Friday, August 17, 2007

Scientist James Hansen Responds to NASA Data Controversy

"Fox, Washington Times, and their like have gone bananas over a flaw discovered in the computer program that produces global temperatures at GISS each month. They have even managed to get Congress and NASA Headquarters involved. Now we know what mom meant when she said "don’t make a federal case out of it." Hey, what is really going on here?

The said computer program is rerun every month as new meteorological station data and new satellite sea surface temperature data are reported. The program produces a global surface temperature field using an analysis scheme documented by Hansen et al. (2001)

The flaw affected temperatures only in the United States (by about 0.15°C) and only in 2000 and later. We corrected the flaw in the program, thanked the fellow who pointed it out, and thought that was the end of it.

How big an error did this flaw cause? The effect on the global temperature record is invisible.

The effect on U.S. average temperature is about 0.15°C beginning in 2000. Does this change have any affect whatsoever on the global warming issue? Certainly not, as discussed below.

What we have here is a case of dogged contrarians who present results in ways intended to deceive the public into believing that the changes have greater significance than reality. They aim to make a mountain out of a mole hill. I believe that these people are not stupid, instead they seek to create a brouhaha and muddy the waters in the climate change story. They seem to know exactly what they are doing and believe they can get away with it, because the public does not have the time, inclination, and training to discern what is a significant change with regard to the global warming issue.

The proclamations of the contrarians are a deceit, but their story raises a more important matter, usufruct. It is the most important issue in the entire global warming story, in my opinion. The players in the present U.S. temperature story, we scientists included, are just bit players. The characters in the main drama are big fish, really big fish. But before we get to that matter, I need to expose how the deceit works.

Instead of showing the impact of the flaw in our analysis program via a graph as a scientist would do (and as would immediately reveal how significant the flaw was), they instead discuss ranking of temperature in different years, including many false statements. We have thus been besieged by journalists saying "they say that correcting your error caused the warmest year to become 1934 rather than a recent year, is that right!?"

Hardly. First of all, many journalists had the impression that they were talking about global temperature. As you can see from Figure 1a, global warming is unaffected by the flaw. This realization should be enough to make most journalists lose interest, as global warming refers to global temperature.

But what if you are a chauvinist and only care about temperature in the United States? Did correcting the flaw in the program change the time of calculated maximum temperature to 1934? No. If you look at our 2001 paper, and get out your micrometer, you will see that we found 1934 to be the warmest year in the United States, by a hair, of the order of 0.01°C warmer than 1998, the same as the result that we find now. Of course the difference in the 1934 and 1998 temperatures is not significant, and we made clear in our paper that such years have to be declared as being practically a dead-heat.

Usufruct. The deceit behind the attempts to discredit evidence of climate change reveals matters of importance. This deceit has a clear purpose: to confuse the public about the status of knowledge of global climate change, thus delaying effective action to mitigate climate change. The danger is that delay will cause tipping points to be passed, such that large climate impacts become inevitable, including the loss of all Arctic sea ice, destabilization of the West Antarctic ice sheet with disastrous sea level rise later this century, and extermination of a large fraction of animal and plant species (see "Dangerous", "Trace Gases", and "Gorilla" papers).

Make no doubt, however, if tipping points are passed, if we, in effect, destroy Creation, passing on to our children, grandchildren, and the unborn a situation out of their control, the contrarians who work to deny and confuse will not be the principal culprits. The contrarians will be remembered as court jesters. There is no point to joust with court jesters. They will always be present. They will continue to entertain even if the Titanic begins to take on water. Their role and consequence is only as a diversion from what is important.

The real deal is this: the ‘royalty’ controlling the court, the ones with the power, the ones with the ability to make a difference, with the ability to change our course, the ones who will live in infamy if we pass the tipping points, are the captains of industry, CEOs in fossil fuel companies such as EXXON/Mobil, automobile manufacturers, utilities, all of the leaders who have placed short-term profit above the fate of the planet and the well-being of our children. The court jesters are their jesters, occasionally paid for services, and more substantively supported by the captains’ disinformation campaigns.

