Friday, September 25, 2009

Global Warming: Why the Skeptics?

The most obvious reason for skepticism about global warming is that it's a political hot potato. I want to suggest, however, that irresponsible journalism, even by scientists, is part of the problem.

I reference specifically the new information on the thinning of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets that came out in numerous articles on Wednesday and Thursday.

Here's some of the problems:

Playing Fast and Loose with the Numbers

This USA today blog says, "In some parts of Antarctica, ice sheets have been losing 30 feet a year in thickness since 2003, according to the study."

This PhysOrg article, however, calls it a little differently. It says:

The maps confirm that the profound ice sheet thinning of recent years stems from fast-flowing glaciers that empty into the sea. This was particularly the case in West Antarctica, where the Pine Island Glacier was found to be thinning between 2003 and 2007 by as much as 6 meters per year.

6 meters is just under 20 feet, not 30. And Pine Island Glacier is not "some parts of Antarctica."

I don't believe I'm being picky. This is a hot political issue, and those who say that global warming is accelerating and caused by man are being accused of dishonesty.

Dishonesty is probably not accurate, but extreme sloppiness and used car lot salesmanship are definitely accurate.

Honest Handling of the Facts

The lead author of the newly released study Hamish Pritchard. He is quoted in all the articles, of course. The study's main point is that glaciers are not only melting--a very slow way to get rid of glaciers--but they are sliding out into the ocean. They've always been doing that, but they appear to be speeding up rapidly.

What does that mean?

The correct answer is, no one knows. Pritchard--who's the main guy that matters, since he's the spokesman for the people who did the study, says:

We don't do sea level because we don't have enough information. Will this lead to a runaway collapse of the ice sheets, or will it all grind to a halt? The honest answer is, nobody knows.

This is Time Magazine quoting Pritchard. Congratulations to Time on some responsible journalism.

Dishonest Handling of the Facts

That is unlike Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, where Gore talked about possible 20 ft. sea level rises. Not so, says Pritchard and just about everyone else:

Information gathered since then has already revised the conventional wisdom about rising seas upward to about 3 ft., and this week's study will undoubtedly figure into future calculations.

Did you catch that? Conventional wisdom is sea level rises of less that 3 feet, now recently revised up to 3 feet by century's end. Not 20 feet. Not 2020, but 2100.

The "conventional wisdom" figure, by the way, came from the International Panel on Climate Change, and they estimated 7 to 23 inches, but they didn't take into account ice sheets sliding in the sea because, as Pritchard says, "We don't do sea level because we don't have enough information."

There's a lot of guessing going on.

Alarmist Articles

The first article I read on the new study was in New Scientist. The sloppiness and alarmist mentality is so incredible that it could create an anti-global warming movement all on its own.

The massive west Antarctic ice sheet, previously assumed to be stable, is starting to collapse, scientists warned on Tuesday.

   Antarctica contains more than 90% of the world's ice, and the loss of any significant part of it would cause a substantial sea level rise.

Here's the nice little bait and switch. They mention the west Antarctic ice sheet, which contains 15% of the world's ice, and then they switch to the Antarctic ice sheet, which includes both east and west Antarctica.

The entire Antarctic ice sheet really does contain 90% of the world's land-locked ice, but the huge majority of that is in the east Antarctic ice sheet. New Scientist doesn't mention this, however.

That's not sloppy journalism, that's lying. I guarantee you the author know exactly what he was doing when he pulled the bait and switch.

That's not the only problem, of course. The author continues:

Whether the loss of mass by the glaciers is due to natural variation or is caused by human-influenced warming of the oceans is not known for sure. Scientists are now making more field measurements to assess the causes, but warming is a likely culprit.

Here's one more bait and switch. Is human-influenced warming the cause, he asks? Then he says, warming is indeed a likely culprit.

Warming is the only culprit when ice melts. The question being asked is, are carbon emissions from humans causing the warming that is melting the ice? A further question being asked is, is the warming really global?

Studying melting ice in west Antartica will answer neither question.

Global Warming: What Does All This Mean?

It's great that scientists are keeping track of the melting in west Antarctica. I watch east Antarctica reports even more closely, and this report says the melting all the way around the Antarctic coast is worse than they thought.

There's a lot of melting ice in the Arctic, too. When both poles are melting, that at least announces that you better be checking for global warming.

Those who are frightened that global warming is real and is a man-made phenomenon want us to stop making drastic changes in the world around us. Those of us who are not morons, evil, or mentally ill agree this is a good idea.

However, alarmists who multiply potential sea level rise by 600% (Gore) and who use bait and switch techniques (New Scientist) do not help the cause. They just provide evidence of dishonesty for those that want to continue to pollute the world and swell their ranks.

I don't think that's a good idea.

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