After my August 2014 article expressing concern about the politicization of science potentially eroding the public’s confidence in science, I received a call from Steve Cieslewicz. We had a lengthy discussion and he eventually asked me if I accepted anthropogenic global warming (AGW) as a fact. I told him I have drawn no conclusion as I have not seen compelling data that would prove global warming nor the direct link to man’s activities.
Since that conversation I have read a book, The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science by Dr. Tim Ball, a retired climatologist. While Dr. Ball presents a view that would tickle the cockles of conspiracy theorists, he also presents arguments about climate science that cannot be ignored.
One of the facts Dr. Ball exposes, of which I was unaware, is that the work of the UN’s Intercontinental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is focused exclusively on anthropogenic causes. This is a red flag because without including factors beyond mankind’s control it is impossible to show that human contributions to greenhouse gases are statistically significant and have a significant impact. Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water. If temperatures increase, there will be more evaporation and clouds. Yet the IPCC models give no consideration to the effect of clouds on temperature. What is the impact of volcanic emissions on greenhouse gases and global temperatures?
Dr. Ball charges IPCC’s exclusive focus on AGW causes defies science. According to scientific principles, it is necessary to start with the null hypothesis. That is, the necessary hypothesis is that there is no difference between historic climate and climate influenced by the addition of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Only on the rejection of this hypothesis could it be established that there is a human influence. The IPCC approach skips over this step and thereby, is based on an unproven assumption. As the IPCC set out to prove the theory rather than disprove it, the scientific method has been set aside.
Also provided is an examination of the “hockey stick” that showed that there was an unprecedented rise in temperatures in the 20th century, implicating human activity as the cause. The hockey stick data came from dendroclimatology: the reconstruction of past climates from tree ring data. My initial reaction to this was "what"? Those of us on the tree side of the business know that the primary factor limiting tree growth is available soil moisture. So unless you are using data only from trees that would never experience water stress, you are starting with a faulty indicator for temperature.
But back to the hockey stick. The tree ring data showed temperatures declining in the 20th century. This was resolved by dropping the latter part of the tree ring data and substituting modern temperature data. Based on this hockey stick it was also claimed that the increase in temperature in the 20th century was the largest increase in the past 1000 years. In addition to the hockey stick arising from the faulty assumption of the size of tree rings being only a function of temperature, there were allegations of cherry picking trees, such as bristlecone pine, that met a desired objective. For those not familiar with tree species, bristlecone pine is an alpine species living just below the tree line. They face cold temperatures, dry soils and high winds and are, consequently, very slow growing. Do you see how this might produce a fairly straight line and in so doing eliminate the Medieval Warm Period when temperatures rose more quickly and higher then what we experienced in the 20th century?
Michael Mann’s hockey stick fails another tenet of the scientific method – the results need to be reproducible. That has never been achieved. Further, a couple of Canadians named McIntyre and McKitrick showed the algorithm that Mann used to produce the hockey stick was so skewed that it produced a hockey stick 99% of the time regardless of what data you fed into the model.
What I’ve presented are serious flaws in scientific method. There is much more in Tim Ball’s book including referenced allegations of the suppression of work that contradicts the notion of anthropogenic global warming.
So, regarding man-caused global warming, I remain open to the possibility but I still haven’t seen sound proof.