Court jesters serve as a distraction, a distraction from usufruct. Usufruct is the matter that the captains wish to deny, the matter that they do not want their children to know about. They realize that if there is no ‘gorilla’, then usufruct is not an important issue for them. So, with the help of jesters, they deny the existence of the gorilla. There is no danger of melting the Arctic, of destabilizing the West Antarctic ice sheet, of increasing hydrologic extremes, more droughts and stronger forest fires on one hand and heavier downpours and floods on the other, threats to the fresh water supplies of huge numbers of people in different parts of the globe. "Whew! It is lucky that, as our jesters show, these are just imaginary concerns. We captains of industry can continue with business-as-usual, we do not need to face the tough problem of how to maintain profits without destroying our legacy in our children’s eyes."

I am puzzled by views expressed by some conservatives, views usually expressed in vehement unpleasant ways in e-mails that I have been bombarded by in the past several days. It is a bit disconcerting as I come from a moderately conservative state, and I consider myself a moderate conservative in most ways. It is puzzling, because it seems to me that conservatives should be the first ones standing up for preserving Creation, and for the rights of the young and the unborn. That is the basic intergenerational issue in global warming and the headlong use of fossil fuels: the present generation is, in effect, ripping off future generations.

Is it possible that conservatives have been too quick to support the captains of industry? If we allow industry to continue on a path of denial, to focus on their short-term profits, to deny the rights of our children, grandchildren and the unborn, if the planet passes climate tipping points, will we not share in the infamy, the infamy of the captains of industry?

It seems to me that the present situation, with only minimalist actions to mitigate global climate change, reflects, at least in part, the "success" of the disinformation campaign that the captains of industry have at least tolerated, and, in some cases, encouraged and supported. Of course Nature will, eventually, reveal the truth, but there is potentially great harm in the disinformation, because it increases the likelihood that we will pass climate tipping points.

The captains of industry are smarter than their jesters. They cannot pretend that they are unaware of climate change dangers and consequences for future generations. It is time for the captains of industry to rethink their positions. I do not mean, time to polish their image with marginal investments, ‘green’ advertisements, and other public relations gimmicks. I mean, time to consider how they will function as we move toward a cleaner world ‘beyond petroleum’, to invest in approaches that will help take us from here to there, and to begin to move smartly in that direction.

There is still time to avert the most dramatic climate effects, if we promptly begin to address both CO2 and non-CO2 climate forcings. But just barely" - Dr. James Hansen

1 comment:

M. Simon said...

Well the "new" data turned Al Gore into a Climate Liar (see his movie).

Which I think is a really great benefit.

Second off the fact that 1934 was the hottest year makes climate scares harder to sell. Which is good.

Third off are you aware of how bad the surface temperature measurements are? Did you know that moving the surface temp instruments 2 feet higher can raise temperatures 1 deg C?

Are you aware of the problems with the HO-83 temp/humidity instruments?

Are you aware of siting issues with the temp measuring stations?

Did you know that you can't determine average temperatures by adding the high and the low and dividing by 2?

Fer instance let us go with 4 temp measurements in a day.

Say 40 40 40 and 80. Is the average temp 60? or 50?

Do you see how nutso average temp as currently defined is?

Since radiation goes up as the 4th power of temperature a 1 deg rise from 80 to 81 will cause more radiation increase than a rise from 40 to 41. So what is the use of avg temp again? The amount of radiation from the Earth is dependent on its actual temperature not its average.

The whole AGW is a house of cards and the sceptics are very close to pulling a bottom card.

The USA temp measuring system is considered the best and longest continuous record for a large portion of the Earth. And, I have to tell you it is not in very good shape.

That guy McIntyre is very good at dismembering climate flies. And that was only his second shot (after discrediting Mann). I watch his blog like a hawk. There is way more to come.

The next thing he is about to show is that only the USA has adjusted temp meas for the heat island effect. I do believe he may wind up cooling the world with math alone.

Al Gore does not give a damn about the climate. He wants your CO2 dollars. And, like Enron and its CO2 scheme, he hopes to get Congress to enact his personal money machine. I hope he fares as well as Enron. He gets Nada from Congress.