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Global Warming Attack Dogs Just Don't Get It

7. But Al Gore! Al Gore! Yes, his sensational Inconvenient Truth is a convenient target for radical conservatives. But Al Gore didn't invent the topic any more than he invented the Internet. He was informed on it by science that had been growing in certainty for decades prior and had already inspired a substantial public outcry for change long before he came into the picture.

Forget Al Gore, all right? Don't ignore the science to spite him.

8. An article in The Daily Mail quoted two scientists saying that global warming stopped 15 years ago! The paper in question is notoriously right-wing conservative and, like Fox News here, it tends to feature stories that appear to undermine political positions on the left. The author has a string of similarly sensational articles. The article in question relies on figures from the UK's Met Office, which has, under political pressure, recently dialed back its climate change predictions, many would say recklessly.

All that to say: unreliable source. A more reliable one would be the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which I mentioned earlier. The IPCC draws professionally conservative conclusions based on input from hundreds of countries and thousands of scientists around the globe. The IPCC said in its report last fall, "Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence). It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010, and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971."

The italics are the authors' and indicate scientific levels of certainty, which are statistical and far more rigorous than commonly used. Obviously there are disagreements among scientists about the extent and degree of global warming. If there weren't, I would be deeply worried about the integrity of the science.

Global temperature increases are typically incremental and may not be higher year-over-year. But over longer periods, incremental increases spell out catastrophic trends. This is the chart of global temperature anomaly provided in the IPCC. Even if the last 15 years were, in fact, zero, that result would be a blip on this longer term trend:

Could it be that the Daily Mail article deliberately used calculations that emphasized data outlying this larger trend to favor a politically conservative predisposition? Frankly, that seems a whole lot more likely than the possibility that global warming is over.

Conclusion

We in the U.S. have seen two natural disasters in recent years of unprecedented scale: Katrina in the Mississippi Delta and Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast. Now scientists are saying that winter storms also could become more severe.

Regardless of whether you think the U.S. needs to consider changes to energy and emissions policies, science holds the potential to help us analyze those past disasters and conditions like this current cold snap, to help us identify causes and predict and better prepare for future calamities.

Nature will proceed and we will have to bear the force of whatever she throws at us regardless of what we believe. Science can help, but not if we ignore it. Not if we spend all our efforts trying to discredit it for political purposes.

-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park

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