Another False Alarm on Global Warming

Published May 2, 2005

Global warming alarmists are once again saying a “new study” has proven them to be right. But once again, the study they are citing is inconclusive.

The study is “Earth’s energy imbalance: Confirmation and implications,” by James Hansen et al., published in the April 28 issue of Science. Hansen, who has long been a leader of the alarmist pack, claims new research on ocean warming reveals the effects of human-made greenhouse gases (GHG) and aerosols and will cause additional global warming of about 0.6 degrees C and acceleration of ice sheet disintegration and sea level rise.

Hansen, in a news release about his study, calls it the “smoking gun” that proves humans are causing global warming. In fact it is nothing more that a typical Hansen computer modeling exercise, the kind he has been trumpeting since the 1980s. Here’s how this one goes, in seven easy steps.

1. Take some very shaky evidence and a draw firm conclusion, in this case that the oceans are warming. We don’t actually know this, certainly not how much, if at all.

2. Assume all else in nature is constant. In this case Hansen assumes that solar input is constant, even though solar variability is the hottest thing in climate science today. This assumption made some sense in 1986, but it makes none today.

3. Derive a precise value for what is actually unknown. In this case the Earth’s heat balance. We have no way of measuring the Earth’s heat balance.

4. Demonstrate that the GHG model can be made to reproduce this value. The GHG model can be made to reproduce just about any value as long as it is part of a warming trend. Feedbacks make it very flexible.

5. Conclude that the GHG model is proven, all other possible explanations for this actually unknown value having been ruled out by assumption. See above.

6. Use the now proven model to predict the future. It is bad. The heat comes out of the ocean (though one wonders why it changes direction). Ice melts. Coasts flood.

7. Sound the alarm. Again.

In point of fact, the hypothesis that solar variability and not human activity is warming the oceans goes a long way to explain the puzzling idea that the Earth’s surface may be warming while the atmosphere is not. The GHG hypothesis does not do this. But I digress.

Unfortunately, gullible reporters are likely to once again quote the news release and interview a small stable of government scientists and professional environmentalists rather than check the literature and call respected climate realists for their reactions.

The public is not well served by this constant drumbeat of false alarms fed by computer models manipulated by advocates.

David E. Wojick, Ph.D., is a consultant and columnist for The Electricity Daily. He writes on climate change, technology, and policy change.