Why I’m a Global Warming Skeptic (and You Should Be)

March 11th, 2011

By Seth Forman

I live in a wonderful suburban community on Long Island. My three children attend the excellent public schools in our district. As the two oldest children have made their way through middle school, though, I’ve been bothered by the rather flimsy instruction they’ve received on the subject of “global warming.” Despite widespread divergence among scientists and reports of questionable scholarship in landmark global warming studies, my children (and, presumably, their classmates and millions of other young students) have been taught a standard, one-sided view of “global warming.” Both my 14 year-old daughter and 11 year-old son have been shown Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth in sixth grade, but have been given nothing to suggest that some of the information in the movie is either controversial or misleading. So I’ve decided to put together this bullet point compendium of information discussing the current status of the “global warming” debate.

The History

1.  Global warming is when near surface and water temperatures on earth rise. Scientists believe there are many factors involved in the earth’s temperature changes, many of which are natural and have little or nothing to do with human activity (e.g. atmospheric processes like clouds and precipitation systems, the variability associated with phenomena like El Nino and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation). But an approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in average temperatures over the last 100 years has put the focus of scientists and funding agencies on “greenhouse gases” (carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrous oxide, and methane), some of which are emitted by humans. These gases can trap heat and light from the sun in the earth’s atmosphere, which increases the temperature.

2.  The claim that the earth is warming, that the warming is due to man’s emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), and that continued emissions will lead to catastrophe gained major media attention during the hearings of then-U.S. Senator Al Gore’s Committee on Science, Technology and Space in 1988. At those hearings Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies James Hansen claimed with “99 percent certainty” that temperatures were rising due to a human-influenced “greenhouse effect.”

3.  The same year as the Gore hearings, the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to assess “the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change.” The IPCC prepared four reports and a Summary for Policymakers. The last report was completed in 2007. Together, the reports contained the following conclusions:

  • Global warming is occurring. Global surface temperature increased between .32 and 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit during the 20th century.
  • “Anthropogenic [man made] climate change will persist for many centuries.”
  • The full range of projected temperature increase is between 2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century.
  • The increase in global temperatures are a result of human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) for energy.
  • Given current trends, temperature extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to escalate in frequency; and the earth’s temperature and seas will continue to rise into the next millennium.

4.  The IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers (first issued in 1999) featured a graph displaying an unprecedented surge in 20th-century temperatures that looked like a hockey stick lying on the floor with its blade pointed up.  Prior centuries’ temperatures appear flat, with a severe spike in the 20th century.

5.  Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, whose 2006 movie, An Inconvenient Truth, relied on the findings of the IPCC. Gore’s film won the 2007 Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song.

6.  The IPCC identified the burning of coal, oil and natural gas as the primary culprits in rising man-made carbon emissions over the past 150 years, dating back to roughly the start of the industrial revolution. Policy proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions contained in such efforts as the Kyoto protocols, the Copenhagen Climate Conference (2009), and in “cap and trade” schemes massively restructure economic systems and expand government’s ability to regulate and control energy usage.

The Controversy

1.  In mid-November of 2009 there appeared a file on the internet containing thousands of emails and other documents from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain (CRU). The CRU supplied many of the authors for the IPCC reports. The file was quickly authenticated and provided unambiguous evidence that the CRU and associated research scientists throughout the world engaged in the unethical suppression of information and opposing viewpoints, data manipulation, and collusion. This event has become known as “climategate.”

2.  Climategate has mushroomed into a crisis affecting an entire scientific discipline. At the heart of this crisis is the “hockey stick” graph produced by Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State University, a co-conspirator in the leaked emails. After being given data by another scientist showing a mid-to-late 20th century decline in temperatures, Mann responded in a September 22, 1999 email to the CRU, that it was a “problem and a potential distraction/detraction.” So Mann deleted the embarrassing post-1960 portion of the data. The CRU’s director Phil Jones applauded Mann’s deceptions in an e-mail in which he crowed over “Mike’s Nature trick,” which also included a “method” of flat lining the medieval “warming period.”

3.  An independent study by a team of mathematicians was requested by the U.S. congress and headed by Dr. Edward J. Wegman. The Wegman study thoroughly discredited the Mann “hockey stick” research because of invalid use of statistical techniques and found that the conclusions by Mann could not be supported.

4.  Along with the manipulated “hockey stick” graph, the British government concluded that the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit violated the nation’s freedom of information act by withholding information requested by other, presumably critical, scientists.

5.  In 2010, Graham Cogley, a professor of geography and glaciers at Trent University in Peterborough, Canada, brought to the world’s attention the IPPC claim that warming will cause the Himalayan glaciers to disappear by 2035. It turned out that that claim was based solely on a pamphlet published by the World Wildlife Federation, not on any objective data.

6.  Similarly, the Times of London reported that a claim that warming could endanger “up to 40 percent” of the Amazon rainforest came from an anti-smoking activist and had no scientific basis.

7.  In a report to the United Nations in 2010, more than 1,000 dissenting scientists challenged man-made global warming claims made by the IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore. This 320page Climate Depot Special Report was updated from 2007′s U.S. Senate Report of over 400 scientists who voiced skepticism about the so-called global warming “consensus.”

8.  The InterAcademy Council, a consortium of national scientific academies, scolded the U.N.’s IPCC for downplaying uncertainties about global warming, failing to point out when its claims were based on weak evidence and misrepresenting some findings as peer-reviewed by scientists, when they weren’t.

9.  An independent group of scientists called the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, issued a report called Climate Change Reconsidered, which said the IPCC reports are “marred by errors and misstatements, ignores scientific data that were available but were inconsistent with the authors’ pre-conceived conclusions, and has already been contradicted in important parts by research published since May 2006.”

Scientific Data That Challenges the Global Warming Narrative

1.  CO2 is a benign gas essential to life, occurring in past eras at five times present levels. Changes in atmospheric CO2 do not correlate with human emissions of CO2, the latter being entirely trivial in the global balance. Oceans are the primary contributors of CO2 in the atmosphere.

2.  According to Larry Bell, a professor at the University of Houston and the author of Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax, the abnormally high temperatures experienced on earth in the last century have been going on for 15,000 to 18,000 years, a life-friendly period known as an interglacial cycle, long before man-made inventions of agriculture, smokestacks, and SUVs.

3.  Prof. Bell explains that temperatures are probably about the same today as during a “Roman Warm Period” slightly more than 2,000 years ago, and much warmer than the “Dark Ages” that followed. They are cooler than the “Medieval Warm Period” about 1,000 years ago when Eric the Red and his Icelandic Viking tribe settled on grasslands of Greenland’s southwestern coast, and much warmer than about 400 years ago when the Northern Hemisphere plunged into depths of a “Little Ice Age.”

4.  According to Robert B. Laughlin, co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics: climate change over geologic time is something the earth has done “on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining itself.” Glacial episodes have occurred “at regular intervals of 100,000 years,” always “a slow, steady cooling followed by abrupt warming back to conditions similar to today’s.”

5.  The past century witnessed two distinct warming periods, one occurred from 1900-1945, and another from 1975-1998. About half of that total warming occurred before the mid-1940s. Records from land stations and ships indicate that the global mean surface temperature warmed by about 0.9 Fahrenheit since 1880. These records indicate a near level trend in temperatures from 1880 to about 1910, a rise to 1945, a slight decline to about 1975, and a rise to 1998.

6.  While CO2 levels have continued to rise, there hasn’t been statistically significant warming since 1998.

7.  According to a startling admission by Professor Phil Jones of the infamous Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (a primary author of the IPCC “Summary for Policymakers”) there has been no significant warming since 1995.

8.  Recent data from many monitors including the CRU, available on Climate4you, show that the average temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans near the surface of the earth has decreased significantly over the past eight years or so.

9.  Warmer weather typically precedes increases in CO2 levels, not the other way around. What rise in global temperature there has been started approximately 150 years ago, but man-made CO2 emissions did not start to grow visibly before the 1940s. In other words, the warmer weather came before the increase in CO2 levels. This is because oceans are huge CO2 sinks, absorbing CO2 as they cool, and releasing CO2 as they warm up. (Prof. Larry Bell uses the analogy of a soda can to explain this phenomena. When you open a cold can of soda it retains CO2. If it is warm, it releases CO2 and sprays all over.) These temperature shifts are heavily influenced by entirely natural ocean cycle fluctuations that affect heat transfer patterns from the tropics.

10.  Short- and long-term solar fluctuations have important influences, too. Decadal and longer changes in sunspot activity impacting warming and cooling cloud cover patterns are now being recognized as an important factor in global temperatures.

11.  The idea that the world’s glaciers are disappearing because of CO2, a primary claim made in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, defies credibility. Most glaciers in temperate climates are relics of the ice age and have been receding since that time. Nevertheless, a large number of glaciers are growing, none of which were shown in An Inconvenient Truth. Only a small percentage of glaciers have been studied for mass balance changes out of the 67,000 that have been inventoried.

12.  A healthy skepticism of scientific theories that seem to require sweeping public policy reforms is warranted. One need not be a cynic to understand the incentives operating upon the scientific community and the media. Piles of grant money and recognition outside their sometimes narrow fields of specialization await the researcher who identifies a real crisis requiring their high level of expertise. For the media the attraction to news that is alarming and that may cause panic, or even hysteria, is obvious: it raises interest in the news and thus increases revenue. History shows several occasions in which scientists and the media seemed eager to speculate falsely about the earth’s future:

  • An October 7, 1912 Los Angeles Times feature proclaimed the “Fifth Ice Age is on the Way: Human Race Will Have to Fight for Existence in Cold.”
  • On August 9, 1923 the Chicago Tribune declared “Scientists Say Arctic Ice Will Wipe out Canada.”
  • A March 1, 1975 cover of Science News magazine depicted New York City being swallowed by a glacier. The New York Times followed with a headline story “Scientists Ponder Why World’s Climate is Changing: A Major Cooling Widely Considered to be Inevitable.”
  • In April 1974 Time magazine featured a cover story with the title “How to Survive the Coming Ice Age: 51 Things You Can Do To Make A Difference.”
  • On April 28, 1975, Newsweek magazine published an article entitled “Scientists Predict Massive Global Cooling.” It featured the following statement:  “The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.”

13.  Professor Bell and others believe that humans tend to thrive in warmer climates. “A warming planet is not necessarily bad. It enables humans and countless other creatures to thrive that couldn’t otherwise survive. It provides long and fertile planting seasons on large expanses of unfrozen land essential to feed 8 billion to 9 billion people around the world.”

14.  The costs associated with efforts to reduce man-made CO2 are enormous. Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, has studied the economics of climate change and estimates that the European Union’s 20 percent emissions-reduction target will cost around $250 billion a year. Yet the impact by 2100 on global temperatures is likely to be only 0.05 a degree Centigrade – almost too small to measure.

(This article was also posted at Associated Content and EzineArticles.)

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5 Responses to “Why I’m a Global Warming Skeptic (and You Should Be)”

  1. Dan Miller |

    Don’t be a skeptic; be afraid. Be horrified. Panic! It has now been revealed that man-made global smarming warming caused the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and associated horrors, including the tsunami, in Japan and all other bad stuff everywhere on Mother Earth.

    There is an absolutely definitive, indisputable, simple and easily understood causal relationship between man-made global warming and all of the man-made unrest which plagues the entire world: all are man-made. Not only that, it gets pretty hot in hot spots, thus further establishing the warming relationship. These same perverse elements also caused the U.S. budget deficit, Republicans, racism and T.E.A. groups in the United States (the most prolific of all greenhouse gas emitters) as well as famine, hoof and mouth disease outbreaks, nuclear weapon development, lack of human rights and the boisterous military aggressiveness in North Korea.

    Vice President Biden must resign immediately for reasons of (human) health, to be replaced by Mr. Gore. President Obama must then abdicate instantly and Mr. Gore must be sworn in as the President. Time is of the essence and nothing else will halt these travesties in time to save us. President Gore will lead us to discover how to eliminate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses from the general atmosphere and to confine them to the greenhouses where they belong. These things must be done right now if humanity is to be saved.

    Immediate action is needed; otherwise all rational life on Mother Earth will cease.

  2. Tom Carter |

    Great work, Seth! I’ve read about most of these things at one point or another, but this is an excellent compilation of the facts. I’m glad you didn’t directly call it a hoax or a scam, because I don’t think it’s either. In my view it’s more a perfect storm created by the confluence of political opportunism, ideological bias, scientific careerism, and media drumbeating for a favored cause. As I’ve said before, when you find an issue that virtually all liberals see one way and virtually all conservatives see the other way, you can’t rely on the opinions of either side. It’s unfortunate that science has been perverted in the process.

    Being an informed skeptic is clearly the best approach. There’s no way to know what weather and climate are going to do in the future. The Earth has its own rhythms and cycles, and I think they’re beyond effective human intervention. Yes, we should do our best not to pollute and trash the planet we live on, but there’s just no reason to cripple ourselves economically and politically through hair-brained schemes like cap-and-trade.

    And speaking of what the Earth can do when it’s of a mind — the Japan earthquake, I’m reading, has been re-evaluated as magnitude 9.1, which is almost unbelievable; some of the aftershocks are over magitude 7, huge earthquakes on their own. And now there has been an explosion at a nuclear power plant, radiation is being released into the atmosphere, other plants are in danger, and people are being evacuated from the areas of the plants. The one that suffered the explosion may even have a melt-down. Kind of puts all the global warming blather in perspective.

    And as for you Dan, I can’t help but agree that the immediate resignation of Vice President Biden would be in the best interest of human health. Doesn’t matter who replaces him…but Gore might be a good choice, if the greenhouse industry is to be saved.

  3. Bob |


    The link above is to a 2003 article, “Are We On the Brink of A New Little Ice Age?” by two Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute scientists who point out that global warming theorists cite temperature increases of about 100 years to support their conclusions.

    The authors go on to present their own study which includes temperature variations, supported by geologic and other evidence, covering several million years and indicates that we may be in a 10,000 to 15,000 year long warm period that parallels other times in eons past that have come between ice ages, some lasting a few hundred years and called “little ice ages” like one that ended around 1400 AD, and other lasting tens of thousands of years like the one that ended about 12,000 years ago and preceded the beginning of human agriculture and civilizations but, and this is the most important point of their study, was one of several such 100,000 year plus ice ages stretching back over millions of years, each punctuated by warming times like we are now in that last for the 10,000 to 15,000 year spans.

  4. Seth Forman |

    I know. Awful. Just awful.

  5. Brian |

    Tom, given e-mail-gate, I’d say that “hoax” is entirely accurate. The hockey stick was purely contrived and has no basis in fact. Add to that the fact that we know in times past, before industrialization, that CO2 levels followed mean global temperature increases, I’d say there’s an excellent case that this was clearly a fraud.

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