Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Me, a Moderate? Yes - on Global Warming

I found myself thinking about Global Warming recently on a blue-sky August day in the MidWest in which I opted not to ride my motorcycle to work because it was too chilly in the morning. I think about this topic a fair amount, and discuss it occasionally with friends on the internet – where ironically I find the topic too often draws more heat than light. How fun is that.

This week I was in a unrelated discussion online about President Obama and his State of the Union address, which contained this:

"But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods -- all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science -- and act before it’s too late.”

We should look at those factors that he mentioned. We could also look at the folks in Atlanta wearing sweaters last week. Or the mayor of London talking this Spring about a mini-ice age brewing. Or about the Farmer’s Almanac calling for a long cold winter this year. There is a bit of fact in all of that, and a bit of alarmism as well. We all have our perceptions of what the weather / climate is doing. I don’t believe that the evidence shows that natural disasters are increasing in frequency, You might have watched the tornadoes ravaging Oklahoma this Summer and thought tornadoes are increasing. They are not. Neither are hurricanes, even if we give them good PR names like “Superstorm!” (Is that a real meteorological term?)

I probably think about weather, and time, and weather over time more than the average layman on the internet chatting about Global Warming. I think about these things for some very practical reasons. One of those reasons is that I'm a business traveler on the road for an inordinate amount of days each year. I have been behind the wheel of 35 rental cars already in 2013, in multiple states, at all hours of the day, in vastly different and changing weather conditions. Just stop and take that in for a moment - 35 rental cars. I'm aware of the environmental conditions around me in my world because I have to be. And because my hobby of travel photography compels me to think about them. I "see" our landscape and industry at a more focused level than many of you reading this. I just do.  What catches my photography "eye" when I'm out and about that is relevant to this topic?

The sky: So many weather patterns that are visually interesting (and can complicate my business day...). I'm 15 minutes from an airport at home and I love to watch how the jet contrails linger and change by evening.

Energy: Power stations.

Electrical power line towers.



Time: I love to photograph rock layers in parks and canyons and on cut-throughs for interstate highways. It keeps me grounded (no pun intended) that our planet has a history.


Moraines: which also make me think of weather over time. I Iearned about moraines back in college. They are mounds or debris fields that were pushed ahead of advancing glaciers and are left in place when the glacier retreats. I took some nice pictures this Summer in the Moraine Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado on vacation. Every time I see the sign for the Moraine View State Park, I am reminded to be grateful that the land that I'm standing on is not currently encased in a glacier as it was 15,000 years ago. Yay warming! Yay climate change over the history of our planet.


If you've read me online you know that I am a partisan on politics. Not so much on science issues, and I am certainly not "anti-science". I love science. I've loved science since I was a little boy and watched the moon landing live in '69. Since I spent hours drawing tracings of the X-15 space plane and then eventually worked in engineering at a major aerospace company. Since I was a high school Mathlete competing in geometric functions and orthogonal equations. Since I took and passed the requisite chemistry, biology, physics, and 4 semesters of calculus through differential equations in an engineering program at a Big Ten university. Since I studied technology in two of the US Air Force's best technical schools (honor graduate each time.) And mostly since I've worked in technological career fields my whole life, including working at the top of the game in American manufacturing in an "ology". (Metrology - "The Science of Measurement", which I'll come back to.)

But, here's the thing. I learned basic science before the internet turned every discussion into a spat among keepers of "the truth". And I've been engaged in practical science most of my career, which tempers my views on certainty, certainly on issues that have measurement results as their foundation. I've seen things in the measurement world that would give you pause to be so certain about things. Together, those two things give me a starting point and a point of view. I am not an expert on climate science. I am a layman. I read. I live. I work. I ponder. And I find that I am not in either of the two extreme camps on the internet on this topic. They are:

1. True Believer: "All scientists agree" that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is real, that is in large part due to the activities of mankind, that it poses a grave immediate danger, that governments must take action now, and that if you express scepticism at all you are a "denier". If you are in the “all scientists agree” camp, you can stop reading now, because you will not hear anything that I say in this post.

