Fact Battles Faith in Global Warming Debate

Published January 20, 2010

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a series by Walter Cunningham, pilot of the Apollo 7 space mission, who has a master’s degree in physics. Cunningham has served on the Advisory Board for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

There is a war going on between those who believe human activities are responsible for global warming and those who don’t. Contrary to the way the debate is often framed by the media, those who believe in anthropogenic global warming (AGW) do not hold the high ground, scientifically. Their critics do.

Reason, Evidence Ignored

One reason for belief in AGW is the sad state of scientific literacy in the United States today. A 2006 National Science Foundation survey found 25 percent of Americans did not know the Earth revolves around the sun. Such widespread ignorance leaves our society vulnerable to the emotional appeal of AGW alarmists.

Among AGW true believers, advocacy has replaced objective evaluation of data, and scientific data–regardless of the authority of its source or importance in the debate– are ignored and suppressed, or the messengers are attacked.

Global warming is a scientific question, demanding scientific data for understanding, but until very recently it appeared subjective opinion was winning. Thankfully, some scientists have been willing to risk their careers by speaking out against AGW dogma. Disclosures of scientific fraud by the leading advocates of AGW, along with new scientific discoveries and cooling global temperatures, have all helped bring the world back from the brink of adopting some utterly unnecessary and truly harmful legislation.

In the end, science will win–as it always does–but not without some painfully rude awakenings for Al Gore, President Barack Obama, and millions of others who can’t handle the truth.

Warmer–Since Ice Age

Public debate should focus on what scientists know about the causes of global temperature changes and whether we can do anything to control or influence the planet’s temperature. Is global warming a natural inevitability, or is it anthropogenic–human-caused?

Determining the temperature of the Earth, past or present, is a matter of collecting data, analyzing it, and coming up with the best explanation to account for it. Scientists have used proxy data to estimate the temperature of the Earth going back for millennia. (See Figure 1.) To say the Earth has been warming is to state the obvious. Since the end of the last Ice Age, Earth’s temperature has increased approximately 16 degrees Fahrenheit.

Proxy data show past temperatures were sometimes higher and sometimes lower than today's temperatures.

That is certain and measurable evidence of warming, but since the warming started before any human impact, it is evidence of natural variability, not AGW.

Human Role Not Shown

Scientists have been unable to find a relationship between industrial activity or energy consumption and global temperatures. Carbon dioxide emissions have risen steadily since the start of the Industrial Revolution, but temperatures have risen, fallen, risen again, and more recently begun to fall again.

Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but a persistent lack of correlation (as between human carbon dioxide emissions and temperatures) can disprove a theory of causation.

In contrast to their inability to find evidence in support of AGW, scientists have found an excellent correlation between fluctuations of solar activity and the Earth’s temperature. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2: Comparison of solar output and Arctic temperatures since 1875, provided by Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon. Arctic temperature fluctuations have mirrored global temperature fluctuations, though Arctic temperature changes have been somewhat more pronounced.

‘Climate Change’ Natural, Continual

Science tells us the Earth has been warming and cooling for the past 4.8 billion years. Most recently, it has been warming–ever so slightly–but there is nothing unusual about that. Changes in the Earth’s temperature have occurred many times in our climatic history, even since the Industrial Revolution.

Advocates of AGW have been working overtime to obfuscate the issue. When the best available temperature data (from satellites) began showing a leveling off and then a slight cooling trend beginning in the late 1990s, the alarmists began dropping “global warming” from their vocabularies in favor of “global climate change.” Who can argue that the climate isn’t changing? It’s always changing!

Sure, climate change is occurring, but humans are not influencing the temperature of our planet to any measurable degree. Any human contribution to global temperature change is lost in the noise of natural terrestrial and cosmic factors.

Walter Cunningham ([email protected]) maintains the waltercunningham.com Web site.