For years, I accepted the supposed scientific consensus that the earth was warming, that warming above a certain point would be catastrophic, and that mankind’s “greenhouse” gas emissions were the primary cause. I believed that Aspen ski resorts were at danger of closing due to lack of snow, the arctic would be ice free, and that the science is settled regarding human induced climate change.
However, the claims of a climatic tipping point led me to investigate further. I am an electrical engineer. I know that if positive feedback systems are not designed properly, they can fail catastrophically. Such systems are unstable. I found it difficult to believe that our atmospheric system was so unstable that there would be a “tipping point” of no return.
So, I investigated. I learned how the greenhouse gas theory worked; that CO2 would pass through the sun’s short wave radiation, but it would be opaque to the earth’s own long wave radiation – thus trapping energy. I discovered that even doubling or tripling the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere alone could not raise the theoretical temperature of the earth to the heights being warned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); that required positive feedback of water vapor which would provide most of the temperature increases. I learned the names of the major scientists warning of anthropogenic global warming (AGW): Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Gavin Schmidt, Dr. Phil Jones. I found out that there exists three primary surface temperature data sets: CRU, GISS and NCDC, and that here exist two satellite data sets: UAH and RSS – that are used to calculate global average temperature.
I also learned that the science is not settled, and there exist prestigious researchers who believe AGW theory is either over blown, or is fatally flawed: Dr. Roy Spencer, Dr. Richard Lindzen, Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. I discovered that the positive feedback of water vapor is but a theory; different studies have inferred both positive and negative feedback and there is no conclusive proof this theory holds up. I found out that the three surface temperature data bases have 90% to 95% overlap of raw data, so the data between them is not truly independent, and that this data gets “adjusted” by the various entities who report the data. I learned that most of the expected dramatic temperature increases and consequences of those increases are derived from computer models – not from empirical evidence. As a firmware engineer, I am well aware that computer models are only as good as the assumptions they are programmed with.
Most of all, I learned that the absolute certainty and scientific unanimity of belief in AGW was a myth – AGW is a theory and observational data can and does contradict that theory.
Besides the scientific uncertainties came the behavioral ones. While skeptical AGW web sites, such as Watt’s Up With That, allows the free discourse of opinion, pro AGW web sites, such as realclimate do not. The opinions and scientific papers of the researchers who have skeptical leanings seemed to be marginalized. Then came the confirmation: climategate. The subject of climategate merits its own post. However, the leaked emails from climategate showed conclusively that the top pro-AGW climate scientists were colluding to assure that dissenting voices were not heard – either in the media or in scientific peer-reviewed journals.
My faith in the scientists who are pushing the pro-AGW agenda is seriously eroded. At this point, I believe that the available evidence shows that climate change IS happening – but it is not to the extent that we have been led to believe, and the cause of that change is natural variation. Climate change will ALWAYS happen: the very nature of the earth assures that. But the emissions of CO2 by man made causes are very unlikely to be the primary cause of future climate variations.