2. AGW is a "hoax", has no merit, and is pushed purely for political purposes. If you believe this, keep reading. I have some thoughts for you.

Neither is correct, in my humble opinion. And I find the use of the term "denier" to be loathsome in a discussion on science. I am a moderate on AGW. Let's look at how, letter by letter.

A - Anthropogenic.

I am generally attribute a great deal of the changes in both weather and climate that occur, and have over the whole history of our planet, to that big yellow variable-output heater in the sky called the sun. Surface temperatures have not statistically significantly increased in the last 16 years, a time when we’ve seen less sunspot activity than usual. We are a few months away from the sun reversing its poles – with South becoming North and vice versa – as itdoes every 11 years

"During field reversals, the current sheet becomes very wavy, and as Earth orbits the Sun, we dip in and out of the current sheet. This means we can see an uptick in space weather, with any solar storms affecting Earth more. So, there may be more auroras in our near future.”
Having said that, I see those contrails in the sky every day. I see those smokestacks belching smoke every day. It’s inescapable that it’s likely that man’s activities to power our homes and industries would be impacting the chemical composition of our atmosphere to some significant degree. So, yes, I am with the A for Anthropogenic in AGW.

G – Global

Oh, yes. I’ve traveled globally. I’ve been in China and seen real pollution – more pollution than America is generating right now. Any UN AGW plan that includes America but does not include India and China is fooling everyone. Our atmosphere is global.

And America can surely learn from foreign Green Technologies that reduce energy use. I was taken aback the first time that I checked into a hotel in Germany. I saw that my room’s key card had to be left in a slot in the room for anything to have power on and that, conversely, when I was out of my room nothing was consuming power. Wow! I was humbled to my core in that one little act. We have things we can learn and do better to reduce our need for energy. So, yes on G for Global.

W – Warming

Are you sure you want to commit to warming? To temperature trends in one direction? After all, I came of age in the 70’s when the hysteria was about Global Cooling. Do you think that I have forgotten that?

Actually, the language of the debate tells me that many of you don’t want to commit to “warming”. You’ve been burned by AGW conferences cancelled by blizzards too many times now to say “warming” in public. Hence was born the euphemism “Climate Change”. It still sounds daunting, but you won’t get embarrassed in the next mini ice age. Never mind that the climate has changed over the whole history of the planet, with cycles of ice ages covering where I live and then not. Never mind. Let’s get wound up about Climate Change.

I am not convinced on W for warming for the following reasons:

1. Surface temperatures have not increased a “statistically significant” amount since 1995. That’s per Phil Jones, AGW guru, and many others.

BBC: “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?”
Phil Jones: “Yes, but only just.”

2. The models used by climate scientist don’tfully explain that.
"But the fact that global surface temperatures have not followed the expected global warming pattern is now widely accepted."
The latest effort to explain is that the heat from CO2 is hiding at the bottom of oceans, and don’t you try to find that sneaky CO2 heat. They have new ballon thermometers down there trying to find it.

True believers have the unique ability to take in answers like that without snickering. Really.

3. Before you have temperature trends, you have temperature measurements as a foundation. I am keenly aware of that because of my 14 years as a metrologist.

4. Temperature measurements don’t have the absolute certainty that you think that they do. Not even digital readout thermometers. Especially digital readout thermometers. Trust me on that. I was at the top of the game in metrology, and operated million dollar temperature controlled gage labs with highly detailed measurement uncertainty calculations. Now add the certainty of mixing “proxy” data from tree rings and such, and tell me how certain you are of temperatures 1500 years ago to .1 degree Centigrade.

5. There are not an infinite number of base temperature measurement databases. According to the report the British Parliament issued after ClimateGate (which I read and you didn’t), there are basically three data sets that everyone shares for their analysis of trends. Those are East Anglia University – which supplies data to the UN’s panels, NASA, and NOAA. The last two consider their data sets inferior to the one at EAU.

