One of the many delicious ironies of the climate-change debate is that the "settled science" crowd is playing the role of Noah while the global-warming skeptics are the "what, me worry?" crew.
And, sure enough, if the planet heats up by 5 or 10 degrees, we will have plenty to worry about. You would have to be a fool not to care about such a sea change in our climate.
So, year after year, the climate-changers work like Noah on his ark, hammering together their computer models and their "cap-and-trade" schemes in an effort to keep the planet afloat through the coming hard times that they think will be precipitated by mankind's silly little efforts to industrialize the global economy and, shudder, to "drive cars."
You have to admit, that's scary stuff. Forget waterboarding. I wake up late at night in a cold sweat thinking that someone has tied me to a board and thrown me into the back of an old Ford truck that gets only 12 miles per gallon! Talk about a bumpy ride!
But the real torture is watching the "settled science" crowd push levers and manipulate data in an effort to keep people scared with smoke and thunderous noise even after their Wizard of Oz "doom machine" has been exposed. Time and time again in the past several years, the curtain has been drawn back to reveal global-warming hysteria as nothing more than a politically motivated scheme to push social policy leftward.
So what about the science?
OK, here's what we know. The warmest year recorded by our modern-day Noahs was in 1998, just about the time the global-warming fever was starting to peak. Since then, there has never been a year with global temperatures even close to reaching that level. So in practical terms, there has been a temperature decline since 1998, not an increase. See http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/scarewatch/really_cooling.pdf for Lord Monckton's analysis of this trend. Moreover, some scientists predict that global cooling could continue for at least the next 20 years (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17742)
That's just the beginning of the cavalcade of evidence that suggests the global-warming movement is unlikely to sell their life-saving "ark" anytime soon except to the most gullible of science consumers.
For instance, Marco Tedesco and Andrew Monaghan just reported in "Geophysical Research Letters" that the ice melt during the last Antarctic summer was the lowest recorded during the past 30 years. (http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2009/10/06) In other words, despite scary stories that regularly appear in the mainstream media about big chunks of ice breaking off the Antarctic continent, there may not be anything to worry about. Tedesco and Monaghan are global-warming supporters, so they don't find the recent trend significant, but others like Greg Roberts, writing in The Australian, do: See www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25348657-401,00.html
Another significant factor to be considered by anyone who is actually interested in the science, and not just the politics, of global warming is whether the sun plays any role in heating and cooling of the planet's surface. The logical answer would seem to be yes, and it is thus interesting to note that the sun is experiencing a two-year-long solar minimum, which is a reference to very low levels of sunspots during the same time frame when many regions nationally and globally have been experiencing unusually cold temperatures. Almost makes you think there might indeed be something left to study here. (An interesting analysis of the phenomenon may be read at 'change science is based have predicted any such decline in temperatures as we have been experiencing. According to this "settled science," it really shouldn't be happening - because while temperatures have been going down, the level of man-produced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising due to the rapid industrialization of places like China and India.
If you have ever been to China, you know there is plenty of reason to want to restrict pollution there. Call it the wish to breathe fresh air. But that is a quality-of-life issue, and not a doomsday issue. If the argument were not about climate change, but about common-sense pollution control, then I and a lot of other conservatives would be much more likely to support global treaties that promote clean skies.
But don't hype the argument up with fake science, OK?
The most blatant example of this is the so-called "hockey stick" graph of 1998, which supposedly showed a huge spike in global temperatures starting with the beginning of the industrial age. Created by climatologist Michael E. Mann and some collaborators, the hockey stick provided the underpinnings for the "Chicken Little" report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001. It also helped Al Gore to snag a Nobel Peace Prize for his movie "An Inconvenient Truth," which may someday earn an official asterisk next to the word Truth pointing people to George Orwell's "Ministry of Truth" in the novel "1984" where Truth is defined as whatever is politically expedient.
Indeed, in this brave new world that we inhabit, it appears that even science is handmaiden to politics. The "hockey stick" has been subject to revision and retrenchment several times over the years, but most recently the stick has shriveled into a truncheon, which hopefully will be used to beat the global-warming theory back into the padded cell of conspiracy science where it belongs. (Kind of reminiscent of Jason and his hockey mask in the "Friday the 13th" slasher movies, isn't it?)
Mathematician Steve McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick have demonstrated conclusively that both the mathematics and the data behind the "hockey stick" graph are flawed, but most recently McIntyre was able to access part of the raw data which had been kept secret for many years and has shown that the "hockey stick" is really a political construct that was created by cherry-picking data, albeit possibly through negligence rather than malfeasance.
In essence, and without bogging this non-scientific column down too deep in the minutiae of science, McIntyre after many requests was finally able to view the raw tree-ring data used in the hockey-stick study from a Russian peninsula called Yamal. He has demonstrated that if complete data from the region is used, the hockey stick's spike disappears, and most reasonable fears of global warming dissipate with it. You can read one of McIntyre's key reports at http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7168
It's as if we woke up and realized the scary guy in the hockey mask wasn't chasing us after all. It was all just a bad dream.
Or as climate change skeptic Anthony Watts proclaimed, in a convenient corollary of our "Wizard of Oz" metaphor, "Ding dong the stick is dead."
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Coincidentally, a tea-party group called Northwest Montana Patriots is sponsoring a showing of "Not Evil, Just Wrong" at 7 p.m. today at the Outlaw Hotel in Kalispell. The movie subtitled "The True Cost of Global Warming Hysteria" promotes a skeptical view of man-caused climate change. There is a suggested $2 donation.
• Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake and writes a weekly column. E-mail responses may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org