On a recent Sunday Square Off debate (seen Sunday mornings at 8:00am on NBC, Channel 12 in Phoenix), Arizona Democrat spokesperson Emily Bittner stated, “I am so sick of the debate as to whether or not global warming is real.” Well, I had not heard the debate was over and a consensus reached. Although as time passes, the “true facts” on global warming are refuting more and more the theory that man is the cause. What follows is a three part series on facts and fiction.
Not so long ago, Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet. As it turned out, he had not, but he liked to think he was the change agent that made it happen. Wishful thinking on his part, fortunately for all of us it did no real harm. In the case of global warming, it may indeed turn out that he is the father of the modern global warming crisis. The irony of his winning a Nobel Prize for championing what appears to be one of the greatest scientific hoaxes of all time is laughable if it were not for the current and future harm his errant beliefs on global warming could cause all Americans.
The story begins long before the making of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s political statement on global warming. It begins with the issuing of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change first assessment report in 1990. The report claimed that computerized global climate models showed a warming trend over the past century directly linked to CO2 emissions resulting from recent human activity since 1940. Unfortunately for environmentalists and their scientific brethren leading the charge (they were not yet known as global warming extremists), their computer models did not fit the observed data, so they changed the data. Or more specifically, created data that made their model work.
It turns out that the fly in the ointment or in this case the anomaly in the data, were two fold, first, most of the measured change in temperature of .6° C (1°F) over the past century had occurred before 1940 and there had been a global cooling period between 1940 and 1975. This cooler period had given rise back in the 1970s to the theory that another ice age was on its way. As it turned out, the scientists writing for the National Science Academy were quickly proven wrong and the hundreds of millions of dollars they were requesting in grants to study further the problem of global cooling were never realized.
But not to worry, scientists are resilient and resourceful when it comes to devising new theories, especially when it impacts their grant funding. It is in their DNA or at least their learned university behavior. When temperatures began to increase in the late 1970s, some began to theorize that increased CO2 emissions were the cause. At the same time, the advent of super computers made it possible to build computer models of the earth’s climate. Climate models were developed and refined over the next decade until they came up with a model that predicted increases in temperatures based on recent increases in CO2 emissions. One problem, the cooling period from 1940 to 1975 did not fit their models.
The scientists began searching for an explanation for this data anomaly and found one. When the computer models were adjusted for the possible effects of emissions of sulfur dioxide (another greenhouse gas – SO2) from electric power plants, the models seemed to fit the data. They claimed that these emissions had overwhelmed the heating affect of CO2 and caused a cooling trend. At the time, there was not enough known about the impact of sulfur dioxide on the atmosphere to refute the theory.
Later in the decade, it would be shown that sulfur dioxide emissions could not be the cause of global cooling experienced from 1940 to 1975. Europe, North America and other industrialized countries are in the northern hemisphere, the highest sources of this greenhouse gas produced by man during this period. But the global cooling was worldwide and not concentrated in the northern half as one would expect. Human produced sulfur dioxide does not travel as far or as widely as the other major source of SO2, volcanoes. An erupting volcano can spew out more SO2 in one day than man does in a year. This source of SO2 can affect worldwide temperatures causing noticeable cooling for a year or two.
So by 1990, they had their new theory of climate change. With the issue of the IPCC report in 1990, its finding that increases in CO2 releases were causing global warming quickly became the accepted belief of environmental activists but not yet of the political class or the average person on the street. The fact it was based on faulty computer models escaped notice. This data error would not be addressed until 2001 in third report issued by the IPCC.
In my next blog on global warming, we will examine how this small beginning by the IPCC in 1990 became a cottage industry and led to the Kyoto Protocol treaty.