6. The data set at EAU has been manipulated. Again, we learned that through ClimateGate. This was not well covered by the media. I discovered it in my reading of the emails and the UK Parliament report. There was a lot of focus on emails that admitted the “trick” that Michael Mann was recommending to others to fix data. The UK Parliament report waived that off, saying it just means it’s a recognized technique to correct data. Well, of course it is. I recognized the validity of using correction factors to adjust in response to a known data irregularity for an assignable cause. That’s not the problem, frankly. The problem is this: The EAU adjusted the data and then destroyed the original data set (because they were “out of memory space”). There is no way to go back and check if the legitimate corrections were correctly applied to the raw data – because the raw data is gone gone gone.

Last, I’ll add this thought. There is a difference between accuracy and precision. This is a basic principle of metrology. It’s on my test for my ASQ Certified Calibration Technician credential – which I still hold  -  every time. Precision is the degree of closeness of a data set. Accuracy is the degree of agreement with the actual value of the measurand. In other words, you can shoot a pretty tight grouping at the target range – and that is important – but your group may be well off the 10 ring bullseye. I see a pretty high degree of precision (grouping) in the trend analysis of climate scientists – and I regard that with respect. Is it accurate? Well, to me that depends on the accuracy of the underlying temperature data measurements and there are questions about how certain they are.

Do all scientists agree on AGW? Don’t let people tell you that they do. I’ll offer as an example a study that I read last week that was published in a peer reviewed journal titled "Peer-Reviewed Survey Finds Majority Of Scientists Skeptical Of Global Warming Crisis". The authors were true believers that wanted to prove the bias of "geoscientists" and "engineers" that work in the petrochemical business. They surveyed 1007 of those scientists, and offered them 5 categories to choose from for their views. 1 catgegory was “true believer”, which only attracted 36% agreement. The skeptical view was split over the other four categories, which equals 64%. All scientists do not agree. The author’s answer would be that the oil scientists have a bias. It’s a bias that I’m okay with because I’ve been a working practical scientist (ologist) for most of my career and have an affinity for them. Plus, I would argue that people that make their living off of government grants have a bias to them as well. How many of them will write a grant proposal that says “the sun causes climate change and there’s not much we can do about it. Now give me a grant.”

The true believer will then point out that some huge percentage in the high 90s of peer reviewed studies agree that there’s AGW. What they don’t acknowledge is that some of those papers take a moderate view as I’ve outlined. None of the skeptics that I read take the hoax position – that there is nothing to AGW. So they would be counted in the high 90 percent. It’s not 90% true believer.

Science is not political, or should not be. But the Presidency is. The Congress is. The United Nations certainly is. There is a lot of UN activity that is flat out wealth redistribution from the first world to the third world. Climate change proposals are not immune from this. UN IPCCofficials admit this:

Edenhofer: First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.

The bottom line for me is:

- Do we know enough about AGW to be pursuing reasonable, practical, and effective Green technologies for our power generation and our power usage? Yes we do.

- Do we know enough about AGW to begin implementing draconian tax schemes? No.

- Do we know enough about AGW to engage in UN wealth redistribution schemes? Absolutely no.

- Do we know enough about AGW for our President to propose killing the American coal industry that powers electrical plants (and provides jobs) in my town? Hell no.


That’s my take on AGW at this point in time. It is the moderate position, as far as I see it.


  1. so the insurance industry is doubling and tripling premiums because they feel like it? or because of all the money they've been paying out for claims after storms are wiping out neighborhoods?

    1. There are not more storms. In 2013 we've gone until now in September without a named hurricane - longest period in years. It just seems like there are more storms because they get the Climate Change hysteria media coverage.

      "The truth is that scientists aren’t really sure why there hasn’t been a hurricane yet this season, nor do they know why an intense hurricane — Category 3, 4, 5 — hasn’t made landfall in the U.S. since Wilma all the way back in 2005."