the most accurate readings. But how do we know what satellites would have measured a hundred years ago? We don’t.
One thing that is crucial is the realization that we have problems with thermometers today. Example: Penn State University, where I was a student and also took observations for three years, has the same site now that it did in 1978, but now it is surrounded by buildings. It is nearly impossible now to get a record low unless the wind is howling, when before a calm night with a lot of snow on the ground could do the trick.
That is not a knock, because if the school moves the site, it means a different record. But we have to understand that part of the warming, perhaps a large part of it, is due to the change in the environment around the site that has nothing to do with CO2. And this is evident in many places. That being said, increased water vapor in the air due to the enhanced state of the oceans (or CO2 feedback if you believe in man-made global warming) has a greater affect on nighttime temperatures, hence fewer record lows. Which is why record lows that do occur are impressive.
In fact, one may argue that if the oceans — the prime source of the planet’s thermal energy — cool, things could snap colder in a big way, which would lead to much more serious repercussions than what is a relatively gradual increase being driven by warming in higher latitudes and higher nighttime minimums elsewhere, not daytime highs. We can adapt to the gradual increase we have seen. It actually is lessening the range from pole to equator and from nighttime lows to daytime highs — an argument for less, not more, extreme weather events
But as long as it’s warming, which it plainly has been in the satellite era (I believe this could be a step-up function related to the occurrence of natural Super Niños), the people pushing the CO2 argument can spread their ideas.
The warming is in spite of the low-solar argument that is being used as a counter. Note that decreased incoming solar radiation may lessen easterlies in the tropical Pacific, meaning more El Niños, which has a countering effect on cooling. The oceans are warm, and that warmth took a long time to build and will take a long time to get rid of. We can kick and scream all we want. Just because I believe it’s natural and argue for that does not mean I should close my eyes to the other side.
That being said, it would go a long way toward restoring the credibility of this debate if alarmists would acknowledge the reasons why they could be wrong. The entire history of the planet is one of climatic change, and none of it until now had anything to do with man.
You can’t mess with the satellite era or Dr. Roy Spencer’s UAH temperature measurements (seen above). To really emphasize Scott’s point, we have only had satellite recordings for 40 years, which would be only six seconds of an 80-year-old person’s life. While it is true that in six seconds a life can be changed, in the vast majority of cases, six seconds did not define those people’s lives.
It’s true that if you realize you are careening out of control in six seconds you must take measures to stop it. But given the known history of the planet, is that conclusively the case now? Given that known history in which man has never had control of the climate, is it not right to be skeptical, or to at least be tolerant of skepticism?
Scott, like me, is from an age where the studying of the past was pushed as a way to enhance the new tools being brought into what I believe is the golden age of weather and climate. That’s right — in spite of the bad things that are affecting the purity of meteorology, if you divorce yourself from all the agendas, we are really in a golden day and age.
But here is the problem. We should build on the past, not trash it. And perspective is a large part of the total picture. It could be that six seconds is a harbinger of things to come. One must keep an open mind to that, and I do try. However, one must also understand that the view at which we see things now — from the top (the present) looking down — is not the same as standing back and looking at the entire picture. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so it may be with the climate. Where you view it from is very important in the search for the answer.
Joe Bastardi, a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicles: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”