Never has a public‐policy agenda been pursued with so little regard for scientific fact or for public opinion. In March, 48 percent of Americans agreed that global warming, while real, is exaggerated. When Gallup first asked this question in 1997, only 31 percent thought the threat exaggerated.
Despite this shift in sentiment, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and John Kerry (D., Mass.) and President Obama insist upon ramming a new global‐warming tax (called a “fee”) through the Senate. The bill is slated to be introduced next week, and vulnerable Democrats — weary already from the pugilistic health‐care debate — are fleeing the legislation in droves.
And for the measure’s primary backers, the backdrop of recent developments on the climate‐science landscape could not possibly be less fortuitous.
Climategate revealed that a small but influential coterie of climate scientists did everything they could to present messy global‐warming data as a “nice tidy story,” meticulously crafted to “hide the decline” in tree‐ring‐based temperatures. (I use quotes because those are the words of the warming‐alarmist scientists themselves.)
The fact is that tree rings are pretty poor indicators of annual warmth, especially in recent years. Dendrochronologists call this the “divergence” problem (cynics call it other names). Phil Jones, the central figure in Climategate, actually eliminated the “divergence” rather than “hiding the decline.”
The amount of “explained variance” or statistical correlation between rings and temperatures during the summer growing season tends to run about 40 percent. That means more than half of the temperature changes for a fraction of the year (and even more for the entire year) are unexplained.
The famous “Hockey Stick” temperature history, by Penn State’s Michael Mann, is composed largely of marginally explanatory tree‐ring data, which he subjected to a statistical analysis that produces different results depending on what portion of the data is chosen to represent the average condition. If there are 1,000 years of data, and one uses only the last 100 years to calculate the average against which to measure all the other years, that will help to produce an upward‐pointing “hockey stick.” Using all of the data to form an average will give a smoother result.
Last week, David Hand, president of the Royal Statistical Society, acknowledged that “the particular technique they used exaggerated the size of the blade at the end of the hockey stick. Had they used an appropriate technique, the size of the blade of the hockey stick would have been smaller.… The change in temperature is not as great over the 20th century compared to the past as suggested by the Mann paper.”
That revelation was accessible to the public, but not through the American legacy media. Sophisticated Internet sites such as climateaudit.org, wattsupwiththat.com, and rankexploits.com are creating a parallel universe to that of the refereed science literature, largely in response to the obviously manipulated peer‐review process evinced in the Climategate e‐mails.
The data on these sites are every bit as technical as those in the standard literature. The sites’ contents would be published in such literature if some of the Climategate scientists weren’t so pathologically thin‐skinned, and didn’t attempt to quash everyone and everything that deviates from their catechism.
As Climategate unfolded, so began the fiasco in Copenhagen, where global warming froze. The environmental world expected the December summit to produce a global commitment to specific reductions in carbon‐dioxide emissions. President Obama famously barged in on a meeting of Brazil, South Africa, India, and China — and fled prematurely with nothing, hopping on Air Force one to reach Washington before the first of the season’s three blizzards did.
Yet perhaps the most damaging blows to the integrity of the warming‐alarmist movement came directly from its most officious institutions: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change.
To strengthen Obama’s hand at Copenhagen, the EPA announced on the day the conference started that carbon dioxide was an “endangerment” to human health and welfare. The core assertion: