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Global Warming Science Is Not Overheated

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Media portrayals of climate scientists as a community split into warring factions are common. Particularly for those who would deny global warming in general and anthropogenic global warming and the role of CO2 emissions in particular, such a split helps trivialize the majority scientific opinion, in the same way disputes about the the details of evolution allow it to be touted as "just a theory" by creationists.

A couple of recent articles have thrown new fuel on that denial engine by pitting one scientist against the other. Taken together and in light of comments from other scientists, the two articles appear to prove the opposite: Scientific debate is alive and well. The takedown of global warming science is just not happening.

The first article, written by Patrick Michaels and published in Forbes on Feb. 3, draws on professional criticism of the scientific community in a literary journal by retired climate scientist Garth Paltridge. Paltridge's point is that his profession has been corrupted. Scientists have been swayed by a majority, government-led opinion and have allowed politics to influence their interpretations. The Forbes article echoes his conclusion that not only has global warming been "oversold," to the detriment of scientific credibility, but that a rebound of more objective opinion is coming in which the entire global warming edifice will come crashing down and scientific credibility with it.

Like many critics of global warming science, Paltridge emphasizes the last 14-year period of flatlined recorded global surface temperatures, which I discussed in more detail in my article Thursday, Global Warming 'Haitus' Is an Illusion, Study Finds. He pooh-poohs the notion that heat could be trapped in the deeper ocean and labels it a desperate attempt to save the global warming hypothesis.

The second, written by David Rose and published Feb. 15 in the Daily Mail, cites scientist Mat Collins, associated with the UK's Met Office, as saying that science can't link global warming to changes in the jet stream at the top of the world that have caused severe storms in England. This is news because the chief scientist of Met Office, Dame Julia Slingo, is on record appearing to say the opposite.

In actuality, Slingo's remarks don't seem as far removed from Collins as the Daily Mail author indicates. Speaking broadly, she said there was no definite proof of a link between climate change and the storms but that "all available evidence" seemed to point to a connection. Collins, speaking specifically about the jet stream part of the equation, said, "There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge."

Paltridge, the author of the Daily Mail article, and Michaels, the author of the Forbes article, imply that these differing views amount to a war of truth vs. lies. They believe there is an inability of climate change scientists to entertain contrary arguments and a lack of sensible scholarly discussion within the scientific community.

But the fact that those views are being discussed at all in the media illustrates that scientific discussion and dissent are prevalent. In addition to being a Met Office scientist, Collins is a scientist for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That panel is at the heart of many criticisms about global warming science (including those of Paltridge) for its attempts to cultivate a consensus and shape international policy, a blending of politics and science that for many chafes against the spirit of independent inquiry.

Yet independent inquiry and dissent persist. In my conversation with scientist Matt England this week he noted inconsistencies in the models and, far from brushing past them, used them as guides for future research.

"The science that we're in is all about the ability to make projections," England said, adding that sometimes predictions miss the mark. "The hope is as we go down the track we'll work out why that might be."

I asked England specifically how he felt about the Forbes article's contention that the risks of climate change had been "oversold.'"

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