Monday, February 22, 2010

I CAN'T HEAR YOU: Climate skeptics find their own scientist too inconvenient to acknowledge

Conservative columnist George Will and a horde of climate change skeptics in the blogosphere have weighed in gleefully in recent days regarding climate scientist Phil Jones’ “admission” that there has been no statistically significant global warming since 1995. The argument popped up last week on the RightMichigan blog. It’s a variation on a common argument that typically uses 1998 as the year that global temperatures supposedly stopped going up.

So I did something a little outrageous, and actually read the interview where Jones made the statement.

There, we learn that “statistically significant” for scientists means at a “95 percent confidence level.” We also learn that the global temperature rise during the period in question was very close to that 95 percent confidence level, with a trend of 0.12C temperature rise per decade. That’s LOT different from saying there was no temperature rise.

But wait, there’s more!

Dr. Patrick Michaels is a climatologist in the employ of the free-market-is-the-answer-to-everything Cato Institute. He is one of the climate skeptics’ poster boys. A credentialed climatologist who is regularly trotted out to defend the status quo.

I talked with Dr. Michaels in January at a Detroit News-sponsored climate debate during the Auto Show in Detroit. He wore lime green tennis shoes with his coat and tie. But I digress.

At the Detroit debate, Dr. Michaels agreed that the planet is warming, and that manmade emissions have something to do with it. He also said the old argument that global warming stopped in 1998 is scientifically invalid and should be tossed on the scrap heap of discredited arguments. 

It was a fascinating statement that, not surprisingly, the Detroit News did not see fit to include in the edited video clips of the debate they posted online.

But it turns out that Michaels said essentially the same thing to a gathering of right-wing Heritage Foundation folks in 2008. He said the data do not back up the “no warming since 1998” contention, and warned the audience that using the argument erodes their credibility. “Make an argument that you can get killed on, and you can kill us all,” he lectured them. 

You can listen to his explanation and admonishment here, starting at about the 1:20 mark

It is a bizarre and pathetic commentary when climate skeptics begin finding that even the truths of their own heroes are too inconvenient to acknowledge.


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